Russian sports site Sport Business Online reports that the Tampa Bay Lightning are interested in Russian defenseman Artyom Sergeyev (previously transliterated as Artem Sergeev). His name might sound familiar for some fans, Sergeyev played for the Syracuse Crunch during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. He also spent time with the Lightning’s then ECHL affiliate Florida Everblades in 2014-15.
Sergeyev is a 6’1”, 212 lbs, 26-year-old right-handed defenceman who prefers staying in his defensive zone and doesn’t allow a lot of scoring chances in his own end. However, he showed offensive upside as a junior player that never translated well into the professional game.
Sergeyev spent several years with Val-d’Or Foreurs in QMJHL and signed a three-year, entry-level with Tampa Bay Lightning as a free agent in 2012 after being passed up in the draft. He played most of 2012-13 season for the Val-d’Or Foreurs and made his debut with the Crunch at the end of the season. In 2013-14, he played 68 games with the Crunch and recorded 10 (3+7) points. During the next season, Sergeyev played just nine games in the AHL and was reassigned to the Florida Everblades in ECHL.
When his contract with the Lightning expired in 2015, Sergeyev returned to Russia and signed a deal with CSKA Moscow. For the following three years, he shared playing time between the KHL and CSKA’s major league affiliate. He was traded to Salavat Yulaev Ufa in 2018 in exchange for the rights to former Edmonton Oilers player Anton Slepyshev.
Sergeyev ended last season with 12 (6+6) points in the KHL and his team made it to the Eastern Conference Final in the Gagarin Cup Playoffs. He played a much larger role than he did with CSKA. He was second on the team in TOI playing about twenty minutes per game during the regular season. In the playoffs, he was third at just over 25 minutes per game. His contract is expiring on April 30th and according to rumours, he’s not looking to sign a new deal with Salavat Yulaev.
Meanwhile, the Lightning blueline will see some changes during the offseason. Dan Girardi, Anton Stralman and Braydon Coburn are unrestricted free agents this summer and the Lightning management are probably looking for some depth players to add to their roster. Sergeyev has experience playing in the AHL and won’t have any issues with adapting as many players coming from the KHL do.
For an organization that is still lacking in depth on defense on the right side, looking at a player like this makes sense. With Cal Foote possibly ready to graduate to the NHL and Jan Rutta likely playing in the NHL either in Tampa or somehwhere else next season, the Crunch will need help on the right side and Sergeyev could be that.
From his perspective, he’ll be looking to show that he’s improved enough over his KHL career that he can make an NHL team. And with what will likely be an open competition with multiple available roster spots on the Bolts come training camp, Tampa is a sensible landing spot for him.
But realistically, his KHL production falls short of other players who have struggled to make an impact in the NHL. So if he does back come over to the US, the most likely fit would be as an AHL contributor.