The future of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s blue line has been promising for years with the emergence of Mikhail Sergachev as a great young defender who can play behind franchise cornerstone Victor Hedman. As the free agent market opened on Wednesday, the Lightning have extended Sergachev for the maximum contract extension, further solidifying the future of their defense.
The 24-year-old defender has already played in 362 NHL games, earning 174 regular season points and slowly developing a reputation as a great two-way defender. On an excellent Tampa Bay team, Sergachev has played in a whopping 92 playoff games in his career, with 30 points.
Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker
After being drafted ninth overall in the 2016 Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, Sergachev was traded to the Lightning, where he has played 358 games over five seasons. He has one more year left on his current contract, signed before the 2020-21 season, worth $4.8 million each season. His eight-year extension is worth $8.5 million per season, one of the highest marks among NHL defensemen.
Fit With Tampa Bay
When Ryan McDonagh began showing up in trade rumours, it became clear that the Lightning were trying to clear some cap space to extend some of their best young players who have contracts ending next season, including Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, and Erik Cernak. When they traded McDonagh to the Nashville Predators, they hit two birds with one stone, clearing up cap space while also carving out a clear spot in the lineup for Sergachev to fill long-term as the team’s second-best, left-handed defender behind Hedman.
The most surprising thing is that Sergachev is being paid like a top-pairing defender who he hasn’t quite shown himself yet. There is still plenty of time for him to prove that he is worth so much money, and the Lightning seem confident that he will flourish in a larger role next season.
Lightning Retain Great Young Players
Amid a flurry of activity this afternoon, the Lightning announced long-term extensions for Sergachev, Cirelli and Cernak over the course of a few minutes. These contracts represent security for a core that has reached the Stanley Cup Final three seasons in a row, winning the championship twice.
General manager Julien Brisebois can now turn his focus on finding the supporting pieces necessary to take this team back to the Final for the fourth time in a row – a feat made a lot easier for a general manager when they have Andrei Vasilevskiy in net.