Completing the trifecta of extensions, the Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed defenceman Erik Cernak to an 8-year contract worth $5.2 million in average annual value (AAV). The deal will start in 2023-24 as he still has one more season left at $2.95 million.
Cernak, who just turned 25 years old at the end of May, is going into his fifth season with the Lightning after he was drafted 43rd overall in 2015. Over that time, he has accumulated 16 goals and 59 points in 226 games and has become an integral part of head coach Jon Cooper’s defence corps. Consistently playing close to 20 minutes a night, the right-handed 6-foot-3, 230-pound defender is a monster on the blue line not only because of his penchant for throwing big hits but also due to his work in the shot-blocking department. With 633 blocks under his belt so far, he’s never afraid of being Andrei Vasilevskiy’s second pair of pads.
Cernak Joins Sergachev and Cirelli in the 8-Year Club
Like Mikhail Sergachev and Anthony Cirelli before him, Cernak re-signed with the Lightning for another eight years following this season. Obviously, he believes Tampa Bay is the place to be to win championships, as he’s already won two Stanley Cups suiting up for the club. Now in Tampa until his 34th birthday, he decided to forgo unrestricted free agency in his prime years and stay with the only team he’s ever known.
With these three back in the fold for the next nine years, the Lightning have a legitimate chance at continuing their winning ways in the playoffs. Cernak, in particular, has been a massive piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle over the last few years. He’s even contributed some scoring as well, adding eight goals and 30 points in 92 playoff games, including two goals and 10 points in 2022 when his team was trying to win a third-straight Cup. In addition to his offence and terrific shutdown defending, his grit and never-say-die attitude came through in spades when he fearlessly blocked shots even though he was injured.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agent Signing Tracker
Probably one of the toughest defenders in the NHL, Cernak should be given a medal for the number of times he went down the tunnel after a blocked shot, only to re-emerge and play the rest of the game. The amount of pain was probably unbearable, but he didn’t want to let his team down. If that’s not toughness and resiliency, I don’t know what is. He’s the type of defender every team wants but now cannot get because he will be in Tampa conceivably for the next nine seasons.
Matthew Zator is a THW freelance writer, media editor, and scout 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.