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Draft Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning – Two kinds of blocks

The Tampa Bay Lightning lead NHL in building blocks, but it’s the playoff blocks that sting.

There is little doubt Tampa Bay has succeeded Washington as the NHL’s most unreliable playoff team, but it’s not for a lack of drafting and developing players. The Lightning are the team that every other franchise wants to be when it grows up, at least when it comes to finding and cultivating talent. No team has been better at integrating young talent into its NHL lineup, all the while keeping its powder dry when it comes to the future. The Lightning’s AHL affiliate was one of the top teams this season.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS: The Lightning have plenty of flash and panache. What they need is a player, or a couple of players, who can get down and dirty and play the grinding game the NHL post-season demands. This is a team that needs a battle-tested veteran who has won and can make teammates accountable.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: With Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh the only veteran D-men under contract, the blueline needs to be reinforced. Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi and Braydon Coburn are pending UFAs in their mid-30s. The only good news from the Bolts’ early playoff exit is they retain their first-round pick in June.

CAP SITUATION: Not great. Not great at all. The Lightning have about $10 million in cap space and have to upgrade their defense corps and find a way to re-sign Brayden Point, who is coming out of his entry-level contract. GM Julien BriseBois has some difficult decisions to make when it comes to roster construction and cap allocation. One way or another, there will be changes.

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: Depending on who the team signs, there could be room on the blueline. Cal Foote, 20, will challenge for a roster spot in camp. Anchoring the blueline for AHL Syracuse, Foote steadily progressed and displayed promising two-way qualities as a rookie pro.

DID YOU KNOW: Tampa Bay has made a cottage industry of finding skilled, undersized players and may have another in 21-year-old free agent Alex Barre-Boulet. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound playmaking center was sixth in AHL scoring.

LATE-ROUND GEMS:
(2000-2018 drafts)
Brayden Point, 79th, ’14
Ondrej Palat, 208th, ’11
Alex Killorn, 77th, ’07
Radko Gudas, 66th, ’10
Paul Ranger, 183rd, ’02
Karri Ramo, 191st, ’04
Cedric Paquette, 101st, ’12
Anthony Cirelli, 72nd, ’15
Mark Barberio, 152nd, ’08
Nick Tarnasky, 287th, ’03

PICKS AFTER SECOND ROUND: 122
100+ NHL GAMES: 20
PERCENT SUCCESS: 16.4%
NHL RANK: 4th

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