In almost every NHL city, hockey's offseason is over and fans are looking at the calendar, waiting for the 2016-17 season to begin. But in Tampa Bay, there are lingering questions that could affect confidence that the Lightning will reach a third straight appearance in the Eastern Conference finals -- or beyond.
The Lightning came within one game of reaching the Stanley Cup finals in 2015-16, and that's while playing nearly the entire playoffs without superstar Steven Stamkos.
General manager Steve Yzerman surprised many pundits by convincing Stamkos to remain in Tampa Bay at a reasonable price, as the former 60-goal scorer inked an eight-year contract with an $8.5 million average annual cap hit. He also extended franchise defenseman Victor Hedman, and re-signed young goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and solid middle-six forward Alex Killorn.
Outside of the re-signings, Yzerman has been pretty quiet. With a Cup-worthy roster and salary cap pushed to the max, there wasn't a lot the Lightning could do in terms of the free agent market. Plus, they have a number of promising prospects who could make an impact soon, such as Slater Koekkoek, Adam Erne and Brayden Point -- in addition to Jonathan Drouin, who is seemingly back in everyone's good graces. There wasn't much reason to overpay on the free agent market.
Before we crown the Lightning as the team to represent the East in the 2017 Stanley Cup finals, there are three major questions to be answered by Yzerman and the Lightning staff.