The Tampa Bay Lightning announced Wednesday they have agreed to eight-year contract extensions with defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak and center Anthony Cirelli.
Sergachev penned a contract worth $8.5 million annually. The deal will make him the highest-paid defenseman on Tampa Bay's roster, putting him ahead of Victor Hedman.
Cirelli will collect $6.25 million annually, while Cernak will earn $5.2 million per season.
The Lightning won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021 and reached their third straight Stanley Cup Final in 2022. Their championship window is wide-open, and general manager Julien BriseBois is betting on the current core to continue to be effective.
After extending Cirelli, Sergachev, and Cernak we now show the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Lightning?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Lightning</a> as having $78,958,333 committed to 14 players (8F-4D-1G-1IR) in 2023-24.<br><br>Looks like some more really hard decisions coming for Tampa Bay next off-season.<a href="https://t.co/ZnerDhkSaq">https://t.co/ZnerDhkSaq</a>
Rewarding your best players sends a message to the entire roster. It represents a continued level of commitment from the front office and ownership.
BriseBois also avoids potential headaches next offseason. Sergachev, Cirelli and Cernak would've all been eligible for free agency in 2023.
The bill will come due sooner or later for Tampa Bay, though.
Already, re-signing Ondrej Palat might be out of the question. Next summer, Alex Killorn can hit the open market. Looking beyond that, Steven Stamkos is a free agent in 2024 with Hedman out of contract in 2025.
The Lightning can't keep everybody, so BriseBois will inevitably have more hard choices to make—assuming Palat is gone—in the future.
And it remains to be seen whether maintaining such a top-heavy roster will backfire down the line.