Tampa Bay Lightning 2026-27: Cracks in the foundation
- Guaranteed under-contract forwards: Kucherov, Point, Cirelli, Paul
- Guaranteed under-contract defensemen: Sergachev, Cernak
- Confidence Meter: It might be the end of the road
Anyone who is officially under contract for 2025-26 is still under contract for 2026-27. The problem is that everyone in Tampa is officially in the north of 30 territories.
At the start of the 2026 season, Stamkos will be 36. Hedman will be 35 going on 36. Kucherov will be 33. Point will now be 30, and even Paul will be 31.
There are obviously plenty of players that have elite careers once they are north of 30, but they are exceptions rather than the norm. Of the top 100 point scorers in the NHL in 2022-23, only 19 were 30 years old or older.
Of the truly elite players, only three of the top 20 scorers were north of 30 (Erik Karlsson, Sidney Crosby, and Artemi Panarin).
The 2026-27 season might be the genuine last hurrah for Tampa Bay Lightning as a true Stanley Cup contender, as Cirelli, Sergachev, Cernak, and Hagel (assuming he is resigned) would all still be south of 30 years old.
By this time, Gage Goncalves and Jack Thompson are the only recent young up-and-coming draft pick that seems to be on track to be eventual starters with Tampa. And considering Tampa doesn’t have a first-round draft pick until 2026, nor a second-round draft pick until 2025, there are no high-quality reinforcements coming unless they can find and develop another diamond in the rough as they did with Point.
If Tampa isn’t in a playoff position during this season, this would be the year to expect the Bolts to be sellers at the trade deadline rather than buyers for the first time in a long time.