Lightning lock up Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak on 8-year deals

Mikhail Sergachev (right), Erik Cernak (left) and Anthony Cirelli (not pictured) are staying with the Tampa Bay Lightning long-term. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Mikhail Sergachev (right), Erik Cernak (left) and Anthony Cirelli (not pictured) are staying with the Tampa Bay Lightning long-term. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Much to the chagrin of the rest of the league, the Tampa Bay Lightning retained three members of their core for the foreseeable future.

Tampa Bay re-signed Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak and Anthony Cirelli to multi-year contracts on Wednesday during a frantic opening few hours of free agency. They also signed free agent forward Vladislav Namestnikov to a one-year deal.

Sergachev received an eight-year extension worth an average annual value (AAV) of $8.75 million, and he’ll be asked to play a lot more top-four minutes entering next fall after the Lightning traded Ryan McDonagh to the Nashville Predators, ostensibly to create cap room for Sergachev, Cernak and Cirelli’s new deals.

Logging heavy minutes for a Lightning team that has been the envy of the NHL for the past half-decade, it’s easy to forget that Sergachev recently celebrated his 24th birthday. Sergachev posted seven goals and 38 points in 78 games in 2021-22 and elevated his game during the postseason, particularly during the Eastern Conference final against the New York Rangers. Gifted with a booming slap shot that can cut through traffic, strong gap control and the physical strength to ward off oncoming forecheckers, Sergachev projects to become a future star in the NHL and his underlying numbers paint a picture of one of the league’s ascending talents.

Cernak has also proved to be an essential part of the Lightning’s dynasty and he was rewarded with an eight-year extension with a $5.2M AAV.

Known primarily as a shot-blocker extraordinaire, the 25-year-old is a strong defender in his own end and the Lightning have always controlled a majority share of the expected goals at 5-on-5 during his four seasons with the club. He’s not incapable of providing offense, either, but he won’t be expected to contribute offensively for the Lightning. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound blueliner can eat heavy minutes and the Lightning are surely paying a premium for his willingness to step in front of shots and clear traffic in front of the net.

Cirelli, who signed an eight-year deal worth an AAV of $6.25 million, is one of the NHL’s elite defensive forwards and finished fifth in voting for the Selke Trophy in 2021-22.

The soon-to-be 25-year-old scored one of the most clutch goals in franchise history, sending the Lightning to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final with his overtime winner in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference final. Cirelli recorded 17 goals and 43 points in 76 games during the 2021-22 season but in part due to his defensive responsibilities, his counting stats aren’t always the best metric to fully evaluate his impact on the game. He’s been tasked with shutting down some of the NHL’s most potent superstars — Auston Matthews and Jonathan Huberdeau can provide their testimonies — and his skill set pays dividends in the playoffs. He isn’t asked to generate primary offense for the Lightning, who have now retained one of the best two-players in the league for nearly a decade.

Namestnikov, who will make $2.5M next season, had 16 goals and 30 points with the Dallas Stars last season. The 29-year-old was a first-round pick of the Lightning in 2011 and last played for the team in 2017-18.

It’s a difficult concept to bridge a timeline that demands immediate results, while trying to remain limber for the future. This is a tremendous accomplishment for general manger Julien BriseBois and his staff, providing a window into why the Lightning have been a juggernaut under his watch.

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