Apr 22, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman (77) celebrates his goal against Montreal Canadiens with teammates during the third period in game four of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning: The Beast in the East

Now that the dust has settled in the NHL. The Draft is done. The initial interview window for Free Agency is complete. The actual Free Agent signing period has begun, I wanted to take a look at how the Tampa Bay Lightning has done thus far.

To recap the moves made by Steve Yzerman on the Tampa Bay Lightning roster, here are the changes:

Additions: Jason Garrison-D, Anton Stralman-D, Brian Boyle-C and Evgeni Nabakov-G

Re-signings: Ryan Callahan, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, Andrej Sustr

Subtractions: Anders Lindback, Teddy Purcell, B.J. Crombeen, Mike Kostka and Nate Thompson

In some national NHL publications and websites, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Steve Yzerman have been given positive grades for these moves. The Hockey News website had them listed as an A- for these roster changes. No question, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a better team on paper today than they were last year.

The other playoff teams in the Eastern Conference from last year, have not made the same level of significant moves as the Tampa Bay Lightning. Most teams lost more players than they have gained. Teams like Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia and especially the New York Rangers, have lost more starters from last season than they have replaced to date. Other teams like Pittsburgh and Columbus have added players to replace players they have lost, but it’s too early to tell if this is for the better. Detroit has actually stayed still, not losing or gaining any player of value or importance.

As far as the non-playoff teams from last year, Washington and the Florida Panthers made the biggest splashes in the free agency pool, but the general consensus is that these two teams overpaid for players like Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen in Washington, and Dave Bolland in Florida. Buffalo added some significant players, but Brian Gionta and Josh Gorges are probably on the downside of their careers. That leaves New Jersey, Ottawa, Toronto, Carolina and the New York Islanders who did not make any big news, with either additions or subtractions to their respective teams.

It is no secret that the rest of the NHL is looking up at two teams. The reigning Stanley Cup Champion, Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks. These two teams have won four of the last five Stanley Cups. The Eastern Conference has only won one Stanley Cup in the last five years and only two in the last eight years. Clearly, the Western Conference has been the dominant conference.

This dominance is about to change. The Tampa Bay Lightning was the fifth youngest team in the NHL last year and will remain one of the youngest in the upcoming season. Give Steve Yzerman credit for making a flurry of moves, that in a lot of people’s eyes have done nothing but improved this team.

The Tampa Bay Lightning put up the third highest point total in the Eastern Conference last year. Their 101 points was eight best, league-wide. So far, this off-season, they only got better. Fans in Bolts Nation can feel it too. Unlike other seasons, once summer hit, nobody was talking Tampa Bay Lightning hockey.  This year is unlike past summers.  The Beast is nearby.

This summer it’s different. The Beast is waking up. Yzerman and his front office crew are working day and night to improve this team. Not just the 23 man NHL roster but also the organization’s 50 man team.

The Beast is hungry. Despite the national media, that does talk hockey, not believing that we know about this game, if we live south of the Mason-Dixon Line. We won a Cup. Granted, it has been 10 years but we won it nonetheless. We know what it feels like and more importantly, what it takes to raise the Cup.

No longer is the Beast slumbering. No longer will the Tampa Bay Lightning be taken lightly. Captain Steven Stamkos and the rest of this team in 2014 will make noise. They will come to play night in and night out. Coach Jon Cooper will see to that. It’s exciting hearing the Beast rumble.

Other teams better watch out. The Beast is here. The Beast is coming to a town near you. Don’t get caught unaware or the Beast will eat you up and spit you out. The Beast in the East is your Tampa Bay Lightning and they are here to dominate. Oh yeah, Western Conference, can you hear me? The Beast is coming for the Cup.

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