Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois accomplished one major piece of offseason business Wednesday by locking down restricted free-agent defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, and he's not worried about inking two other key players even as his club sits above the salary cap.
After signing Sergachev to a three-year contract carrying a $4.8-million average annual value, the Lightning are nearly $2 million over the cap, according to CapFriendly. But forward Anthony Cirelli and blue-liner Erik Cernak remain restricted free agents in need of new deals.
"Not keeping them was never something we would seriously consider," BriseBois told The Athletic's Joe Smith regarding the Lightning's remaining RFAs. He added: "There's significant will on our end to make (new deals) happen. They're a big part of why I look at our organization and future with a lot of promise."
Cirelli is coming off a breakout campaign that saw him record 44 points in 68 regular-season games and finish fourth in Selke Trophy voting. Cernak logged more than 20 minutes of ice time per night during Tampa Bay's postseason run to the second Stanley Cup in franchise history.
BriseBois is well aware he'll need to shed some significant salary to sign the pair of 23-year-olds.
"I know I have to move players to make that happen, and I'm confident I'll be able to move the players to create cap space," he said.
BriseBois added: "There's a lot of progress being made. We're working on a bunch of different fronts, there's a lot of balls up in the air. Nothing has materialized yet."
One player the Lightning are apparently keen to move is Tyler Johnson. The team placed the 30-year-old forward and his $5-million cap hit on waivers earlier in the offseason, but he ultimately went unclaimed.
The NHL's salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for the foreseeable future due to revenue losses stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.