There's been no better National Hockey League team than the Tampa Bay Lightning since the end of the 2018-19 season, and the results speak for themselves. The Bolts won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021, and came within two wins of the three-peat after losing to the Colorado Avalanche in one of the most thrilling Stanley Cup Finals in recent memory in 2022.

Like any perennial Stanley Cup contender, there will come a time when the Lightning will need a full-scale rebuild. That's even more glaring with the dry prospect pipeline this team has. But the firepower is still there, led by superstar talents in Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Although Tampa Bay finally lost to an Eastern Conference team in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs, falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs in six games, they very well could have won again if a few bounces had gone their way in the series. Expect that, despite a gauntlet of an Atlantic Division, the Bolts will again finish top-three in the division. Similar to last year, they could lose in the first round or win the Stanley Cup — that's just the parity that exists in the NHL today. But does this team have what it takes to win four championships in five seasons?

Is the aging core still good enough?

Every season, the Lightning seem to lose a few key complementary pieces, although the core always stays the same. This offseason, it was longtime veteran Alex Killorn who signed with the Anaheim Ducks, and Pat Maroon who was traded to the Minnesota Wild. Both players won two Stanley Cups in Florida and will be difficult to replace, especially the leadership and high-energy play from Killorn.

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Still, the top line of Stamkos, Kucherov and Point remains one of the league's premier units, and the three can consistently compete for 100-point seasons. Kucherov is still one of the best right wingers in the game, and many would argue he is the best, period. Andrei Vasilevskiy had a longer than usual offseason after the Round 1 exit, and he should be well-rested and ready for another campaign. Expect him to start 50+ games as the Lightning look to challenge the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs for the Atlantic Division crown.

The Steven Stamkos question

Stamkos has been the heart and soul of the Tampa Bay Lightning since being selected No. 1 overall in the 2008 NHL Draft. At 33-years-old, he's still a superstar. But the team is very tight to the salary cap, and Stammer will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Obviously, both player and club want to get an extension done. But it's not that simple, as the Canadian is making $8.5 million in 2023-24 and will be looking for around the same AAV on his next deal.

Potentially trading the captain away has likely gone through GM Julien BriseBois' mind, but it seems very unlikely that that will come to fruition after everything Stamkos has done for the team and city. He is a homegrown prospect-turned-star who has helped make the Lightning the class of the NHL for almost a decade; this team advanced to the Stanley Cup Final back in 2015 and took the powerhouse Chicago Blackhawks to six games. Still, Stamkos' future is a huge question that needs answering next season, whether that be a new contract or a trade.

Not many roster battles

Along with a bare prospect pool comes not a ton of competition for spots at training camp. In fact, the 12F, 6D, 2G roster is basically set in stone for the team barring any injuries. With Tyler Motte being signed for one-year, the 28-year-old figures to take the final forward spot on the fourth line. Along with Luke Glendening and Logan Brown, they should make up the final three. Josh Archibald was expected to slot in after signing a two-year deal, but his agent announced that he would not be playing hockey this season. The only other forward name who could crack the bottom-six is Alex Barre-Boulet; he's come up through the system, and after being waived, could get a look in 2023-24.

On the back end, it's a similar story; Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak have made up two Stanley Cup winning defensive cores, and will be joined by Nick Perbix, Calvin de Haan and Zach Bogosian. Expect that two 27-year-olds in Haydn Fleury and Darren Raddysh will compete for a bottom pairing slot, and one or both have a chance to supplant de Haan or Bogosian. But expect the veterans to get the first look on opening night.

The Lightning aren't as good as they once were, and the offensive depth has been chipped away at over the last few years. But this is still a superstar roster that knows how to win and has as good a chance as any team in the Eastern Conference to play for a fourth Stanley Cup in five years next June.

Final roster projection

Forwards: Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Brandon Hagel, Anthony Cirelli, Tanner Jeannot, Conor Sheary, Nick Paul, Michael Eyssimont, Logan Brown, Luke Glendening, Tyler Motte

Defensemen: Victor Hedman, Erik Cernak, Mikhail Sergachev, Nick Perbix, Calvin de Haan, Zach Bogosian

Goalies: Andrei Vasilevskiy, Jonas Johansson