When members of your team are dotted all across the league leaderboard, you’re bound to get more national coverage. In this week’s edition of 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman spends two of his first three sections on the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Friedman kicks off his column with another discussion about the lengthy negotiation process between hockey organizations in regard to allowing their players compete in South Korea this winter. In this case it is the CHL and Team Canada discussing junior-eligible players going to the Olympics. It’s becoming apparent that the NHL’s refusal to allow its players to compete is creating a huge ripple effect among all of the other leagues. Way to go NHL.
The Future of Mikhail Sergachev
When the column was originally posted, Mikhail Sergachev had only played in nine NHL games and was eligible to be sent back to juniors without the Lightning having to worry about burning a year of his entry-level contract. In the meantime, Sergachev not only played his tenth and eleventh game, he’s added points in each one. The kid has been everything he’s been hyped up to be.
Having passed that checkpoint, Sergachev and the Lightning face another one — forty games. Once he appears in his 40th game in a Tampa Bay uniform, the Lightning no longer receive a second round pick from Montreal (a pick that is looking to be way higher than it was when the deal was originally finalized).
The forty game threshold has another rung of importance as Friedman points out. Once a player hits that mark, he starts to gain credit in free agency and arbitration. The clock basically starts on the player’s opportunity to make big bucks. With a player like Sergachev, that could mean quite a bit of difference in his second contract.
That extra second round draft pick could be a valuable commodity during the run up to the trade deadline and could be the difference in the Lightning acquiring the piece it needs to make a deep playoff run (It was a second round pick and Danny Kristo that secured Ron Hainsey for the Penguins last year). Friedman asks the question:
“What will be more valuable for 2017-18? Sergachev or that draft pick, which can be used to add something?”
It’s a great question. Friedman thinks it’s Sergachev, and I would have to agree. The 19-year-old Russian is holding his own and then some. He’s playing 16 minutes a game, has found a comfort level playing with Anton Stralman, and is adding an unexpected scoring touch on the second power play unit (4 of his 10 points are with the extra skater).
That being said he’s going to hit a wall at some point. It’s the NHL, opposing scouts and coaches are already watching video to find weaknesses in his game and exploit them. There are going to be some games where he looks horrible. He might even be scratched from time to time. HE’S ONLY 19 (that sounds familiar).
This team has all the appearances of a contender, so Mr. Yzerman is most likely going to be a buyer at the deadline. While an extra second-round pick would be nice to have as a trade asset, it isn’t like the Lightning’s prospect cupboard is bare. They have a nice crop of prospects that are almost NHL ready playing in Syracuse right now.
Let’s assume Oliver Ekman-Larsson is quietly being shopped. Would Arizona rather have a first round pick and a second and have to wait two or three years for that player to develop or would they rather have a first round pick and Adam Erne who they can through into action right away*?
Not to belabor the point, but shipping Sergachev back to juniors before the 40th game (which is still a possibility) nets the Lightning an extra second round pick. If he stays, Mr. Yzerman still has his entire complement of regular picks (and an extra 7th) to pry the final piece of a Stanley Cup puzzle away from another team. Not only that, but he also has a barely used Slater Koekkoek sitting in the press box as a trade chip as well. The Lightning will be well armed for any trade wars that emerge over the season.
The Future of Julien BriseBois
Part of the reason the Lightning have so many assets is because they’ve managed to the cap fairly well in the Yzerman era. A gentleman that bears a lot of that responsibility is Assistant General Manager Julien BriseBois.
Friedman’s next point concerns the dumpster full of tires that is currently blazing out of control in Montreal. With only the Coyotes preventing the Canadiens from occupying last place in the league, the seat upon which General Manager (and former Lightning defenseman) Marc Bergevin is reaching leather-car-seat-in-the-middle-of-August-in-Tampa levels of heat.
If the owners decide his services are no longer warranted then BriseBois, a Quebec native, would be on the very short list of potential replacements. The major flaw in that plan is that, according to Friedman, BriseBois’ contract doesn’t currently allow for him to talk with other teams about open positions.
Now this clause, like a player’s no-trade clause, can most likely be negotiated. If BriseBois really wants a job, the Lightning would probably let him interview. It wouldn’t be worth the negativity and animosity that would be generated if they drew a line in the sand. In the past, they would have been able to receive a draft pick or player from the team he went to, but as of 2015 teams are no longer able to seek compensation for executives under contract that are signed by other teams. So unfortunately there will be no update of the Rob Zamuner and a second-round pick for Rick Dudley and Andreas Johansson deal.
All of this is assuming two things:
First, that Bergevin actually gets fired. What has happened in Montreal to start the season is an aberration. At some point Carey Price is going to be Carey Price again and some of the shots will start going in for their offense and they will run off a nice little streak to lift them out of last place.
Second, what if BriseBois doesn’t want to be Montreal’s GM? Who in their right mind would want to step into the all-consuming pressure cooker that is running the Montreal Canadiens? He has a pretty good job in Florida right now. He works alongside one of the best General Managers in the league and has a fairly successful run as the GM of the Syracuse Crunch (a few bad seasons notwithstanding).
Maybe he likes spending his limited offtime at the beach or has a nice hookup at Bern’s. Or, maybe it just isn’t the right fit. In Behind the Bench Doug Risebrough talks about advice that he gave to Todd McLellan, “Just don’t push it. If you get in the wrong situation at the wrong time, if it doesn’t work, the outside world will see the coach as being a major factor.”
The advice is apropos for general managers as well. There will be plenty of opportunities for BrisBois in this league. Jumping to a team that has a lot of older players tied to long-term deals in a fiercely competitive division in an insane hockey city might not be the best move for a first-time general manager.
*Please note that this is not an actual trade suggestion, I just grabbed a couple of names to illustrate a point. Please do not @ me about if it’s a good deal for either team.