After reaching the Stanley Cup Final for the third time in a row and losing only the first Finals in that period, Tampa’s management found themselves face to face with salary cap problems. Hanging over the team was the re-signing of Palat, McDonagh, the contracts of Sergachev, Cirelli and Chernak approaching expiration, as well as the expiration of contracts at the lower levels of both attack and defense.

The Lightning’s first high-profile market action was the trade of leading defenseman Ryan McDonagh to Nashville for defenseman Philip Myers and young forward Grant Mismash. The trade, from which the “predators” obviously turned out to be in the black, immediately caused a heated discussion not only among the fans, but also among the experts. Nearly everyone agreed that the defense trade was a forced move to re-sign Czech striker Ondrej Palat, who became the Lightning’s all-time playoff-winning goalscorer in this playoff (12).

“Vancouver” collects a Russian gang, “Chicago” makes people laugh. NHL transfer table

However, Tampa’s general manager, Julien Brisbois, had his own plan. Instead of extending the expired agreement of the Czech, the Canadian made several high-profile re-signings of the shadow leaders of his team at once. Here is a summary of all the new contracts in the Lightning camp:

Mikhail Sergachev (D) – 8 years, $8.5 million per season
Anthony Cirelli (n) – 8 years / $6.25 million
Eric Cernak (D) – 8 years / $5.2 million
Nick Paul (n) – 7 years / $3.15 million
Haydn Fleury (D) – 2 years / $762.5K
Ian Cole (D) – 1 year / $3 million
Philip Myers (D) – 1 year / $2.55 million
Vladislav Namestnikov (n) – 1 year / $2.5 million
Grant Mismash (n) – 1 year / $ 842.5 thousand

And, of course, it should be noted who the club lost this offseason:

Ondrej Palat – New Jersey, 5 years / $6 million
Ryan McDonagh – Nashville, 4 years / $6.75 million
Ian Rutta – Pittsburgh Penguins, 3 years / $2.75 million

Now let’s see why the extension of the Chamber has not become a priority for Brisbois for the summer of 2022? Firstly, the player is already 31 years old, and at that age they don’t go for a pay cut (when you are one of the leading players in the three-time Stanley Cup finalist). In addition, the Czech would hardly go for a bridge contract for a period of 2-3 years. Given that most of the team’s core players (not superstars, but those without whom cup runs on some stars would not be possible, look at Edmonton) contracts are also approaching their expiration, signing a new contract with the Chamber (with an obvious salary increase ) would be very difficult to further maintain the combat effectiveness of the team. Therefore, the Lightning management preferred to lose one star-level player, rather than face complete helplessness in the formation of the depth of the squad in the future and roll back deep to the bottom of the table.

Now about who and how is called to replace the departed stars and hard workers (I’m talking about Ruuta) “Tampa”. The extension of Paul and Cirelli will not affect the roster of vice-champions in any way, and of those who came to the team, three are defenders and two more (if you count Mismash at all) forwards. First, about the defense: it is clear that the leading role of McDonagh should now be taken by the newly minted highest paid Lightning defense player, Mikhail Sergachev. By signing him a contract with a salary higher than that of Hedman, Brisbois showed that in sunny Tampa they trust the Russian as much as possible and believe in his further progress.

Mikhail Sergachev

Mikhail Sergachev


Not without reason, after the signing of the new contract, the Canadian general manager was full of compliments to Mikhail: “It seems to me that the defenders need more time for their full potential to be revealed. A very striking example is Hedman. At the moment, Victor is the best defender in the world, but at 20-22 he was not. In my opinion, Sergachev is only on the way to his peak. In the last Stanley Cup, Mikhail actually improved – especially in the series with Colorado. He was really cool. Sergachev has all the data to keep his progress going: Mikhail is only 24, he manages the game in the majority, he is able to survive in the minority, he is large, physically strong, skates well and is technically gifted. It’s hard to find guys like him. Realizing that Sergi will be part of Tampa for the next nine seasons is very encouraging, ”The Atletic quoted Brisbois as saying.

“First reaction: wow, how much money!”  Honest interview with Russian NHL record holder
“First reaction: wow, how much money!” Honest interview with Russian NHL record holder

The place of Sergachev himself will be taken by the experienced 33-year-old Ian Cole, a defensive defender who scored 19 points in 75 games in the regular season and added 2 points to them in 14 playoff meetings with Carolina. It will be an excellent weapon for the minority of the team, as well as for holding back the main stars of the opponent. Well, the work of Jan Ruuta will try to take over the 25-year-old Myers. The overall defender’s performance is not impressive – 33 points in 142 career games, but he can quite pull the role of the destroyer from the third pair. Fortunately, height – 196 cm and weight – 95 kg clearly allow you to act as tough as possible against rivals. The remaining place in a pair with Myers will be played between Foot and Fleury, and then after the treatment, Bogosyan will also return, so the depth of the defensive line of the “lightning” does not raise questions.

Now about Namestnikov – it is Vladislav, who returned to the camp of “lightning”, who reanimated his career in Detroit, will receive the unspoken task of replacing the departed Chamber. It is clear that it will be almost impossible to do this without losing quality, but the two-sided game, which is a particularly strong quality of the Russian, should compensate for the lack of attacking skills (compared to the Czech, of course). 30 points in 75 regular season games is, of course, not the level of Tampa’s second line, however, as I have already noted, the set of scoring points is not the striker’s strongest point. Yes, and in the current conditions, “Lightning” is not necessary to choose. Another plus of Namestnikov is that he does not need time to adapt and find mutual understanding with partners – Vyacheslav Kozlov’s nephew is familiar with many of them from playing in his first NHL seasons.

Vladislav Namestnikov

Vladislav Namestnikov


It’s also important to note that Tampa’s new eight-year contracts won’t come into effect until 2023/24, meaning Brisbois still has room to wiggle under the salary cap. So it is quite possible that the Lightnings, either this summer or at the deadline, will make at least one more high-profile signing in the attack line, which can strengthen the team here and now, so as not to throw the Lightning away from the title of contender for the cup too far .

Summing up, it should be noted that it is almost impossible not to lose quality when you re-sign three of your players at once for 8 years with a significant increase in salary (we also do not forget about Paul’s contract, which generally seems to me the most brilliant move from Brisbois in the offseason) is almost impossible. Of course, one cannot but state the fact that Tampa has become weaker. However, the stars are still in business, the future backbone has been preserved for a long time, a really good and prudent general manager is at the head of the club, and therefore you don’t have to worry much about the future of the team. What’s more, the Lightning’s prospects are the envy of many NHL clubs that are in the process of restructuring or even wondering what to do next in the face of a not much rising salary cap.

It is clear that the best years of these “lightnings” are over, but a painful restructuring in the style of “Detroit” can be avoided, which means that for another 2-3 years we will definitely watch the team constantly enter at least the second round of the playoffs, and then, if Brisbois does not miraculously turn into Ken Holland, Tampa will go into a smooth restructuring, which should not take more than 3-4 seasons, and even then, it is unlikely that even at that time the club will hang out at the bottom of the table. So by the end of the 1920s, we can see the updated “lightning”, as well as Sergachev with the “C” patch on his jersey and Cirelli with Chernak as his assistants.

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