Now that the Stanley Cup has been awarded, the 2013-14 Season has officially come to an end. The good news is that even though the on-ice portion has come to its end, there are still plenty of things that need to be done before the 2014-15 season can really get started.
There are plenty of key dates that not just Tampa Bay Lightning fans, but fans all around the League are going want to make sure they have marked on the calendar.
Well, I have some more good news for you. We here at Bolts By The Bay are going to make sure you don’t miss a moment of the action.
So, let’s get down to business, shall we?
The first thing on the calendar is the official buyout period. As you are probably already aware, the Tampa Bay Lightning has one remaining buyout that they can use to make some room to make moves on the roster.
There have been rumblings that the Lightning plans to use this buyout to terminate the contract of struggling left wing Ryan Malone; however, there has been absolutely nothing official to come out of the Lightning organization on this topic just yet.
The window for buyouts opened up on June 16th and continues on until June 30th.
The next thing on the scheduled is the NHL Awards.
All of the biggest names in the National Hockey League will be descending on Sin City at the Encore at the Wynn Las Vegas on Tuesday, June 24th. The action will all get underway at 7:00 p.m. EST and can be seen on the NBC Sports Network in the United States and CBC in Canada.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have four people, three players and one wonderful coach, up for an award this year. It should come as no surprise that Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop is one of the three finalists for the Vezina Trophy this year. The Vezina Trophy is awarded to “the goalkeeper adjudged to be the best at his position.”
There is no denying that Bishop is one of the best goaltenders in the National Hockey League, and if you ask anyone here in the Bolts Nation who should win the award, Bishop will be the name you will hear.
This brings us to the rookies. The Tampa Bay Lightning has not one, but two players in contention for the Calder Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the “player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.”
If there is any word you could use to describe both Johnson and Palat, proficient would be the least impactful word that I would use. I think I would use something more along the lines of fantastic and spectacular to describe the two of them. Along with Nathan MacKinnon from the Colorado Avalanche, Johnson and Palat led the league in points sporting at plus-23 and plus-32 rating respectively.
I think the toughest decision here, at least for those of us here in the Bolts Nation, is deciding between the two.
Last, but most certainly not least, we have Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper, who has been named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. The Jack Adams Award is awarded to the coach who has “contributed the most to his team’s success.”
While there is always room for debate as to how much of the team’s success can be attributed to the coach and how much of it actually goes to the players; however, there is no denying that Coach Cooper was a rather big part of the Lightning’s success this season.
Consider this, a great number of the Lightning’s shining stars this season have been our rookies, you know…the people who played under Coach Cooper when he was still with the Syracuse Crunch; the same players that found themselves in the final round of the Calder Cup Finals. Who better to lead them on their way to greatness then the man who knows their strengths and weaknesses all too well?
Does that make him the best? Maybe, maybe not. The one thing we do know for sure is that we will find out on June 24th.
Now, in moving on from the NHL Awards, the next three sets of dates could be some of the most important dates in the entire season; things that could make or break the very future of the team. This portion in large part, if not in whole, lies squarely on the shoulders of Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman.
Starting the day after the NHL Awards is the opening for Free Agent Interviews. This is the time when teams can begin to speak with players that are scheduled to become Free Agents when the period begins.
The benefit to this is that teams will be able to get a better idea which players are planning to be on the move, which players will be the best fit for their team, and be able to make the necessary preparations in order to make a solid move on the players they desire most.
The next major event in the grander scheme of things is the 2014 NHL Draft.
The greatest young talent in the world of hockey will be converging on the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Pennsylvania on June 27th and 28th in the hopes of being selected by an NHL team and beginning what could be an illustrious career in the National Hockey League.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has been pretty darn successful in the NHL Draft in previous years. We have gotten all sorts of fantastic players like former Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier, current team captain Steven Stamkos, defenseman Victor Hedman, and many more from the NHL Draft. That is not even taking into consideration the younger talents that we picked up in last year’s draft like Jonathan Drouin and Adam Erne.
While a team doesn’t always seen an immediate return from the Draft, there couldn’t be a more vital time of the year when it comes to team building.
This brings us to one of the most exciting times in the off-season, the Free Agency Period.
Free Agency officially begins on July 1st, so this is the day when teams can aggressively pursue the players that are eligible to become Free Agents and actually put the pen to the paper and make the deal official.
Last, but certainly not least, we have the Tampa Bay Lightning Development Camp. This is when all of the Lightning’s top prospects come to town and get together at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon to show the Lightning’s trainers, coaches, and staff what they can really do and try to earn a spot on next year’s team.
This year, we’ll see talents like Jonathan Drouin, Adam Erne, Andrei Vasilevskii, Kristers Gudlevskis, and many, many more take the ice and put on one heck of a show.
There you have it, folks. There are the key dates for the Tampa Bay Lightning and the NHL this off-season.
Here is one more look just to keep everything in perspective:
|Tampa Bay Lightning and NHL Key Dates:|
|June 16 – 30||Buyout Window|
|June 24||NHL Awards|
|June 25 – 30||Free Agent Interviews|
|June 27 – 28||2014 NHL Draft|
|July 1||Free Agency Period Begins|
|July 2 – 6||2014 Tampa Bay Lightning Development Camp|