The Tampa Bay Lightning added another reasonable contract to the ledger, agreeing to terms on a three-year extension with defenseman Mikhail Sergachev worth $14.4 million, the team announced Wednesday.
Broken down annually, Sergachev will earn $4.8 million per season throughout the life of the stretched-out bridge agreement. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun notes that the contract will be backloaded considerably, which should allow Sergachev to dodge some escrow-related losses with penalties expected to increase in the immediate term as the league looks to rescue lost revenue.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) November 25, 2020
Sergachev has been a consistent plus performer for the Lightning since coming over in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for former prized prospect Jonathan Drouin, but hasn’t completely broken out, yet, as an elite point producer. He did hit a career-best 10 goals in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, and obviously played an integral role in the Lightning’s march to the Stanley Cup.
Sergachev is growing into the No. 1 power play quarterback in Tampa Bay, taking the mantle recently from Victor Hedman. He’s also taken on an increased role at even strength, and continued to deliver positive results in less sheltered conditions higher in the lineup.
Still only 22, Sergachev has plenty of development still ahead of him, which is why it’s probably a safe bet that he will deliver considerable value throughout the life of the deal. There’s plenty of reason to believe that Sergachev will break into the elite tier of defenders soon — if he’s not already knocking on the door yet.
As strong as the contract seems to be for the Lightning, it still temporarily pushes the franchise over the salary cap limit with two other key restricted free agents in Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak still with outstanding deals and only 19 players under contract overall. Completing the Sergachev contract should set things in motion with Cirelli and Cernak, but a major shoe potentially still has to drop elsewhere in order for the Lightning to become cap compliant for the 2020-21 season.
Sergachev will be the third-highest earning defender on what’s a bit of a barren back-end at the moment for the Lightning, who have already lost Kevin Shattenkirk and Zach Bogosian through free agency, and could also surrender Jan Rutta as well.
That said, with Hedman, Sergachev and Ryan McDonagh anchoring the back end, the Lightning only need functional pieces to slot in to return a high-end defensive unit.
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