NHL Picks: Tampa Bay Lightning Futures Odds & Preview

David Lawrence

Sunday, September 22, 2013 8:20 PM GMT

The winds of change blew through Tampa Bay during the offseason as they were one of the most disappointing teams in the lockout-shortened season.

Read our NHL Preseason Betting Strategies for an early edge in this season's games!

After missing the playoffs and posting 40 points in the 48-game season, change was required. They’re entering their first full offseason under Jon Cooper, who took over for Guy Boucher in March, and longtime captain Vincent Lecavalier was waived after 1100 regular-season and postseason games.

The Lightning still have a couple of studs in Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, but it could be a season full of learning experiences for this Tampa Bay team.

Biggest Offseason Loss: Vincent Lecavalier

Lecavalier’s best days are obviously behind him and it has been clear for a season or two that he should probably move on from Tampa Bay. His contract was weighing too heavy on the books. With his production dropping, they didn’t want to hold on to him until the 2019-2020 season (which is when his contract would have ended). However, Philadelphia took a chance on the 33-year-old to the tune of five years and $22.5 million, which is reasonable.

Lecavalier was still productive player as he did score 10 goals and 32 points in 39 games last season and he can still offer something for a team looking to make a Stanley Cup run. However, he isn’t a first-line player anymore but he was being paid like a superstar. The Lightning are going to miss some of his production, but mostly his leadership. He was also loved in the community after getting drafted by Tampa Bay with the No. 1 overall pick way back in 1998. He led the franchise to their only Stanley Cup Win in 2004, but the contract was a burden and the team had to move on.

Biggest Offseason Gain: Jonathan Drouin

Moving on from Lecavalier, the Lightning selected Drouin with the third pick in the draft and he could get thrown right into the fire. Early speculation is that the rookie could play on a line with Stamkos and St. Louis. Drouin, who just turned 18 in March, is coming off an amazing year in which he teamed with No. 1 overall pick Nathan McKinnon to lead Halifax to the Memorial Cup. Drouin was also named the CHL Player of the Year and some are saying he could be a Calder Trophy candidate.

Should he make the opening-night roster for the Lightning, Drouin should get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do in Tampa Bay. He is a gifted offensive player who will likely be playing with two of the best players in the league. Drouin would do well to soak up all the knowledge he can from his teammates.

State of the Franchise:

The Lightning are moving in the right direction. Along with drafting Drouin, Tampa Bay also signed Valtteri Filppula for $25 million over five years and remember, they picked up Ben Bishop at the trade deadline last season to strengthen their goaltending.

NHL betting experts know that Tampa Bay has Stanley Cup potential. To some, that will sound crazy but remember that Tampa Bay scored 148 goals last season (fifth-most in the NHL). That means that if their goaltending and defense can step up, they could be in good shape to return to the postseason.

The Lightning need either Bishop or Anders Lindback to emerge. Both are young, both have shown potential and both have played well in spurts. However, Tampa needs one of these goaltenders to become elite. If that happens, the NHL odds of 40/1 are among the best sports betting value on the futures. However, experts who make their NHL picks know that defense and goaltending has been the Lightning’s Achilles for a couple of seasons now and that’s likely to extend one more year.

2013 Odds To Win The Stanley Cup At Bovada: 40/1

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