Lightning could turn to rookie Foote to bolster defenseman group

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After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Tampa Bay Lightning: 

The Tampa Bay Lightning hope a little help from within will go a long way in sustaining success after winning their second Stanley Cup championship in 16 seasons.

Defenseman prospect Callan Foote could be a key part of that transitional process if he can emerge from training camp in a top-four role following the departure of defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian as free agents last month.

Foote (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) was the No. 14 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft and has the look and pedigree, being the son of former NHL defenseman Adam Foote. He scored 28 points (six goals, 22 assists) in 62 games last season for Syracuse of the American Hockey League, his second full season as a pro.

The 21-year-old was the only defenseman with no NHL experience on Tampa Bay’s 33-player roster to begin Phase 3 of the NHL Return to Play Plan in July.

“It’s good for us guys from the AHL to show coaches how far we’ve come,” Foote said. “The biggest thing for me is improving my skating, quick feet, and that’s come a long way. It’s been a good year for me [in Syracuse] to get more physical, closing guys out. This was a huge challenge. There are bigger, stronger, faster guys up in the NHL.”

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Foote’s NHL arrival could be timely for the Lightning, who still could re-sign restricted free agent defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, as well as restricted free agent forward Anthony Cirelli.

“He’s a really smart player,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said of Foote. “Physically, he’s gotten a lot stronger.”

The Lightning re-signed unrestricted free agent forward Mitchell Stephens to a one-year contract Oct. 7, and forward Pat Maroon to a two-year contract and defenseman Luke Schenn to a one-year contact, each on Oct. 29.

They placed forward Tyler Johnson on waivers Oct. 9, allowing any NHL team to claim his contract that has four years left on a seven-year contract he signed in July 2017. The 30-year-old forward passed through without a claim. He has given Tampa Bay a list of eight teams he would agree to be traded.

Here is what the Lightning look like today:

 

Key arrivals

None

 

Key departures

Kevin Shattenkirk, D: Agreed to a three-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 10 after scoring 34 points (eight goals, 26 assists) in 70 regular-season games and 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 25 postseason games last season. … Zach Bogosian, D: Signed a one-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 10 after scoring seven points (one goal, six assists) in 27 games for the Lightning and Buffalo Sabres last season, including two assists in eight games after he was signed by Tampa Bay on Feb. 23. He had four assists in 20 postseason games. … Carter Verhaeghe, F: Signed a two-year contract with the Florida Panthers on Oct. 9. He scored 13 points (nine goals, four assists) in 52 regular-season games last season, his first in the NHL, and had two assists in eight postseason games. … Jan Rutta, D: Remains an unrestricted free agent after scoring seven points (one goal, six assists) in 33 games last season.

 

On the cusp

Callan Foote, D: He has scored 60 points (17 goals, 43 assists), including six power-play goals, and is plus-11 in 144 AHL games as Tampa Bay’s top defenseman prospect. … Alexander Volkov, F: Playing a defensive-minded game, the 23-year-old scored 30 points (nine goals, 21 assists) in 46 games for Syracuse and had one assist in nine games for Tampa Bay last season. … Alex Barre-Boulet, F: The 23-year-old scored 56 points (27 goals, 29 assists) in 60 games for Syracuse last season. … Taylor Raddysh, F: The 22-year-old, chosen in the second round (No. 58) of the 2016 NHL Draft, scored 35 points (19 goals, 16 assists) in 62 games for Syracuse last season. … Boris Katchouk, F: Selected in the second round (No. 44) of the 2016 draft, the 22-year-old scored 32 points (14 goals, 18 assists) in 60 games for Syracuse last season.

 

What they still need

To re-sign restricted free agent forward Anthony Cirelli and defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, and for at least one forward prospect to emerge during training camp because Tampa Bay may be forced to trade at least one veteran to conform with the NHL salary cap ($81.5 million). Barre-Boulet, an undrafted forward, could be that player. He scored 116 points (53 goals, 63 assists) for Blainville-Boisbriand in his final season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in 2017-18 before playing the past two seasons for Syracuse, scoring 124 points (61 goals, 63 assists) in 134 AHL games.

Video: The offseason outlook of the Tampa Bay Lightning

 

Fantasy focus

The injury status of elite forward Steven Stamkos has implications on the fantasy appeal of the defending Stanley Cup champions. If Stamkos is ready for the start of the season, he would either rejoin the top line with top 10 overall fantasy assets Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov, or he would play wing on the second line, boosting the sleeper appeal of forwards Cirelli and Alex Killorn. The latter scenario would mean strong category coverage for left wing Ondrej Palat, who was a top 75 overall fantasy player last season, highlighted by his 145 hits (T-13th at position). Palat thrived with Point and Kucherov in the postseason during Stamkos’ extended absence, scoring 11 goals (second on Tampa Bay behind Point’s 14). — Pete Jensen

Video: TBL@DAL, Gm3: Stamkos returns to lineup with goal

 

Projected lineup

Ondrej Palat — Brayden Point — Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn — Anthony Cirelli — Steven Stamkos

Barclay Goodrow — Alex Barre-Boulet — Blake Coleman

Patrick Maroon — Yanni Gourde — Tyler Johnson

Victor Hedman — Callan Foote

Mikhail Sergachev — Erik Cernak

Ryan McDonagh — Luke Schenn

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

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