Well, I literally just got finished writing the article about Mikhail Sergachev re-signing with the Tampa Bay Lightning for eight more years when news comes down that Julien BriseBois was already inking another deal (or two). This time it’s center Anthony Cirelli signing an eight-year contract extension with a $6.25 million cap hit.
Cirelli was originally drafted in the third round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning acquired the pick from the New York Islanders during the draft when they traded down from the 28th overall pick to get a high second round pick and this pick. The trade has turned out well for the Lightning as Cirelli has turned into a defensively minded second line center.
While Cirelli lacks the offensive talent to make him a true number one center or even an elite second line center, he is elite defensively and has turned into one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL over the past few seasons. He is constantly tasked with taking on the top forwards of the opposing team and being asked to shut them down. More often than not, he’s been able to take on whoever is on the other side of the ice from him, especially in the playoffs. In 294 career games, he has scored 66 goals and 159 points and has added another 14 goals and 34 points in 92 career playoff games to go with his two Stanley Cup rings.
In locking up Cirelli, and having already locked up Brayden Point long term, the Lightning have a strong one-two punch down the middle for the foreseeable future. Getting Cirelli signed and locked up long term helps to ensure that the Lightning will have the talent at the top of the line up to continue to be Stanley Cup contenders.
At first I was a little bit surprised at the $6.25 million cap hit for Cirelli. The main player that I was looking at as a comparable was Phillip Danault who signed with the Los Angeles Kings as an unrestricted free agent last year for $5.5 million and is a very similar player as a strong defensive second line center with some offensive limitations.
My only guess is that the extra juice on top is taking into account that Cirelli is a little bit younger, as he’ll turn 25 in just a couple days, and still has some room to grow. As I said for Mikhail Sergachev, most players peak around 25 years old. We could still see a little bit more from Cirelli, especially offensively over the next couple years that will make the cap hit look more attractive. There’s also the prospect of the salary cap soon going up by a very large amount that, like Sergachev’s contract, could make this look like a bargain in the second half of the contract, especially if he can pick up a little more offensive production to go along with his stellar defensive play.
Anthony Cirelli is one of the league's premier defensive forwards, but $6.25 million is a lot for someone with his offensive ability.— dom (@domluszczyszyn) July 13, 2022
Part of the reason the model is sour on him is a rough 20-21. If he can maintain what he showed in 19-20 / 21-22, this can be a solid deal. pic.twitter.com/iLMh5o3gxh
With this eight year contract, Cirelli remains under team control for nine more seasons, which will take him through the 2030-31 season. Cirelli will be 32, almost 33, when this contract expires.