Andrei Vasilevskiy, Brandon Hagel, Brayden Point, Column, Julien BriseBois, Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning Stock Up, Stock Down: BriseBois, Vasilevskiy & More

Welcome to this edition of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Stock Up and Stock Down, with the final edition of the 2022-23 season focusing on looking back on the season and what lies ahead.

It has been a while since Tampa Bay Lightning fans had to see the team conduct their end-of-season media availability in the month of May. But after three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Final, the Toronto Maple Leafs eliminated the Lightning, leading to traditional team exit interviews on Tuesday (May 2). Meeting with the media were general manager Julien BriseBois, head coach Jon Cooper, Steven Stamkos, and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

One of the big issues that was brought up in the BriseBois interview was how the flat salary cap would continue to play a major role in the development of the Lightning roster for the 2022-23 season. BriseBois expects the salary cap to increase by only $1 million next season to $83.5 million. However, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said in March that it could increase by up to $4.5 million if hockey-related revenues exceeded expectations to allow the players to pay off their remaining escrow debt.

Tampa Bay Lightning Stock up, Stock down
Tampa Bay Lightning Stock up, Stock down (The Hockey Writers)

In developing next year’s roster, the Lightning have to make decisions concerning an unrestricted free agent list that includes forwards Alex Killorn, Corey Perry, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, and Mikey Eyssimont; defenseman Ian Cole and backup goaltender Brian Elliott. Forwards Ross Colton and Tanner Jeannot are also arbitration-eligible restricted free agents. These will not be easy decisions for the Lightning to make in the offseason.

Stock Up: Brayden Point

Point was recently named one of the three finalists for the 2022-23 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy, awarded “to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.” The 27-year-old had just two penalties for a total of seven penalty minutes, which is an outstanding stat for someone who plays so many key minutes. He looks to become the third Lightning player to win the Lady Byng Trophy, after Martin St. Louis (three times, most recently in 2012-13) and Brad Richards (2003-04).

Stock Down: Andrei Vasilevskiy

During Tuesday’s end-of-season interviews, Vasilevskiy revealed that he dealt with some injuries throughout the season and failed to take time to recover. The former Vezina Trophy winner also stated that this hurt him in the season’s final games. “My mistake was that I didn’t really pay attention to recovery. So, I kind of kept pushing myself to the limit,” he said. “It was something that I’ve faced for the first time in my career.”

Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning
Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This was one of the storylines coming into the season, as many wondered how he and the Lightning would handle his workload, given the number of games the 28-year-old has played over the last three years of deep playoff runs. If there is a small silver lining to being eliminated so early, it is the fact that Vasilevskiy and the other Lightning will get some extended rest before the 2023-24 season starts. “The recovery part is the big thing for me next season,” Vasilevskiy said. “It’s something I didn’t have this season.”

Stock Up: Julien BriseBois

There was a lot of fence-sitting on this one. It would be easy to put him in the stock down after not advancing past the first round, especially after giving up so much capital to get Jeannot from the Nashville Predators at the trade deadline. But at the end of the day, the Maple Leafs did just enough, especially in acquiring players at the deadline, to get past the Lightning.

As BriseBois pointed out, the last two teams the Lightning defeated in their two Stanley Cup wins, the Dallas Stars and Montreal Canadiens, did not qualify for the playoffs the year after they lost to the Lightning. Last year’s Stanley Cup champion, the Colorado Avalanche, was eliminated in the first round this season. This illustrates just how difficult it is to be consistently successful in the salary cap era of the NHL and is a testament to how well the Lightning organization has managed the roster to allow the team to be so successful in making the Stanley Cup Final three straight years.

Stock Up: Brandon Hagel

While most of the team’s stars had very good seasons, Hagel was the most pleasant surprise on the Lightning roster. The 24-year-old excelled at forecheck and hound pucks at both ends of the ice while contributing offensively, leading Cooper to refer to him as the team’s “Swiss Army knife.” Hagel picked up 64 points with 30 goals and 34 assists this season, becoming just the 11th skater in Lightning franchise history to score 30 goals in a season.

Brandon Hagel Tampa Bay Lightning
Brandon Hagel, Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

His relentless forechecking saw him get 92 takeaways, the second-most among all NHL skaters, trailing only Mitch Marner. This set a franchise record for takeaways, a stat the NHL only started tracking in the 2005-06 season, surpassing the 83 takeaways St. Louis had in 2006-07. This may end up being one of BriseBois’ most successful deadline acquisitions ever after he acquired Hagel last season from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Related: With Avs Exit, Lightning Back-to-Back Cups Even More Impressive

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According to BriseBois, the 2022-23 season was a “missed opportunity” for the Lightning. They had all the talent necessary to win a Stanley Cup but fell short. The salary cap may have forced them to lose players they did want to, eroding their previous deep and talented roster. But while their window for success may be closing, it has not closed yet.

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