Acquiring an additional second round pick must have been tempting for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but keeping blue liner Mikhail Sergachev on the team definitely outweighed that.
When the Lightning traded Jonathan Drouin to Montreal for Sergachev, there was a conditional second round pick involved in the deal. The Bolts would get the draft pick from the Habs if the young Russian suited up in less than 40 NHL games in 2017-18.
It’s still early, but it certainly looks like the second-rounder won’t be switching hands.
Over the weekend, the organization told Sergachev that he could start looking for an apartment in Tampa, which would indicate that they’re serious about not sending him back to his junior team.
The decision is hardly a surprise, as the 19-year-old has four goals, six assists and a plus-5 rating in 12 games this season.
The Lightning coaching staff have sheltered him so far (he averages 13:20 of ice time per game), but his TOI has been increasing slowly. Over the last four games, he’s played between 14:23 and 16:56.
“He’s a fast learner, I’ll tell you that,” head coach Jon Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “Looking at his first preseason game to his first regular-season game to now, just his comfort level with the league. … By no means is it perfect. But just watching him develop in a short period of time, he’s a confident kid.
“Everybody makes a big deal about him passing the nine-game mark. But he’s deserved it. He deserves to be here.”
As Cooper mentioned, Sergachev has surpassed the nine-game mark, which means that the first year of his entry-level contract has officially kicked in. Now, if he plays 40 games, not only will they not get that second-rounder from Montreal, but it’ll also mean that he’ll be a year closer to free agency, per CBA rules.
At the end of the day, Sergachev is on a team that’s playing really well, the coaching staff believes in him and he’s been incredibly productive for a defeseman that’s playing limited minutes. The team could’ve decided to send him back to OHL Windsor at some point, but the best place for him to learn is in Tampa Bay.