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Lightning sign Sergachev, Cirelli, and Cernak to massive 8-year extensions

Tampa Bay Lightning

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 20: Mikhail Sergachev #98 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the Colorado Avalanche during the second period in Game Three of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 20, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

It is time for the Tampa Bay Lightning’s yearly game of “the salary cap doesn’t really matter all that much.”

The team announced on Wednesday that it has signed defenseman Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak, as well as forward Anthony Cirelli, to eight-year contracts.

All three players have one year remaining on their current deals and were eligible to sign new extensions on Wednesday. The Lightning wasted no time in doing so.

Sergachev’s deal is the largest of the three, coming in at a total of $68 million. That is a salary cap hit of $8.5 million per season.

Cirelli’s deal is for $50 million ($6.5 million salary cap hit) while Cernak’s contract comes in at $41.6 million ($5.2 million salary cap number).

Along with those contracts, they also signed veteran defenseman Ian Cole to a one-year, $3 million contract.

[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]

The three extensions, though, are the big headlines here. These are all monster deals and keep with Tampa Bay’s trend of paying to keep their core players on maximum term contracts. Sergachev’s is the most intriguing because it seems like he has been around forever but he is still only 24 years old (having just turned 24!) and probably still has his best days ahead of him. If he reaches his full potential this could be a really good deal for the Lightning because it is paying for what should be his prime years.

In 78 regular season games this season he scored seven goals with 31 assists (38 total points) and was fantastic in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Cirelli is not much of a game-changer offensively, but is one of the league’s best defensive forwards and probably has a Selke Trophy in his future. Add in the fact he is going to average around 20 goals and 50 points offensively and he is an ideal second-line center and still just turns 25 later this week.

Cernak’s deal might be the most surprising. He is a really strong defensive player, but the eight-year term (and salary) seems like a lot for the type of player he is. It is probably the riskiest deal of the three.

Tampa Bay still needs to clear out some salary this season, but the real fun is going to start next offseason when these three new deals kick in. With these contracts now on the books, Tampa Bay has already committed more than $78 million in salary cap space to only 13 players for the 2023-24 season. They need one of two things to happen (and probably both): Either a significant jump in the salary cap, or a pretty significant trade (or two) to get under the cap. They always figure out a way to do it (LTIR is always there!) but this is going to take some serious salary cap gymnastics.