As one era comes to an end in Tampa, another era is just beginning. A new era of hockey that will hopefully see the Lightning competing for a Stanley Cup next season and beyond.
It is always hard to say goodbye to those players who have become fan favorites like Ondrej Palat, Ryan McDonagh, and Jan Rutta.
But the worst thing you can do as a professional sports organization is to stay stagnant. Stay the same. Don’t make any changes and expect the results to be the same.
As with any business, you will get left in the dust if you don’t change or are not quick enough to change. Lightning GM Julien BriesBois is trying to prevent that and ensure this Lightning team is set up to compete for years to come.
Ondrej Palat was an intricate part of this team’s three straight Stanley Cup appearances. The 31-year-old finally got the payday he was looking for with a five-year 30 million dollar contract from New Jersey.
Palat said he was said to be leaving Tampa but looking forward to the new challenge in New Jersey. “I was sad. I’m not gonna lie, to leave Tampa after ten years. But I was kind of preparing myself over the year that there’s going to be a chance that I was going to leave Tampa. It’s a business.”
“I think New Jersey has a great young team, and they’re ready for the next step. I’m ready to be a leader and help the young guys out, and I’m very excited.”
There was no way the Lightning could afford to pay him that kind of money and retain Sergachev, Cirelli, and Cernak.
Yes, we will miss hearing Sweet Caroline every time there is a Palat goal, but he earned his payday and is excited to help the Devils build a championship team.
The Lightning brought back a familiar face as they signed Vladislav Namestnikov to a one-year deal worth 2.5 million.
Namestnikov split last season between the Detroit Red Wings and the Dallas Stars. Namestnikov notched 16 goals and 14 assists for 30 points. He also played seven Playoff games with Dallas, registering a goal and an assist.
Namestnikov will replace Palat on the second line with Killorn and Point.
The Bolts also addressed the left side of the blue line signing veteran Ian Cole to a one-year- three million dollar deal.
Cole comes to the Lightning from the Carolina Hurricanes, where he scored two goals and had 19 assists last season.
Cole also brings a championship pedigree to Tampa as he won back-to-back Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017.
Cole is listed third on the depth chart behind Hedman and Sergachev on the left side of the defense.
The Lightning also came to terms with three young guys that they think will be critical contributors to this team over the next decade.
Mikhail Segachev signed for eight years at 8.5 million annually. When this contract kicks in, Sergachev will surpass Hedman as the highest-paid defenseman on the team.
Anthony Cirelli signs for eight years at 6.25 million annually.
And Eric Cernak signs on the dotted line for eight years at 5.2 million annually.
These extensions will keep these three in Tampa through the 2030-31 season.
The Lightning now has one-third of the roster under long-term contracts.
Here are the highest-paid players and how much they will count against the cap next season.
Sergachev $8.5M-24 years
Cirelli $6.25M-25 years
Cernak $5.2 M-25 years
The Lightning championship window continues to be wide open. GM Julien BriseBois is doing everything he can to manage this roster and set this team up for long-term success.
This commitment also communicates to the team that the organization believes in this roster. And they think that they will continue to compete at a high level.
The Lightning also avoids a lot of unnecessary distractions next season with the signing of Sergachex, Cirelli, and Cernak this off-season.