The Tampa Bay Lightning franchise is still showing contrition for its stunning early elimination from the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Two weeks after being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik sent a letter to the team’s season-ticket holders, suiteholders and partners formally apologizing for how the season ended.
“While we take great pride and satisfaction in our team’s accomplishments in the regular season – winning 62 of our 82 games and the Presidents’ Trophy, both fantastic achievements – we accept full ownership and responsibility for our result in the postseason,” Vinik wrote in the letter that was made public Thursday by the Tampa Bay Times.
It should be an interesting off-season for the Lightning. The entire forward group can in theory remain intact but they could run into salary cap issues when negotiating a new contract for restricted free agent Brayden Point who had 41 goals and 92 points this past season. There are also four pending UFAs on the blue line.
“We don’t want to overreact to this year’s disappointment,” Vinik said. “We fully expect to have one of the best teams in the National Hockey League entering the 2019-20 season and we will, once again, be a recognized contender for the Stanley Cup.”
Vinik also thanked former general manager Steve Yzerman in the letter. Yzerman spent the 2018-19 campaign in an advisor’s role with the Lightning after stepping down from the GM position prior to the season. He was replaced by Julien BriseBois and in April joined the Detroit Red Wings as that franchise’s GM.
“I remain confident we will win the Cup, and I believe it will happen with Julien as our general manager and with Jon Cooper as our head coach,” Vinik added. “We are extremely fortunate to have excellent people throughout the organization and a solid long-term plan to be competitive every year.”