There were two sweeps in the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs first round, and just like everyone expected, (not), the teams moving on are the Islanders and Blue Jackets, while the Penguins and Lightning are off to the golf course just a short 10 days after the end of the regular season.
That seems fast, no?
Looking at the teams, and the rosters, involved, one thing did jump out at me. The Pens and Lightning are pretty much set for next season as well. They are at, or above, the salary cap and don’t really have any significant pending UFAs. (Tampa does have a large number of UFA defenders, but most of them seem like they are replaceable, which may be the problem to start with.) Tampa is going to need to give Braydon Point a big raise as an RFA though, probably using up the little cap space they will have going into next season. Both of these teams would need to make a trade or two to significantly alter the roster though.
The Blue Jackets and Islanders, on the other hand, will be a complete mystery heading into next season. Pending UFA’s show up right at the top of their rosters. The Blue Jackets faced a trade deadline where they knew two of their better players (Panarin, Bobrovsky) were going to see what their options are on July 1, and they responded by trading for more UFAs! (Duchene, Dzingel, et al.). Meanwhile the Islanders famously “stood pat” with a roster that already has a number of pending UFA’s (Lee, Nelson, Eberle, Lehner, most notably.)
In short the two teams simply taking their shot this year, with no guarantees they’d be back together, dominated.
This could become a thing.
Or it could be that Tampa and Pittsburgh simply ran into teams they don’t match up well with who exposed their weaknesses. (Pittsburgh was inconsistent all year, and Tampa may need to look at their lack of focus on defense, and maybe a goalie question)
Either way, it’ll be interesting to watch how both of the swept teams react during the offseason. For Tampa, they’ll need to make some tweaks to their salary cap and on defense. I’d also watch a lot of college basketball, specifically Virginia losing as a one-seed in round round then coming back to win the championship the next year. It seems relevant.
For the Pens, some big changes may be coming. They weren’t really a quality team all season. They have weaknesses, and no cap space to address them. Look for them to be active as a trader at the draft.
For the sweepers? Keep taking your shot and see what happens. Worry about next season after this one is over.