The Tampa Bay Lightning are not messing around on the first day of free agency. While they are staying relatively quiet in the unrestricted free agent market by only adding veteran defenceman Ian Cole, they have gone to work re-signing three huge pieces of their core for the foreseeable future. After signing Mikael Sergachev to an 8-year extension worth $8.5 million in average annual value (AAV), they announced another in Anthony Cirelli, who also re-upped for another 8 years at $6.25 million AAV. Finally, shortly after that, they completed the trifecta with Erik Cernak, also for 8 years with a $5.2 million AAV cap hit.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agent Signing Tracker
Cirelli, who was selected 72nd overall by the Lightning in 2015 has 66 goals and 159 points in 294 games, primarily utilized in a shutdown role. His career high came back in 2018-19 when he scored 19 goals and 39 points in 82 games. He also has been massive in the playoffs, not only limiting the offence of the opposing team, but adding a bit of his own as well with 14 goals and 34 points in 92 career postseason games. Of course, he was part of the team when they won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021.
Cirelli Locked in For the Long Haul
Still only 24 years old, Cirelli has decided to hitch his wagon to the Lightning for the long haul. If he plays out this contract he will be 35 years old and presumably on the downturn of his career when it ends in 2030-31. He obviously likes the group enough to forgo his first foray into free agency at a young age and believes they can still win Cups with the roster general manager Julien BriseBois has assembled.
Cirelli has been a massive part of the Lightning since he joined the team in 2017-18 as a 20-year-old. The Etobicoke, Ontario native has transformed into one of the best two-way pivots in the NHL with his play-driving abilities, gritty game and overall competitive nature. Like most of the forwards and defence that suit up for Jon Cooper, he’s not afraid to get into the dirty areas to block shots and be an overall pain to play against. He also is a pretty good faceoff man and gets involved in every area of the game, whether it be on the power play, penalty kill or in the last minute of the game.
It’s no wonder that Cirelli has been in the Selke Trophy conversation for two of his five seasons in the league. Simply put, it’s really no surprise that BriseBois made it point to get him signed long-term.
What’s Next for the Lightning?
With his big three locked up, BriseBois will likely turn to free agency to find some complementary pieces to supplement his lineup for 2022-23. He might also try and get Alex Killorn signed too since his contract is up at the end of next season. All in all, a pretty tidy piece of work by the Lightning’s GM on the first day of the free agent madness, getting three key pieces re-signed in short order to avoid the headache of restricted free agent negotiations next offseason.
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Matthew Zator is the assistant managing editor at THW and a writer who lives and breathes Vancouver Canucks hockey, the NHL Draft, and prospects in general. He loves talking about young players and their potential. Matthew is a must-read for Canucks fans and fans of the NHL Draft and its prospects. For interview requests or content information, you can follow Matthew through his social media accounts which are listed under his photo at the conclusion of articles like this one about Tyler Motte.
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