In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Lightning and the Rangers split the first two games of the series in New York, with the Lightning winning Game 2 of the series thanks to a Tyler Johnson hat-trick. The series then shifted to Tampa, where the Lightning had a come-from-behind overtime victory in Game 3 but lost Game 4 to even the series at two games apiece. During Game 5 in New York, goaltender Ben Bishop recorded his second shutout of the playoffs in a 2–0 victory, but the Rangers responded in Game 6 by scoring seven goals to tie the series at three games apiece. In Game 7, Bishop recorded his third shutout of the playoffs in another 2–0 victory against the Rangers to lead the Lightning to their first appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals since 2004. The Lightning not only became the first team to defeat the Rangers in a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden, but they also became the first team to successfully defeat three Original Six teams in the first three rounds of the playoffs. The Lightning would face the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Finals, making it the first time a finalist faced four Original Six teams in the playoffs since the four-round format was introduced in 1980. After losing Game 1 at home, the Lightning built a two games to one series lead, though the Blackhawks would win the following three games to win the Stanley Cup in six games at the United Center in Chicago. This made Tampa Bay the first team to beat three of the Original Six teams in the playoffs since the Pittsburgh Penguins completed the feat in 1992. However, they became the first team to lose the Stanley Cup Finals despite beating three Original Six teams.
After being awarded the franchise, Phil Esposito installed himself as president and general manager, while Tony became chief scout. Terry Crisp, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers when they won two Stanley Cups in the mid-1970s and coached the Calgary Flames to a Stanley Cup in 1989, was tapped as the first head coach. Phil Esposito also hired former teammates from the Boston Bruins of the 1970s, including former linemate Wayne Cashman as an assistant coach and former Bruin trainer John "Frosty" Forristal as the team's trainer. The inaugural team photo has him flanked by Cashman and player Ken Hodge, Jr., son of his other Bruins' linemate.
In the late 1980s, the NHL announced it would expand. Two rival groups from the Tampa Bay Area decided to bid for a franchise: a St. Petersburg-based group fronted by future Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes owners Peter Karmanos and Jim Rutherford, and a Tampa-based group fronted by Phil Esposito and his brother Tony, both members of the Hockey Hall of Fame. One of the Esposito group's key backers, the Pritzker family, backed out a few months before the bid, to be replaced by a consortium of Japanese businesses headed by Kokusai Green, a golf course and resort operator. On paper, it looked like the Karmanos/Rutherford group had the more stable bid; however, it wanted to pay only $29 million before starting play, while the Esposito's group was one of the few groups willing to pay the league's $50 million expansion fee up front. The Esposito group would win the expansion franchise on December 6, 1990, and name the team the Lightning, after Tampa Bay's status as the "Lightning Capital of North America."
In their first two seasons, the Lightning used a stylized block font for player names, with gaps in the upper loops of letters such as A, B, D, and R. The numbers were standard block numbers with drop shadows. The fonts were vertical in 1992–93, and italicized in 1993–94. The following season, the name font changed to a block font, vertically arched, while the number font changed to a painted style resembling the letters "Tampa Bay" in the logo. This style was also used on the blue alternate in 1998–99, replacing an "electrified" number font used from 1996 to 1998. In 2001–02, the old fonts were replaced with traditional block letters and numbers, which have been used ever since. They also darkened their shades of blue that season from a royal blue to a speed (Indy) blue.
The Lightning played their first preseason game in September 1992 against the Minnesota North Stars, and then turned heads later that preseason when Manon Rheaume became the first woman to play in an NHL game, which also made her the first woman to play in any of the major professional North American sports leagues. She played for the Lightning against the St. Louis Blues, and stopped seven of nine shots.
The Lightning played their first regular season game on October 7, 1992 in Tampa's tiny 11,000-seat Expo Hall at the Florida State Fairgrounds. They shocked the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 7–3 with four goals by little-known Chris Kontos. The team shot to the top of the Campbell Conference's Norris Division within a month, behind Kontos' initial torrid scoring pace and a breakout season by forward Brian Bradley. However, it buckled under the strain of some of the longest road trips in the NHL—their nearest division rival, the Blues, were over 1,000 miles (1,600 km) away—and finished in last place with a record of 23–54–7 for 53 points. This was, at the time, one of the best-ever showings by an NHL expansion team. Bradley's 42 goals gave Tampa Bay fans optimism for the next season; it would be a team record until the 2006–07 season.
Most of the Lightning's early stars were gone by the 1998–99 season due to free agency and a series of ill-advised trades. Crisp was fired 11 games into the 1997–98 season and replaced by Jacques Demers. Though Demers had presided over the resurgence of the Detroit Red Wings in the 1980s and helmed a Stanley Cup run with the Montreal Canadiens in 1993, he was unable to change the team's fortunes and the Lightning ended up losing 55 games.
The following season saw the Lightning shift to the Eastern Conference's Atlantic Division, as well as move into the Florida Suncoast Dome (a building originally designed for baseball) in St. Petersburg, which was reconfigured for hockey and renamed the "ThunderDome." The team acquired goaltender Daren Puppa, left wing goal scorer Petr Klima, and veteran forward Denis Savard. While Puppa's play resulted in a significant improvement in goals allowed (from 332 to 251), Savard was long past his prime and Klima's scoring was offset by his defensive lapses. The Lightning finished last in the Atlantic Division in 1993–94 with a record of 30–43–11 for 71 points. Another disappointing season followed in the lockout-shortened 1994–95 season with a record of 17–28–3 for 37 points.
By most accounts, the Lightning's plunge to the bottom of the NHL was due to inattentive ownership by Kokusai Green. Rumors abounded as early as the team's second season that the Lightning were on the brink of bankruptcy and that the team was part of a money laundering scheme for the yakuza (Japanese crime families). Its scouting operation consisted of Tony Esposito and several satellite dishes. The Internal Revenue Service investigated the team in 1994 and 1995, and nearly threatened to put a tax lien on the franchise for $750,000 in back taxes. The situation led longtime NHL broadcaster and writer Stan Fischler to call the Lightning a "skating vaudeville show."
Forbes wrote an article in late 1997 calling the Lightning a financial nightmare, with a debt equal to 236% of its value, the highest of any major North American sports franchise. Even though the Ice Palace was built for hockey and the Lightning were the only major tenant, Forbes called the team's deal with the arena a lemon since it would not result in much revenue for 30 years. It was also behind on paying state sales taxes and federal payroll taxes.
Finally, in 1998, Kokusai Green found a buyer. Although William Davidson, longtime owner of the Detroit Pistons of the National Basketball Association (NBA), was thought to be the frontrunner, the buyer turned out to be insurance tycoon and motivational speaker Art Williams, who previously owned the Birmingham Barracudas of the Canadian Football League (CFL). The team was $102 million in debt at the time the sale closed. Williams knew very little about hockey, but was very visible and outspoken, and immediately pumped an additional $6 million into the team's payroll. He also cleared most of the debt from the Kokusai Green era. After taking control, Williams publicly assured the Espositos that their jobs were safe, only to fire them two games into the 1998–99 season. He then gave Demers complete control of hockey operations as both coach and general manager. The Lightning drafted Vincent Lecavalier in 1998, a player who would be a cornerstone of the team for years to come.
However, as had been the case with Demers, the damage from the last few seasons under Kokusai Green was too much for Ludzik to overcome. Even with a wholesale transfer of talent from Detroit to Tampa (a move that eventually doomed the Vipers, which folded along with the IHL in 2001), the Lightning lost 54 games in 1999–2000 and 52 in 2000–01, becoming the first team in NHL history to post four straight 50-loss seasons. The lone bright spots in those years were the blossoming of Lecavalier and Brad Richards into NHL stars. Ludzik was replaced in early 2001 by career NHL assistant John Tortorella. The March 5 trade deadline offered another glimmer of hope when the team acquired hold-out goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin from the Phoenix Coyotes for three players and a draft pick.
The Lightning moved into a new arena in downtown Tampa, the Ice Palace (later the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay Times Forum and now Amalie Arena) for the 1996–97 season. They had acquired goal-scorer Dino Ciccarelli from the Detroit Red Wings during the 1996 off-season, and he did not disappoint, scoring 35 goals while Chris Gratton notched another 30 goals. The team appeared destined for another playoff appearance, but suffered a devastating rash of injuries. Puppa developed back trouble that kept him out of all but four games during the season; he would only play a total of 50 games from 1996 until his retirement in 2000. Bradley also lost time to a series of concussions that would limit him to a total of 49 games from 1996 until his retirement in December 1999. Center John Cullen developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and missed the last 12 games of the 1996–97 season; he would eventually be forced to retire in 1999. Decimated by these ailments, the Lightning narrowly missed the playoffs. They would not tally as much as 60 points again for five years.
With a young core of players led by Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards, Martin St. Louis and Fredrik Modin, the Lightning were thought to be very close to respectability. However, they arrived somewhat earlier than expected in 2002–03. The young team was led by the goaltending of Nikolai Khabibulin and the scoring efforts of Lecavalier, St. Louis, Modin, Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko, and also boasted a new captain, former prolific scorer Dave Andreychuk. Throughout the season, the Lightning battled the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division. They finished with a record of 36–25–16 for 93 points, breaking the 90-point barrier for the first time in team history. They won the division by just one point, giving them home-ice advantage in their first round match-up with the Capitals. At season's end, coach Tortorella was recognized for his efforts by being named a finalist for the Jack Adams Award, losing out to Jacques Lemaire of the Minnesota Wild.
In the playoffs, Tampa Bay drew the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Conference Quarterfinals. After losing Game 4 at home in the second overtime period, they fell behind in the series one game to three. However, the Lightning went on to win the next three games, including a 1–0 Game 7 win on the road, taking their first playoff series since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. In the Conference Semifinals, the Lightning swept the top-seeded Washington Capitals.
The Lightning have won two Stanley Cup championships in their history, in 2004 and 2020. The team is owned by Jeffrey Vinik, while Julien BriseBois serves as general manager. Jon Cooper has served as head coach since 2013 and is the longest tenured active head coach in the NHL.
The Lightning were busy during the final weeks before the NHL's trade deadline, acquiring wingers Kyle Wanvig, Stephen Baby and defenseman Shane O'Brien. Former first round pick Nikita Alexeev was traded on deadline day to the Chicago Blackhawks. Other mid-season additions to the team included Filip Kuba, Luke Richardson and Doug Janik. Veteran Andre Roy, who had won the Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, was claimed off waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Their opponent in the final round was the Calgary Flames, captained by Jarome Iginla. The final round also went the full seven games, with the deciding game played in the St. Pete Times Forum on June 7, 2004. This time, Ruslan Fedotenko was the Game 7 hero, scoring both Lightning goals in a 2–1 victory. Brad Richards, who had 26 points in the post-season, won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs; the Lightning had won all 31 contests in which he had scored a goal since the opening of the season. Tortorella won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL's Coach of the Year. Only three years after their last of four consecutive seasons of 50 or more losses, and in only their 12th year of existence, the Lightning became the southernmost team ever to win the Stanley Cup. Martin St. Louis led the team and the NHL with 94 points (his 38 goals were fourth-most after the 41 of tied trio Jarome Iginla, Rick Nash and Ilya Kovalchuk), and won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's most valuable player. St. Louis also won the Lester B. Pearson Award for the NHL's most outstanding player as voted by the NHL Players' Association, and tied the Vancouver Canucks' Marek Malik for the NHL Plus/Minus Award. A season of superlatives was capped with one final accolade, as The Sporting News named GM Jay Feaster as the league's executive of the year for 2003–04.
The Lightning had to wait a year to defend their title due to the 2004–05 NHL lockout, but in 2005–06, they barely made the playoffs with a record of 43–33–6 for 93 points in a conference where six teams notched 100 or more points. They lost to the Ottawa Senators in five games in the first round of the 2006 playoffs.
During the off-season, the Lightning traded Fredrik Modin and Fredrik Norrena to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for goaltender Marc Denis in an effort to replace the departing John Grahame, who had signed with the Carolina Hurricanes. However, free agent Johan Holmqvist would eventually receive the majority of playing time and most of the club's wins. The first half of 2006–07 was inconsistent for the Lightning, maintaining an 18–19–2 record throughout the first few months. January and February were far better months for the team, going 9–4–0 in January and 9–2–2 in February, driving them back into the playoff race. Fourteen games in March were split even, and on March 16, 2007, Vincent Lecavalier broke the franchise record for most points in a season, with 95 (finishing with 108). The record was previously held by Martin St. Louis, who had set the record in the 2003–04 Stanley Cup-winning year. Lecavalier also broke the franchise's goal scoring record, finishing with a league-leading 52 goals.
Throughout March, the Lightning had been competing with the Atlanta Thrashers for first place in the Southeast Division. With a chance to overtake the Thrashers one final time and once again become division champions for the third time in team history, on April 6, 2007, in the final week of the regular season, the Lighting suffered a loss to the Florida Panthers, the night before the season finale in Atlanta. That same night, the Thrashers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes and subsequently clinched the division. For the Lightning, this meant having to settle for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with a final record of 44–33–5 (93 points). However, the Lightning were eliminated from playoff competition on April 22 after a 3–2 home loss to the New Jersey Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Following their playoff exit, on August 7, 2007, Absolute Hockey Enterprises, a group led by Doug MacLean, announced it had signed a purchase agreement for the team and the leasehold on the St. Pete Times Forum. MacLean is the former president and general manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets and former head coach for both the Blue Jackets and the Florida Panthers. The group announced it planned to keep the team in Tampa, but the deal collapsed during the 2007–08 season.
The Lightning unveiled their new logo on August 25, 2007. The logo was similar to the inaugural one, but with a more modern look. The new logo also kept the same theme as the previous one, but with the words "Tampa Bay" across the top now appearing with tall capital initials, and the word "Lightning" no longer appearing on the bottom of the logo.
Head coach John Tortorella was fired by the Lightning following their worst season since Tortorella was hired. At the time working as an NHL analyst for ESPN, Barry Melrose stated on June 4 during an episode of Pardon the Interruption that he missed coaching and would entertain any NHL coaching offers. He stated, "I miss not having a dog in the fight." On June 23, ESPN reported Melrose had been chosen to be the head coach of the Lightning, beginning in 2008–09. The next day, the Lightning officially introduced him as their new head coach.
The Lightning were active during the trade deadline, similar to the previous season. More notable trades included Vaclav Prospal's trade to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for prospect Alexandre Picard and a conditional draft pick. Additionally, former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Brad Richards and goaltender Johan Holmqvist were traded to the Dallas Stars in exchange for goaltender Mike Smith and forwards Jussi Jokinen and Jeff Halpern, as well as a fourth-round draft pick in 2009. Jan Hlavac, a regular contributor, was also traded, moving to the Nashville Predators in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2008. Defenseman Dan Boyle was re-signed to a six-year contract extension reportedly worth $40 million.
At the start of the All-Star Break on January 25, 2008, the Lightning had a 20–25–5 record, and with 45 points, were in last place in both the Southeast Division and the Eastern Conference. Only the Los Angeles Kings had a lower point total at this time of the season, with 40 points.
On February 13, 2008, it was announced that Palace Sports & Entertainment had agreed to sell the Lightning to OK Hockey LLC, a group headed by Oren Koules, a producer of the Saw horror movies, and Len Barrie, a former NHL player and real estate developer.
On July 4, 2008, Dan Boyle, despite coming off a recent contract extension, was traded (along with Brad Lukowich) to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, a first-round draft pick in 2009 and a fourth-round pick in 2010. Boyle was pressured to waive his no-trade clause by Tampa Bay's ownership, who said they would otherwise place him on waivers, where he would likely be claimed by the Atlanta Thrashers. In the fallout from the trade, Boyle would call Lightning ownership "liars" for misrepresenting the aforementioned events to the public, while former coach Tortorella later labeled them as "cowboys" and said he had zero respect for them. Frustrated at interference in the team's hockey operations by Barrie and Koules, seven days later, Jay Feaster resigned as general manager, despite having three years remaining on his contract.
Barry Melrose would record his first win as a head coach in over 13 years on October 21, 2008, with a 3–2 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. However, the Lightning did not get off to a great start as hoped, and Melrose was eventually fired by the Lightning with a 5–7–4 record. Rick Tocchet, who had been hired as assistant coach during the previous off-season, was promoted to interim head coach.
During the season, the team was sold to Bostonian investment banker Jeffrey Vinik. Following the late-season collapse, Vinik cleaned house, firing both head coach Rick Tocchet and GM Brian Lawton on April 12, 2010, one day after the season ended.
In May 2010, Vinik hired Steve Yzerman away from the Detroit Red Wings front office to be the new GM, signing him to a five-year contract. Yzerman then hired Guy Boucher away from the Montreal Canadiens organization to succeed Tocchet as the head coach two weeks later.
Yzerman's first off-season with Tampa Bay began with a splash. With the sixth pick of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning selected forward Brett Connolly despite a history of injuries while playing for the Western Hockey League (WHL)'s Prince George Cougars. When asked about Connolly's injuries being a factor in the decision to draft him, Yzerman boldly declared, "I think it was a factor that he was available with the 6th pick. Because if he had been healthy all year, based on everything I know, he would not have been available with the 6th pick." On July 1, 2010, veteran blueliner Andrej Meszaros was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for their second-round pick in 2011. Later that day, the Lightning signed star winger Martin St. Louis to a four-year, $22.5 million contract extension to come into effect on July 1, 2011. On July 19, in another move with the Flyers organization, the Lightning traded defenseman Matt Walker and Tampa Bay's fourth-round pick in 2011 for high-scoring winger Simon Gagne. Other off-season acquisitions included the signing of forwards Sean Bergenheim, Dominic Moore and Marc-Antoine Pouliot, along with defensemen Brett Clark, Randy Jones and Pavel Kubina and goaltender Dan Ellis, as well as the re-signing of restricted free agent forward Steve Downie to a two-year, $3.7 million deal.
It was reported on January 23, 2011, that the Lightning had filed paperwork with the NHL to change their logo and colors, beginning with the 2011–12 season. The new logo, as well as the new home and away jerseys, were unveiled by the team at a press conference at the St. Pete Times Forum on January 31, 2011. The Lightning began to integrate the new logo onto center ice, and even distributed free T-shirts with the simplified logo on February 4, 2011, while still using the old Lightning logo and uniforms.
Nearing the end of a dismal 18–26–4 season for 40 points, in which the Lightning ended fourth in the Southeast and 14th in the East, GM Steve Yzerman looked to their highly-successful American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. On March 25, 2013, head coach Guy Boucher was dismissed for following a 7–16–1 record. The Lightning announced Jon Cooper would become the eighth head coach in franchise history.
On June 27, 2013, the team announced that they would exercise one of their two "compliance buyouts" on captain Vincent Lecavalier, as permitted by the collective agreement. This move would make Lecavalier an unrestricted free agent beginning July 5, free to sign with any team except the Lightning. The team stated the move was made not because of Lecavalier's play on the ice, but simply because of how his contract affected the team's salary cap, which would have been over $7 million per year until its expiration after the 2019–20 season.
After acquiring goaltender Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators in a trade the previous season, the Lightning started the 2013 season with an above average performance. On November 11, 2013, going into the day tied for most goals during the regular season, Steven Stamkos suffered a broken right tibia after crashing into one of the goalposts during play against the Boston Bruins. He would miss 45 games and was not cleared to play again until March 5, 2014.
In January, GM Steve Yzerman, who also served as the general manager for Canada's team at the 2014 Winter Olympics, elected not to name Lightning captain Martin St. Louis to Canada's roster, instead choosing the still-injured Stamkos. After Stamkos was not medically cleared to play in Sochi in early February, Yzerman ultimately named St. Louis to Team Canada as an injury replacement. In late February, it was reported St. Louis had requested a trade from Yzerman the month prior. St. Louis, who had a no-move clause in his contract with Tampa Bay, reportedly consented to only being traded to the New York Rangers. On March 5, 2014, St. Louis was sent to New York along with a conditional 2015 second-round pick in exchange for New York captain Ryan Callahan, a 2015 first-round draft pick, a conditional 2014 second-round pick and a 2015 conditional seventh-round pick. The deal came subsequently after Stamkos had been cleared to return to the Lightning's active roster. St. Louis cited his decision based on his family and thanked Lightning fans for their support during his tenure with the franchise, but would not specify any further about the reasons leading to his request.
On March 6, 2014, Steven Stamkos was named Tampa Bay's tenth captain in franchise history in his first game back after recovering from his tibia injury.
On April 7, 2014, the team announced it had signed GM Steve Yzerman to a four-year contract extension.
On June 25, 2014, the Lightning agreed to terms with Ryan Callahan, who was slated to become a free agent in the off-season, signing him to a six-year, $34.8 million contract extension. The same day, the Lightning used its remaining compliance buyout on forward Ryan Malone after his on-ice performance had declined from injuries seasons prior in addition to his off-ice troubles that included a DUI arrest before the end of the season.
For the 2014–15 season, the Lightning announced that a new black third sweater will replace the existing "BOLTS" sweaters. The new sweaters were unveiled on September 27, 2014. It retained the "BOLTS" wordmark, while adding white accents in a similar manner as the Los Angeles Kings' sweaters. The secondary roundel logo also replaced the primary logo on the sleeves, while the metro name was enscripted on the collar.
On December 10, 2014, long-time color commentator Bobby "The Chief" Taylor announced he would be retiring from the broadcast booth at the end of the 2014–15 season. Taylor had served as the teams color commentator since the 1993–94 season, which was the team's second year of existence. Taylor cited that he desired to be home with his wife Jan more. Taylor said, "The road was starting to get a little stale," and "I've been traveling since I was 15, and that's a long time." However, Taylor announced that he was not completely stepping away from the team broadcasts. He has continued to serve as a studio analyst during the games on Fox Sports Sun for both home and away games.
On August 11, 2015, Fox Sports Sun, the regional television home of the Lightning, announced Brian Engblom as Taylor's replacement on color commentary for the 2015–16 season. Prior to joining Sun Sports, Engblom served as the "inside the glass" analyst on both NBC and NBC Sports Network, as well as the network's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Engblom has served as an analyst on NHL Live, and also served as color analyst for Winnipeg Jets games on TSN in Canada. Prior to being an announcer, Engblom played at the University of Wisconsin, and was Montreal's third pick, 22nd overall, in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft. He won three Stanley Cups with the Canadiens from 1977 to 1979.
Despite finishing with 46 wins and 97 points, the Lightning had a very slow start to the 2015–16 season. The 2015–16 season was filled with controversy for the Lightning, starting off with the contractual questions regarding team captain Steven Stamkos and with the former third overall pick Jonathan Drouin publicly requesting a trade and being suspended from the organization. The Lightning picked up their play at the beginning of the year 2016 and set the franchise record to nine consecutive wins on March 5, 2016, when Alex Killorn scored with 42.5 seconds remaining in overtime to propel the Lightning to a 4–3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena. On March 26, 2016, the Lightning announced cornerstone defenseman Anton Stralman had suffered a fractured leg in their game against the New York Islanders at home. Tampa's fortunes would get even worse when Stamkos shockingly was out of the lineup for the team's game on April 2 against the New Jersey Devils in Tampa. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announced after the game that the captain would miss one-to-three months due to a blood clot in his arm. Due to unfortunate circumstances, the team had no other option but to bring Drouin back to the team. The Lightning ended up finishing second in the Atlantic Division and would once again face the third-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs.
On September 11, 2018, it was announced that Steve Yzerman would be resigning from his position as general manager, and Julien BriseBois would be currently taking his place. During the 2018–19 season, the Lightning clinched their first Presidents' Trophy and second consecutive division title after a 4–1 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Winning their final regular season game against the Boston Bruins, the Lightning finished with 62 wins, tying the NHL record for most wins in a season. However, in the first round of the playoffs, they were swept in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets, becoming the first Presidents' Trophy winner to be swept in the first round of the playoffs.
A third sweater was not used during all of 2017–18 and much of the 2018–19 season. On February 7, 2019, the Lightning unveiled a new black uniform, lacking any blue and white elements and featuring sublimated black and grey patterns on the sleeves, socks and back numbers.
Tampa Bay had only played 70 games when the NHL suspended the season on March 12, 2020, due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. It was not until late May that the league decided to cancel the remainder of the regular season. To finish the season the league expanded the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs to include 24 teams. In July, it was announced that the playoffs would begin August 1, and would take place in the Canadian cities of Toronto as the Eastern Conference hub, and Edmonton for the Western Conference. By virtue of having one of the top four highest point percentages at the time the season was suspended, the Lightning not only qualified for the playoffs, but would first compete in a single round-robin opening round group with the Boston Bruins, Washington Capitals, and Philadelphia Flyers to determine seeding. Winning two out of three games, the Lightning earned the second seed in the East.
Following their earlier than expected exit from the playoffs, several players left the Lightning. Left winger J. T. Miller was traded to the Vancouver Canucks. Backup goaltender Louis Domingue was dealt to the New Jersey Devils for a conditional seventh-round draft pick in 2021. Defenseman Anton Stralman signed a three-year contract with the Florida Panthers. Right winger Ryan Callahan's career was effectively ended when he was diagnosed with a degenerative back disease. The Lightning signed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a one-year contract, after his contract with the New York Rangers was bought out. Left winger Patrick Maroon, who was coming off a Stanley Cup championship with the St. Louis Blues, was also signed to a one-year deal. The Lightning re-signed centers Cedric Paquette and Brayden Point to two and three-year contracts, respectively. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy's contract was extended by eight years.
Updated January 12, 2021