- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 4, 2016


LAST SEASON: 46-31-5, 97 points. Second place Atlantic Division. Lost to Pittsburgh Penguins in Eastern Conference finals.

COACH: Jon Cooper (fourth full season, 147-90-25).

ADDED: None. Focused on keeping roster intact.

LOST: D Matt Carle.

PLAYER TO WATCH: C Steven Stamkos turned down lucrative offer to leave in free agency, accepting an eight-year, $68 million deal to continue his pursuit of a Stanley Cup championship with the team that drafted him No. 1 overall in 2006. The Lightning is confident he’s fully recovered from surgery to remove blood clot near his right collarbone, a condition that ended his regular season, then sidelined him for the playoffs until Game 7 of the conference finals. He led the team with 36 goals in 2015-16 and begins his ninth NHL season with 312 goals and 562 career points.

OUTLOOK: After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals two years and making it back to the Eastern Conference finals, where they lost to Pittsburgh last season, anything short of another deep run in the playoffs will be a major disappointment. General manager Steve Yzerman re-signed Stamkos and locked up defenseman Victor Hedman with an eight-year, $63 million deal as part of plan to keep a young, talented roster together. Goalie Ben Bishop is back, too, after missing most of the East finals because of injury. One lingering concern is restricted free agent forward Nikita Kucherov, who led the team in scoring last season but has not signed a new contract and was not in training camp.

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