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Tampa Bay Lightning Mikhail Sergachev contract salary cap
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Mikhail Sergachev thinks Lightning will find a way to work out his next contract

By just about any standard, it sure doesn’t look like it will be easy for the Lightning to sign pending RFA defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to a new contract. Sergachev told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen that he believes it will all work out, though.

“It’s a little different obviously right now, but I’m trying to leave it to my agent (Mark Gandler),” Sergachev said on Thursday, via Rosen. “He’s going to deal with it, I guess. But for me, I just want to continue the season, play and get better and see what happens. I feel like they’re going to work out something. I have a good agent.”

Here’s why this is an interesting situation to watch, considering Sergachev’s potential, and also the Lightning’s larger cap challenges.

What is the right contract?

Sergachev, 21, really earned more trust — and playing time — from the Lightning this season.

Sergachev’s ice time climbed from 15:22 per game in 2017-18 to 17:55 in 2018-19, and finally 20:22 on average this season. Despite the pause, Sergachev set career-highs in goals (10) and points (34).

The Lightning see improvements in his all-around play, too, as Victor Hedman noted to The Athletic’s Joe Smith in January (sub required).

“He’s evolved into a great two-way defenseman,” Hedman said. “ … He’s an unbelievable talent offensively, we all know that. But the shot blocks, the hits, the way he plays in his own end, it’s fun to watch.

“I’ve said this many times before, the sky is the limit for this guy. This is just the start.”

During certain stretches, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Lightning were holding Sergachev back a bit.

Such a thought makes you wonder if we haven’t really seen his offensive ceiling yet. On the other hand, theoretically, veteran defenseman Hedman and Ryan McDonagh could also insulate Sergachev defensively.

So what’s a fair contract for Sergachev? Again, it’s tough to tell.

Using Evolving Hockey’s contract projection tool while adjusting for an $81.5M cap hit, the anticipated deal might be for eight years with a $6.5M cap hit. While Evolving Hockey’s model puts an eight-year deal at a 32-percent chance, other most likely outcomes sit at six years (25 percent) or a two-year bridge (13%).

Let’s zoom out, though, as the Lightning’s overall situation and history could factor into Sergachev’s individual value.

Can the Lightning pull off salary cap magic again with Sergachev, Cirelli, Cernak?

Time and time again, we’ve seen the Lightning pull off serious wizardry in tight cap situations. All of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Victor Hedman signed for less than market value.

Watching Alex Killorn zoom around Tampa Bay docks on his jet ski provides a reminder of why they took discounts, along with the “playing for a really good team in a state with tax breaks” factors.

Financial blowback from COVID-19 might make this offseason the trickiest one yet for Tampa Bay. After all, they were already anticipating some challenges if the cap went up to, say, $84.5M or so.

When rating all 31 NHL teams’ salary cap situations, The Athletic’s James Mirtle ranked Lightning dead last (sub required).

(You’d think it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to be compared to a “deep-fried pickle,” but alas.)

Via Cap Friendly, the Lightning already have $76.16M devoted to 15 players for 2020-21. That’s before you factor in new contracts for Sergachev, but also dark horse Selke candidate Anthony Cirelli, and useful defenseman Erik Cernak.

Going back to Evolving Hockey’s projection tool, hypothetical estimates combine the three at $14-$15M. Even Mirtle’s more generous estimate would tack on $11M.

(Frankly, if the Lightning signed Sergachev and Cirelli for $11M, let alone Cernak, they’d be getting great deals.)

But, yeah, we’ve seen players accept less than they might otherwise get with the Lightning. It wouldn’t be shocking to see this happen again, especially if Sergachev is OK betting on himself by taking a shorter “bridge” deal.

Even so, expect painful losses for the Lightning. It’s tough to imagine bargain bin free agent Kevin Shattenkirk squeezing in again, and you’d expect Tampa Bay to lose one or more of Tyler Johnson or Yanni Gourde.

Yes, there are worse problems to have … which is probably why Sergachev will just relax and do cat-centric exercises rather than worrying too much.

More on the Lightning:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Lightning add defensive depth by signing Zach Bogosian

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With the trade deadline nearing, teams are coughing up picks and prospects, even for sheer depth. By that standard, the Lightning got a deal in merely signing Zach Bogosian off of the scrap heap. The team announced that it is a one-year deal with a prorated $1.3 million AAV.

Tampa Bay locked up Bogosian not long after he parted ways with the Sabres.

Injuries may have played a role in the signing, as the Bolts are a bit banged-up. Looking at the defense alone, Erik Cernak joins Ryan McDonagh and Jan Rutta as blueliners dealing with bumps and bruises. The Lightning didn’t want to chalk up a slight hiccup (two straight losses) to injuries, but they’re worth noting.

“It’s easy to blame that. That’s not who we are,” Victor Hedman said, via the Lightning website. “We’ve been battling injuries for a long time. I think we’ve done a great job of overcoming that. Bottom line is we’ve got to play better and not give up as many goals and just be better as a team.”

Bogosian mainly brings depth to Lightning

Expecting too much from Bogosian wouldn’t be wise. Injuries limited Bogosian to 19 games played so far in 2019-20. When he’s played, the impact has been minimal, with just five points and generally mediocre underlying stats. Gander at his RAPM charts at Evolving Hockey and you’ll gain further evidence that he’s mainly just a depth option.

That said, Bogosian brings experience, size, and a right-handed shot to the table. The Lightning don’t even need to give up a low-end pick for Bogosian, either, so that’s a nice luxury this late into the season.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Kreider, Panarin push Rangers past Blackhawks

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The New York Rangers don’t want to see key pieces sold off at the NHL Trade Deadline in the coming days.

The Blueshirts have seen impact players such as Ryan McDonagh, Mats Zuccarello, Rick Nash and others shown the door this time of year the past two seasons and hope their 6-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday can change Jeff Gorton’s mind.

Chris Kreider had three points and Artemi Panarin recorded his 30th goal of the season in the Rangers’ fourth victory in the previous five games.

“We got to make the GM’s job tough and wins like this will do that,” Ryan Strome told Bryan Boucher on NBCSN following the game.

Dominik Kubalik scored twice and Drake Caggiula added another, but the Blackhawks fell for the second consecutive game and for the seventh time in the last eight games.

Value of Rangers assets keeps increasing

Kreider is the top rental available and the Rangers’ front office hopes a bidding war develops over the next few days. The speedy power forward converted a slick breakaway midway through the third period which turned into the eventual game-winner.

NHL insider Bob McKenzie reported on the pregame show that five teams were interested in Kreider’s services. The Boston Bruins, Colorado Avalanche, New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals have expressed interest, according to McKenzie.

In addition to Kreider, the Rangers have several other commodities that could intrigue playoff contenders. Ryan Strome netted his career high 51st point, Pavel Buchnevich scored, and Tony DeAngelo returned to the lineup.

“Honestly, we have been doing a pretty good job,” Strome said when asked about the potential movement. “We have got some guys that have been around and some young guys that are probably a little bit oblivious. That probably helps a little bit.”

The playoffs are a longshot for New York this season, but the question they need to answer internally is, how far away from the postseason are they?

Keith’s milestone assist

The alternate captain has been the foundation of the Chicago Blackhawks defense since arriving in the NHL for the 2005-06 season.

In the second period against the Rangers, Keith delivered a beautiful no-look, cross-ice pass to set up Kubalik’s game-tying goal. It was Keith’s 500th career assist.

Keith became the seventh player in franchise history to reach that accomplishment and joined Doug Wilson as the only defensemen in that group.

The 36-year-old was rightfully included in the 100 Greatest Players in NHL History announced during the League’s centennial celebration and continues to ensure that his No. 2 will float in the rafters with his three Stanley Cup championship banners at the United Center.

 


Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

NHL Power Rankings: Lightning keep getting stronger

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In this week’s NHL Power Rankings the Tampa Bay Lightning climb back to the top spot thanks in part to yet another 10-game winning streak.

Yes. Another 10-game winning streak.

Their current streak entering play on Monday is their second 10-game winning streak since Dec. 22. During that time they are 22-2-1, have 10 more points than any other team in the league, and own a .900 points percentage. No other team in the league has a points percentage better than .762 during that stretch.

What makes this particular run even more impressive is that they have recently been hit hard by injuries with Ryan McDonagh, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Anthony Cirelli all missing some time in recent games, while each of their past seven wins have come against teams currently in a playoff spot. That includes two wins against a Pittsburgh team that has the second-best record in the league since the middle of December.

As if that is not enough, they went out on Sunday and added Blake Coleman from the New Jersey Devils, giving them another 20-goal scorer, an outstanding penalty killer, and steal against the salary cap through next season.

They are easily in the top spot entering the week.

Where does every other team sit?

To the rankings!

1. Tampa Bay Lightning. They paid a lot to get Blake Coleman but if he helps them bring the Stanley Cup back to Tampa Bay no one is going to care.

2. Boston Bruins. The race between the Lightning and Bruins for the top spot in the East — and the Presidents’ Trophy — is going to be great. They play each other twice during a four-game stretch in early March.

3. Pittsburgh Penguins. Jim Rutherford finally acquired Jason Zucker, and he should be a great fit for both this season and future seasons.

4. Colorado Avalanche. The superstars at the top of the lineup are the foundation, while the added scoring depth over the summer is what makes them a Stanley Cup contender. All of the salary cap space they have to play with could help put them over the top.

5. Washington Capitals. Their lead in the division is quickly disappearing, but they still have three games remaining against the team they are competing with (Pittsburgh).

6. Dallas Stars. They enter the week tied for first place in the Central Division with St. Louis, and while Colorado is just two points back with two games still in hand, they have made this a three-team race.

7. New York Islanders. A defenseman may not have been my first choice for their trade deadline acquisition, but they really did need a replacement for Adam Pelech on the blue line. Andy Greene fits that. Now, go get a forward that can score.

8. Edmonton Oilers. It would be really something if, after Connor McDavid lost out on winning the MVP award the past two years because his team was not any good, that the Oilers return to the playoffs this year and McDavid again loses the MVP, this to his teammate, Leon Draisaitl.

9. Philadelphia Flyers. The Metropolitan Division is insane. The Flyers have one the 10 best records in the league, have won 10 of their past 16 games, and are still probably only about 50-50 shot to make the playoffs right now.

10. Carolina Hurricanes. Everything we just said about the Flyers? Yeah. The same thing applies here.

11. St. Louis Blues. Maybe you think this is too low for the defending champs — who are still one of the top teams in the West, I might add — but they enter the week with just two wins in their past 12 games, and one of those wins was a shootout win over Calgary. They are struggling right now in a big way.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs. Jack Campbell went into Toronto with huge expectations and a ton of pressure on him for a backup goalie, but he has handled it well so far.

13. Columbus Blue Jackets. Maybe the injuries are starting to catch up to them a little bit. Seth Jones is going to be impossible to replace. They have lost five in a row (three in overtime or shootout) and just gave up a point on Sunday to a bad Devils team that is in the process of getting rid of everything that is not nailed to the floor.

14. New York Rangers. They are playing in the wrong division to make a serious playoff push at this point in the season, but they are 11-6-0 in their past 17 games and on a 90-point pace for the season. They are not far away.

15. Vegas Golden Knights. The coaching change has not really changed much in terms of their results. It probably will not until they add to their blue line and get better goaltending.

16. Nashville Predators. They open the week just a point out of a playoff spot with multiple games in hand. They will be a problem for teams if they get in.

17. Vancouver Canucks. There is not a more underrated goalie in the NHL right now than Jacob Markstrom. He may not be one of the elites, but he has been a well above average goalie and stabilizing presence for the Canucks since taking over the job.

18. Minnesota Wild. A coaching change seemed inevitable at some point, but the timing is weird just as the Wild were starting to make a push.

19. Winnipeg Jets. They are sticking with Paul Maurice beyond this season, but with all due respect to him and his job behind the bench the Jets’ ability to stay in the playoff race is entirely on the shoulders of starting goalie Connor Hellebuyck.

20. Florida Panthers. They are trending in the wrong direction, which has to be a massive disappointment given the investment they put into this season.

21. Calgary Flames. Goaltending was probably the biggest question on this team entering the season and, quite honestly, it has been fine. That is what makes their overall performance such a letdown. Everyone else has disappointed.

22. Arizona Coyotes. They are hanging onto a playoff spot by a thread after winning just four out of their past 16 games.

23. Buffalo Sabres. They have won four out of five, and Sunday’s win against Toronto had to be especially satisfying. Not enough to fix the mess this season has become, but it is at least something.

24. Chicago Blackhawks. Honestly can not think of a good reason why this team would not sell players like Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson before the trade deadline.

25. Montreal Canadiens. The recent Shea Weber injury timeline has been a roller coaster of emotions and updates.

26. San Jose Sharks. It would be for the best if the Sharks could just pretend this season never happened. Bad, disappointing team and significant injuries to some of the team’s best players. Adding to the misery: Their lottery pick belongs to the Ottawa Senators. Yikes.

27. Anaheim Ducks. The lack of offense on this team is staggering. They desperately need some of their young players to make a big leap next season.

28. New Jersey Devils. Taylor Hall, Andy Greene, and Blake Coleman are already out the door. Who is next?

29. Ottawa Senators. Anthony Duclair was the one pleasant surprise on this team this season and even that has disappeared. He has not scored a goal since Dec. 23, a stretch of more than 20 games entering Monday.

30. Los Angeles Kings. It seems to be a broken record at this point in the season but the Kings are facing a key stage of their rebuild.

31. Detroit Red Wings. Not a stretch to say this is the single worst team of the modern era. Excluding first-year expansion teams it might be one of the worst teams the NHL has ever seen.

MORE: PHT’s 2020 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Lightning stay hot but lose Kucherov, Cirelli to injuries

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PITTSBURGH — Thanks to a 37-save effort from Andrei Vasilevskiy and a game-winning goal from Yanni Gourde to snap what had been a 35-game goal drought, the Tampa Bay Lightning extended their winning current winning streak to eight games with a 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

The Lightning are now 20-3-3 over the past 26 games and are rapidly gaining ground in the Presidents’ Trophy race, now sitting just one point back of the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the league.

The only concerning news for the Lightning on Tuesday is that they lost two more key forwards to injuries as Nikita Kucherov and Anthony Cirelli both exited the game with lower-body injuries and did not return. Coach Jon Cooper had no update on the status of either player after the game, only to say they are being evaluated.

The Lightning were already playing shorthanded on Tuesday with as Steven Stamkos, Ryan McDonagh and Jan Ruuta were already sidelined.

As if that was not enough, the Lightning were also playing the second half of a back-to-back, on the road, against one of the league’s best teams in Pittsburgh and still managed to come away with two points.

Kucherov assisted on Mikhail Sergachev‘s power play goal in the second period before exiting the game.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.