Building on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legacy with Three Contract Extensions - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Building on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legacy with Three Contract Extensions

Building on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legacy with Three Contract Extensions

By Pat Yasinskas

After making three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s obvious the Tampa Bay Lightning are aiming for a fourth. And, maybe, even more.

With very little salary cap room, the Lightning focused on securing the team’s young nucleus for the long term. Center Anthony Cirelli and defensemen Mikhail Seragchev and Erik Cernak each were signed to eight-year contracts. The moves cost $160 million and came a full year before they had to.

But they fit with the Lightning’s current way of doing business. Part of the reason for the Lightning’s success is a philosophy that is built around developing young players and giving them long-term contract extensions just as they enter their prime.

Seragchev is 24 while Cirelli and Cernak are 25. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman aren’t going to play forever and the contract extensions make the Lightning poised for the inevitable.

“There was a strong willingness on both parts to get something done and there’s value in it for the organization and for me to know what I had to work with going forward,” Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said. “I had asked all their agents to try to get something done before (the start of free agency), and we were able to get a good idea of what that would be so I knew what I had to work with going forward.”.

All three of the players that re-signed would have been entering the final year of their contracts as restricted free agents.

In the meantime, BriseBois and the Lightning watched as forward Ondrej Palat, defenseman Jan Rutta walked out the door via free agency.

Those departures were calculated gambles the Lightning believed had to be made, BriseBois said.

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“Some players, as much as you’d like to keep them and as much as they’d like to stay, eventually you can’t fit everyone,’’ BriseBois said. “You just can’t fit everyone under the cap.’’

Palat agreed to a five-year deal with the New Jersey Devils that is worth a reported $30 million. Rutta got a three-year, $8.25 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Lightning tried to patch some holes by signing free-agent defenseman Ian Cole and forward Vladislav Naemestnikov to one-year deals and defenseman Haydn Fleury to a two-year deal.

BriseBois didn’t rule out the possibility of making more moves in the future. But, given the salary cap situation, it seems likely the roster won’t change much before training camp.

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