NHL trade numbers: Utah makes big moves with deals for Mikhail Sergachev and John Marino

NHL trade numbers: Utah makes big moves with deals for Mikhail Sergachev and John Marino

The crafts

Utah Hockey Club gets: Defender Mikhail Sergachev

Getting lightning: Defenseman JJ Moser, Forward Conor Geekie, 2025 second-round pick, 2024 seventh-round pick (#199)

Utah Hockey Club gets: Defenseman John Marino, 2024 fifth-round pick (#153)

Devils get: 2024 second-round pick (No. 49, used on goaltender Mikhail Yegorov), 2025 second-round pick

Eric Duhatschek: No matter how closely you examined the trade boards, you probably couldn’t find a single mention of Sergachev possibly being on the run — to anyone, let alone the Utah HC. Sergachev looked like an important part of a Lightning team that doesn’t shy away from its goal of making an annual Stanley Cup appearance. He’s not quite at the Nikita Kucherov-Brayden Point-Andrei Vasilevskiy level, but he’s close.

So that’s the bottom line: how quickly things can change in the NHL and how differently things will be done in Utah once there’s new ownership. Suddenly they’re not salespeople. They are buying. And on Saturday they went big game hunting.

With Sergachev, Utah gets a player who checks every box except durability. He was a true No. 2 in Tampa Bay and that’s only because the Lightning had a true No. 1 in perennial Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman. There were times, two years ago, when the Lightning deployed Sergachev on the top power play unit, and so he led the team’s defensemen in scoring with 64 points (Hedman was next with 49). Last year things didn’t go nearly as well. He played just 34 games and scored just 19 points — a rough year that saw him break his leg in February and be wheeled off the ice on a stretcher in his first game back after previously missing 17 games with a lower-body injury. In some ways, Tampa Bay never really recovered from Sergachev’s lengthy absence.

Now, of course, they’ll have to do without him. But he carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit over the next seven years, which isn’t unreasonable for a player of his pedigree and age (26). But it’s one that Tampa Bay simply couldn’t afford. So his availability adds up to a huge upgrade for Utah’s defense, which previously had only the serviceable Sean Durzi as its nominal No. 1. By adding Sergachev and then John Marino in a separate deal with the New Jersey Devils, Utah’s defense becomes deeper, more experienced and just plain better. If Utah’s goal is to finally contend for a playoff spot after years of wandering around the NHL wilderness, these two moves give them a chance to do so.

But Tampa Bay also got what it needed, clearing the cap space today like they were using a snow plow. Tanner Jeannot, an addition that was way too aggressive (they gave a total of five picks to Nashville to get him), was perhaps the biggest mistake they ever made staying in win-now mode. He’s an LA king now.

Moser, meanwhile, is just two years younger than Sergachev and is a restricted free agent who is out of his entry-level contract. He won’t do what Sergachev does, but he finished second at Utah in time on ice last year, just behind Durzi, and still figures to have an upside. Most importantly, he’ll be available cheaply, at least in the short term. Tampa Bay’s prospect pipeline, laid bare by all of its win-now trades of the past few years, will be bolstered a bit with the addition of Morgan’s younger brother Conor Geekie, who was the No. 11 draft pick in 2022, plus a 2025 second-rounder (originally Toronto’s) and a 2024 seventh-rounder.

In total, two teams made two moves on the second day of the draft, the first of which was so bold that hockey fans will be talking about it all summer and all season. It’s the kind of trade we’d all like to see more of, one that theoretically helps both teams better adjust to their developmental trajectories.

Moving Sergachev is the price Tampa Bay is paying for being aggressive in keeping their core together for so long. Eventually, you’ll run out of options. There’s bound to be a bit of Schadenfreude around the NHL as this sinks in — the fact that the Lightning had to give up such a key piece. But it also gives them some breathing room — to potentially get them back in the conversation to sign soon-to-be UFA Steven Stamkos. And if Tampa Bay’s cap savings aren’t enough to keep Stamkos in the fold, they could use the extra cash to potentially pursue Jake Guentzel or one of the other A-list free agents set to hit the market on July 1.

In short, it’s one of those rare moments when we can grudgingly admire what both teams have done to help themselves.

As far as the Devils are concerned, it’s a nice, if unspectacular, thing that they’re getting back value — in whatever form — for a player they were happy to let go.

Utah class: A plus
Lightning quality: A
Devils class: b

Shayna Goldman: After a quiet Draft Day 1, Tampa Bay and Utah delivered a shocker on Day 2.

Before we even get into the details of the deal itself, there’s one overarching theme for Utah thus far: The new ownership represents a complete change of pace from the Arizona era. The Coyotes had cap space, but weren’t willing to use it on active players. Utah is already investing heavily in their on-ice product, which makes this move and ownership change all the more exciting.

And speaking of investments, there is the signing of Mikhail Sergachev and John Marino by Utah.

Utah had yet to sign a single NHL defenseman for next season, so there was plenty of room to impress with big free-agent contracts or deals.

Sergachev comes to Utah in the second year of an eight-year, $8.5 million salary-cap extension. The big question is how he can handle playing heavier minutes. That was his job in 2022-23, when the Lightning moved Ryan McDonagh , and Victor Herman eventually had to shoulder some of that workload when Sergachev seemed to struggle. But that midseason usage adjustment allowed Sergachev to flourish offensively and play to his strengths. The problem is, the Lightning (and the rest of the league, really) haven’t been able to take another look at how Sergachev can handle those minutes this year because injuries have sidelined him for most of the season.

But maybe Utah doesn’t need him to play that role because it’s not like they have a Hedman ahead of them on the depth chart. As it stands now, between their restricted free agents, trade acquisitions and even prospect pipeline, Sergachev is now Utah’s No. 1 pick. So they may be able to maximize his usage in a way that Tampa Bay couldn’t.

The addition of Sergachev is all the more interesting given Utah’s next move in mind: signing right-winger Marino.

Marino is an intriguing candidate for a comeback. He plateaued in Pittsburgh after a promising start to his NHL career, then flourished in his first season in New Jersey. But he took a big step back this season. Perhaps the loss of his longtime partner, Ryan Graves, had a bigger impact on his game than the Devils anticipated, or perhaps cracks in the coaching strategies played havoc with him. Either way, a fresh start could be good for him. Utah could throw him right into matchup minutes on the second pairing, or pair him with Sergachev for a balanced top pairing. There are plenty of opportunities here, and Utah hasn’t overextended itself to make these deals given their asset pool.

As for Marino and the Devils, from New Jersey’s perspective this deal makes sense – especially if they want to pursue a free agent like Brett Pesce. From a cap perspective, this deal had to get done. Two second-round picks isn’t a bad return, but it doesn’t do much for the team right now other than salary. But with Marino’s no-trade clause taking effect on Monday, management may not have had the time to find a more perfect return.

The Lightning faced a similar situation, with Sergachev’s no-trade clause also kicking in on Monday. The purpose of the Sergachev-Jeannot trades seems clear: to free up some cap space. With McDonagh’s return, the Lightning have a lefty for the second pair, and $8.5 million is a hefty price for a third-pair defenseman if the goal was to keep Sergachev on his natural side. Still, it feels like management should have instead focused on offloading Erik Cernak’s salary, given his ceiling and how his playing style could age.

Moser should be a welcome addition to bolster the Lightning’s depth, which was their biggest weakness last year. He played some tough minutes in Arizona without the best results, but he may not be as visible on the Lightning.

We can’t give Tampa Bay incomplete — that’s how these numbers work right now — but it’s tough to judge this in its entirety until we see what the Lightning does with this cap space. Is it enough to expand Stamkos? If not, could this help the team land another top scorer on the free agent market? If management fails to do something worthwhile with salary flexibility, the Sergachev trade won’t age well.

Utah class: A-min
Lightning quality: C-plus
Devil’s number: b

(Photo of Mikhail Sergachev: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)