It might be the offseason, but it has been a busy summer for the Tampa Bay Lightning. From signing star players to adding a new minor league franchise, plenty has been going on for the Bolts. Here is a look.
NBC to spotlight Bolts in primetime
NBC announced its lineup of national games on Aug. 13 and it features a heavy dose of the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts will make 12 appearances on either NBC or NBCSN during the regular season, which doubles its total from six last season. NBC has tabbed the Lightning and Nashville Predators as the “next wave” of teams that are expected to be perched atop the NHL this season and beyond. Nashville will also appear on the network 12 times this season, tying Tampa for the most national appearances.
The Lightning’s first appearance on the network will be seen on Oct. 24 when the team travels to Colorado for a 9:30 p.m. EST faceoff against the Avalanche. Click here to view NBC’s full broadcast schedule during the 2018-19 season.
Lightning keep lineup intact
The summer started with a flurry of signings for the Lightning that will keep the 2017-18 Eastern Conference Championship lineup in place for the foreseeable future. None of those signings was bigger than wrapping up star forward Nikita Kucherov for the next eight years. Kucherov led the team with 39 goals and 100 points last season, ranking third in the NHL in points.
The Lightning also secured contracts with two late-season additions: Defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller, both of whom were acquired from the New York Rangers at the 2018 NHL Trade Deadline. The 25-year-old Miller played in 36 games for the Lightning last season, scoring 10 goals and tabulating 18 points to go along with two playoff goals and eight points overall in the playoffs.
While Miller signed a five-year deal to stay in Tampa, McDonagh will don the Bolt’s sweater for the next seven years. The 29-year-old McDonagh is considered one of the best defensemen in the NHL and will give head coach Jon Cooper plenty of options among his defensive pairings for years to come.
“We like the fact [McDonagh is] big, strong, a good skater, a strong skater, especially like the character of the person,” said Lightning vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman. “When he came in, we felt he made us a better team. We knew he made us a better team.”
Defenseman Slater Koekkoek along with forwards Cedric Pauquette and Adam Erne were also locked up for the next year by the Lightning.
Orlando Solar Bears added as minor-league affiliate
The Lightning will have a new minor league affiliate in 2018 and the team is just down the road in Orlando. Tampa and the Orlando Solar Bears – a member of the East Coast Hockey League – have agreed to a three-year deal that will make the Solar Bears Tampa’s primary ECHL team.
The Solar Bears are owned by the same ownership group as the NBA’s Orlando Magic.
“The Solar Bears organization has demonstrated a strong commitment to success that has paid off with numerous playoff appearances,” Yzerman said. “We look forward to being a part of their future accomplishments while also developing our prospects in a world class environment.”
The Lightning and Florida Panthers will play an exhibition game at Amway Center – home of the Solar Bears – on Sept. 27.
Bolts Brew Fest takes place August 17
Fans can join the Lightning for a few brews and some fun and games on Aug. 17 at the Second Annual Bolts Brew Fest at Amalie Arena. Lightning personalities will be on hand for the event, which features beers from local craft breweries and over-sized games.
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