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Lightning Roundtable: Discussing the big questions entering the 2018-19 season

In only a few weeks, we’ll finally be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For hockey fans, that can only mean one thing: training camp is on the horizon and the offseason is about to end. In the meantime, the hockey staff at The Scrum Sports recently got together for a roundtable discussion about the Tampa Bay Lightning and what’s in store for 2018-19.

For the third time in four years, the Lightning saw a deep playoff run come to a disappointing end. It also marked the second time in two years the Bolts failed to hold a 3-2 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final. Returning almost the entire lineup from last season intact, the Bolts enter this season once again on the short list of true Stanley Cup contenders. The Scrum’s Editor-In-Chief, Trevor Grout, as well as fellow Lightning writers Riley Gillespie-Wilson and Jake Wolfskeil joined me for this roundtable chat.

Will the Lightning have more individual award winners in 2019? Is this the year the Bolts finally get over the hump and bring the Stanley Cup back to Tampa? What do we think will happen if this team falls short again? Read on to find out.

Question #1: Do you think the Bolts can win the Stanley Cup with this group or does a bold move need to be made between now and next February’s trade deadline?

Riley Gillespie-WilsonRemember, the Lightning were a flat-footed Game 7 performance away from the Stanley Cup Final. Looking up and down the roster, there are no glaring weaknesses. Sure, a right-handed defenseman would be a nice bonus, but on the whole, the Lightning defensive corps is solid. Aided by the emergence of Mikhail Sergachev, they could be further bolstered by youth if we see Slater Koekkoek finally break through.

Andrei Vasilevskiy was a Vezina candidate last season, and this group of forwards is truly impressive. A yearly occurrence seems to be a young Bolts forward bursting through the doors and making an immense impact, whether it be Tyler Johnson in the past or Brayden Point last year. Long story short, the Lightning are really good. This isn’t a team that needs to impulsively pounce on the next player to hit the rumor mill. Steve Yzerman holds all the leverage right now, which is possibly why Erik Karlsson rumors have come to a halt.

Trevor Grout: I still feel like they are one missing piece away. I felt letting Chris Kunitz walk was a bad move, as he gave that fourth line some grit along with Ryan Callahan and Cedric Paquette. Not saying Kunitz was the missing piece, but there is just something they are missing to really get over that last speed bump.

Brooks Roland: There’s no reason to think the Lightning can’t win with the current group. However, if the right deal presents itself, some size and grit in the bottom six couldn’t hurt. Another right-handed defenseman would certainly be a nice addition, but everyone is looking for a RHD, and talented RHD’s don’t become available often. This isn’t a team that has to make a major addition, but as Yzerman has proven in the past, he’ll only make a move if he believes it’s going to better his team. He simply doesn’t make deals just for the sake of making them.

Jake Wolfskeil: Absolutely, this group can win it. They should have won one already. With or without a big move, this could be the year the Lightning finally hoist the cup . If they do make a big move, they have to win the Cup or the season would be a huge disappointment.

Question #2: We’ll piggyback this question off the previous one. Erik Karlsson has been rumored to be on the move for months. The Lightning and Dallas Stars were considered front-runners during the summer. If you’re in Yzerman’s shoes, would you make the trade and if so, what are you giving up?

RGW: If I’m in Yzerman’s shoes, I would most definitely trade for Karlsson. However, as earlier mentioned, the Lightning are not in a position to grossly overpay for a player, even one of Karlsson’s caliber. Granted, a superstar defenseman may be exactly what Tampa Bay needs to get over the hump. However, this doesn’t justify making a trade where the cons outweigh the pros just to land him. This really could be the move that puts the Bolts over the top. If I’m Yzerman, I make it. At this point, the Senators’ captain’s price tag is diminishing daily, and Senators GM Pierre Dorion knows it. For precisely this reason, I would not be willing to make a trade that included either Point or Sergachev.

Karlsson is a bona-fide star, but Sergachev seems like he is building towards being a defenceman of that description as well. Obviously, you’re going to have to deal someone to reap the rewards of Karlsson, but Yzerman isn’t in a position to give up as much as some teams might simply due to where his team is at at the moment. If there’s one thing the Lightning have proved in recent years, it’s that Koekkoek is expendable. Koekkoek, a few prospects, picks, and maybe a depth player such as Alex Killorn would be acceptable in my eyes. In conclusion, I’m all over Yzerman acquiring the Swedish phenom. However, he should ask himself if the cost would be worth it in the long run.

TG: To be honest, it all depends on when it occurs. Right now, you might have to give up more than you would have to give up at the trade deadline. Honestly though, I would give up possibly Sergachev, Callahan, a first round pick or two and possibly a prospect or two. With the size of his cap hit, and the possibility he doesn’t re-sign when he becomes a UFA, the Lightning shouldn’t give up too much.

BR: I’ve gone back and forth on the Karlsson trade rumors, and I believe that if you’re going to make the deal, you have to do it with the intention of signing Karlsson to a long-term extension. If you’re gonna sell half the farm, it had better not be for a rental. While I certainly wouldn’t complain if a trade for EK actually happened, it had better be at a reasonable price. Would anyone be surprised if Ottawa stubbornly held onto him? The closer to the trade deadline, the less you have to give up for Karlsson. Maybe he ends up walking as an unrestricted free agent and the Lightning could sign him for free? Remember, Ottawa has to surrender their 2019 first round pick to Colorado as part of the Matt Duchene trade. The Senators have incentive NOT to win the draft lottery.

Acquiring Karlsson is a luxury, but not a necessity. If I’m in Yzerman’s spot, I’m looking at a deal for Carolina’s Justin Faulk. He’s not an elite d-man like Karlsson, but he’s right-handed, he’s a former All-Star, he’s got two years left on his deal at $4.833 million a season, and he’s two years younger than Karlsson. The Hurricanes need help up front and have a glut of defensemen. The Lightning have a stacked cupboard at forward. I wouldn’t be upset if a Faulk deal happened.

JW: Getting Erik Karlsson would be a huge win for the Lightning, but it won’t be for free. Yzerman would most likely have to give up either Sergachev or Cal Foote along with some draft picks and younger prospects. The only Lightning players who should be considered off limits are Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Point, and Vasilevskiy. After those core players, anyone could be used as trade ammo.

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