LA Kings: Why using an offer sheet on Mikhail Sergachev makes sense

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The LA Kings should consider signing Mikhail Sergachev to an offer sheet this offseason. With Tampa’s salary cap issues, he’ll be difficult to retain.

Taken with the ninth overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Mikhail Sergachev is on an unimaginable trajectory. At just 22 years of age, the Russian defenseman has already accumulated 25 goals and 81 assists through his first three full seasons. He’s been dynamite on Tampa’s powerplay this year, collecting five goals and eight assists on the man advantage.

If you’ve been watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he’s played much older than his age would suggest. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he’s nearly as big as his fellow blueliner and Norris Trophy winner, Victor Hedman. Through his first three seasons, Hedman tallied 12 goals with 57 assists.

But whether the Lightning hoist the Stanley Cup, they’ll have to face some serious salary cap restrictions this offseason. Tampa is near the bottom of the league in terms of available cap space, with only $5.3M to use how they see fit. But with several notable unrestricted and restricted free agents, Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois may be tasked with the difficult decision of letting some key players go.

Sergachev is among the restricted free agents this offseason, and according to Evolving Hockey, he’s projected to fetch an eight-year deal at a $6.5M AAV cap hit. If that contract holds true, the Lightning will exceed the league’s flat salary cap of $81.5M.

Of course, the Lightning could trade someone like Alex Killorn or Tyler Johnson to free up some space, but the LA Kings could make Tampa’s offseason a bit more challenging. Offer sheets are rarely used anymore in modern-day hockey, with the last one matched by the Hurricanes in July 2019 on Sebastian Aho. Before that, February 2013 on Ryan O’Reilly.

The last time LA was involved with an offer sheet came way back in August 1993 when they matched the St. Louis Blues offer for Marty McSorley. And for the first time in quite a while, the Kings have some financial flexibility as well as a ton of draft capital.

Rob Blake should strongly consider signing Sergachev to an offer sheet at a $6.5M AAV. The Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers were the last two teams to have an offer sheet accepted, and it cost the Ducks their first, second, and third-round picks of the 2008 NHL Draft in exchange for former LA King Dustin Penner.

Tampa is without a first-round pick, and the compensation for signing Sergachev for this dollar amount is a first and third-round pick in the 2021 draft. That would allow the Kings to still take a top centerman like Quinton Byfield and make the most of the 2020 NHL Draft, where they have 11 picks.

Next year, the Kings would have two second-round and one third-round pick after parting with the compensation pieces necessary to acquire Sergachev.

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That said, Sergachev would give the Kings a true LHD to pair with Drew Doughty, who turns 31 in December while letting either Mikey Anderson or Tobias Bjornfot slot in the second pairing with Matt Roy. I suppose the question, or balance, that Rob Blake has to find is being timely with finding pieces from outside the organization but not overly aggressive.

A $6.5M cap hit would slot Sergachev into the top-25 highest-paid blueliners and easily the youngest. He’s an amazing talent, and he’d be worth every bit of whatever the Kings would give up in draft capital and committed to financially. Plus, he’d still be 30 years old when his contract expires.

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Of course, the Kings could make sure that Tampa can’t match it by frontloading the contract, which is exactly what Carolina tried to do for Sergei Fedorov in 1998, but Detroit wound up matching the offer. But a hefty signing bonus paid at the front could deter the Lightning from being able to match without clearing a ton of cap.