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Lightning Round: A collection of last week’s What Ifs

A roundup of What If content.

NHL: MAR 05 Sharks at Wild

You probably noticed that last week was What If week here at SBNation. Sites from around the network posted their what if scenarios. We brought you two of our own with a Lightning theme.

First, Geo wrote about what it might have been like had the Lightning not been able to use a compliance buyout on Vinny Levavalier back in 2013. The cap ramifications would have been long lasting and if Vinny had played out his full contract, this would have been the last season.

With Lecavalier sticking around on our imaginary roster, maybe he has a bigger season in 2013-14 than he had with the Flyers. He could have been the one to benefit from moving up to play with Martin St. Louis after Stamkos broke his leg instead of Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat. Maybe he has a big year and proves he can still be a difference maker.

Later in the week, Justin wrote about what could have happened if Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman hadn’t collided early in game six of the Stanley Cup Final in 2014. Had that not happened, maybe the Lightning have a second championship banner in the rafters. But it did so we’ll never know.

As an adult, sports don’t affect me as much as they did when I was a kid, but this moment was a gut punch. Standing in a hotel lobby in Chicago watching the game from across the lobby, I felt physically ill when it happened. One side of my brain told me that there was plenty of time left in the game, and scoring first in this series didn’t really matter, but the other side my noggin, the one that doesn’t care for logic or numbers, told me it was over. The great unexpected run of the 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning was over.

To go along with our Lightning themed ones. Here’s a sampling of others from around SBNation. And if you want to explore them all in once place, you can check them out at this link.

First, what if baseball was played on ice? Despite being written by the Red Sox site, this is still a fun idea.

Base running seems like the most chaotic part of this whole endeavor to me. Sliding would need to be banned from the game if people have skates, that’s just too dangerous. Apart from first base and home, watching players try and stop on the base would be very entertaining. Stealing, I imagine, would become a lot easier with the diminished velocity on pitches and skating being faster than running, it should be a breeze.

The Chicago site looks at what would have happened if the Hawks didn’t trade Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson when they did.

Cap certainty was one of the top reasons why Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman felt these trades were worth Chicago’s time. Saad is locked into a $6 million cap hit through the 2020-21 season, while Murphy remains in the books at $3.85 million until 2022. At the time of the trade, both Panarin and Hjalmarsson were on contracts that expired at the end of the 2019 season: Panarin a two-year deal at $6 million average annually value and Hjalmarsson near the end of a five-year deal at $4.1 million.

So, had the Blackhawks hung on to those two players in 2017, they both would’ve needed new contracts this past offseason. Even with the benefit of long-term injured reserve relief because of multiple injuries, the Blackhawks cap space is slightly above $175,000 according to Cap Friendly.

The Bruins site wrote about what might have been had they not shipped out Joe Thornton who is undeniably one of the greatest players of this generation.

This was about as one-sided as a trade can be.

Thornton went on to win the Art Ross and the Hart Trophies for the Sharks. In fact, Thornton’s 125-point effort would be the most by a Ross winner until last year, when Nikita Kucherov got 128. The Bruins were terrible. They finished last in the division, 16 points behind the closest team. The season was an abomination. O’Connell got fired in March. Mike Sullivan got fired after the season ended.

Disaster.

In one of the more interesting possible scenarios given how things have played out since then, the Pens site tries to imagine a world where Alex Ovechkin played his career in Pittsburgh instead of Washington. That would, of course, mean no Evgeni Malkin on the Pens and maybe even no Sidney Crosby either.

Anyways, back on track, there would be a 33.3% chance that Crosby wouldn’t have been a Penguin if the same ball won in 2005 if the Pens won in 2004, but that also means there’s a 66.6% chance that Crosby would still be a Penguin....Along WITH Alex Ovechkin.

Now that would truly be something, the top two scorers since the lockout on the same team. The best goal scorer, the best passer together. What a world that would have been.

But also in this “what if” world, the Penguins as we know them could really look a lot like the Washington Capitals, as crazy as it sounds by having Ovechkin, and not having Malkin or Crosby.

And finally, we close with a strong one, the Flames site asks what if the puck was in?

So, What If The Puck Was In? Who knows? Maybe the Flames hold on and win the Cup in 2003-04. Maybe there isn’t a tail spin in the years that accompanied that loss. Maybe the Flames go on a little run and become one of the NHL’s elite. Or, maybe they just win that second Stanley Cup and we’re all just happy that it happened. In the end, the damn puck was in and Calgary should have a “2003-04 Stanley Cup Champions” banner hanging at the Dome. Iggy should have a ring and have retired in a Flames jersey. Kipper has a ring to go with his incredible record and Martin Gelinas can say “yeah, I’m the guy that scored the game winning goal in Game 6!” Instead, we’re left to ask......... “What if?” Sigh.

Today’s News and Notes

According to Pierre LeBrun at The Athletic, the NHL continues to make progress toward some sort of extended playoff format involving 20 or 24 teams.

While there remains work to be done, and nobody involved is ready to say 100 percent where this is headed, sources confirm progress was made this weekend on a 24-team format for return to play.

I’m told the proposed 24-team format doesn’t go straight to the playoffs but involves games in some form before-hand. That would be something the players would have pushed for. Again, let me stress that both sides on the committee as of Sunday morning still had work to do on the format so it may yet change again.

Eugene Melnyk made some waves yesterday when he said on the radio that he expects the team to package some of their many 2020 picks to move up. Not only is that quite a tell from a negotiating perspective, it’s also poor strategy from a team with so many picks in the. If anything, they should be looking to swap one of their first round picks for more picks later in this draft of next year so they can stock up their prospect depth. But, then again, this is the Senators. So no surprises here.

The Senators have nine picks in the first three rounds including three in the first round. Melnyk admits that the team probably won’t use all of the picks they have accumulated and expects the team to maybe package some to either move up in the draft or make other additions.