A new era begins in Tampa Bay and first-year general manager Steve Yzerman has created a lot of optimism with a summer of savvy acquisitions that could make the Lightning playoff contenders. At the very least, though, there are plenty of fantasy options from which to choose.
Tied for the league lead in goals last year, Steven Stamkos exceeded all expectations on his way to 51 goals and now the 20-year-old with the lethal shot is the focal point of Tampa Bay's offense. Few players would have more value in keeper formats and Stamkos' value will be high in one-year leagues, particularly if he can get his plus-minus on the positive side.
Stamkos' emergence takes some heat off Vincent Lecavalier, who has surpassed 65 points in seven straight seasons, but last year's 24 goals represented his lowest total since 2001-2002. He no longer seems like a threat to be a 100-point player, but a point-per-game isn't out of the 30-year-old's reach.
Martin St. Louis is 35, but he's a young 35, having not reached the NHL full-time until his mid-20s and last season's total of 94 points tied the second-best of his career. With at least 80 points in five of the last six seasons, while missing a total of two games over the last seven seasons, St. Louis is one of the most reliable scoring wingers in the game.
Agitator Steve Downie found a home in Tampa Bay, playing alongside Stamkos and, in additon to racking up 208 penalty minutes, he tallied 22 goals and 46 points. The combination of points and penalty minutes at Downie's level is very rare -- Scott Hartnell was the only other player in the league to manage at least 40 points and at least 150 penalty minutes -- so Downie is extremely valuable for fantasy owners.
Ryan Malone has never scored more than 51 points in a season, so he is considered overpaid because of the free agent contract he signed, but his points-per-game total last year was the highest of his career and, combined with a career mark of better than a penalty minute per game, he still brings enough to be a solid fantasy contributor.
Looking for a bounceback year, as he plays for a new contract, Simon Gagne has had to deal with injuries in recent years, missing 24 games last year after missing 57 games in 2007-2008, but he's a four-time 30-goal scorer who could be very productive alongside Lecavalier.
Returning to Tampa Bay, defenceman Pavel Kubina isn't the most consistent, but he's been rather productive in recent years, scoring 31 goals and 118 points over the last three seasons. With no established power play fixtures on the blueline, Kubina is the best bet among Lightning blueliners to put up points.
In deep or keeper leagues, owners may want to consider Victor Hedman. The 19-year-old only had 20 points as a rookie, but with an improved team and more maturity, Hedman should increase his totals this year.
Tampa Bay's goaltending duties are going to be split between Mike Smith and newcomer Dan Ellis. Smith struggled last season and effectively lost the starting job to Antero Niittymaki, while Ellis was a strong backup for Nashville.
Both have some experience as a number one goaltender, but only in spots. Smith played a career-high 42 games last season while Ellis' career-high was 44 games in 2007-2008, so for one of them to take a prominent starting role (ie. 55-plus starts), that would mean a significant boost in value.
Tampa Bay Lightning Projected Depth Chart
Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@ctv.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen. For more fantasy info, check out TSN Fantasy on Facebook.