Mikhail Sergachev has surgery on leg, out indefinitely: What it means for the Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev underwent surgery to stabilize the tibia and fibula in his left leg Thursday and will return home in the coming days to immediately begin rehabilitation, the team has announced.

No timeline for his return was provided.

Sergachev was stretchered off the ice at Madison Square Garden during Wednesday’s 3-1 loss to the New York Rangers after taking a reverse hit from Alexis Lafrenière and having his left leg bent awkwardly under his body as he fell to the ice.

That came on the night Sergachev made his return to Tampa’s lineup after missing seven weeks due to another undisclosed lower-body injury. The 25-year-old shared an emotional message on his personal Instagram page after the game and accompanied it with a photo of him burying his face in a towel while being taken off the ice.

“Oh man, why me? Why now?” he wrote. “After all the games missed, coming back and getting injured again, feels unfair, feels terrible. Trying to stay calm and positive, but it’s impossible. After doing everything right I get this. The universe is unpredictable I guess, and has its own plans, but f— the universe man, I know I’ll come back stronger and I know I’ll play better than before, but it’s tough right now, and it’s gonna be tough tomorrow.”

While Sergachev’s season has been limited to just 34 games played — he registered two goals and 19 points — he’s been a critical part of the Lightning’s lineup. Only Victor Hedman (24:35) has played more minutes per game for the team this year than his 22:33.

What’s next for the Lightning?

In the short term, they’ll proceed as they were throughout January, with Darren Raddysh assuming a larger role alongside Hedman on the top pairing. The Lightning have managed to patch things together this season with a rotating cast of depth defensemen, including Emil Martinsen-Lilleberg — a Norwegian-born, SHL-groomed free agent signed last summer who has made a noticeable impact of late.

However, with an eye toward the March 8 trade deadline, watch for Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois to strike in his typical fashion.

He had already been checking in on the available defensemen around the league before the Sergachev injury. Now he’ll potentially gain an additional $8.5 million in long-term-injured-reserve space to play with while looking for upgrades, depending on how quickly Sergachev can get himself back into playing shape.

If it’s determined Sergachev won’t return before the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Lightning are free to use all of the LTIR room created with Sergachev’s salary being shifted over.

BriseBois has developed a reputation as a shrewd deadline operator after giving up two first-round picks to acquire Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow and then watching them form two-thirds of a highly-effective third line that helped propel Tampa to Stanley Cup wins in 2020 and 2021.

He also gave up multiple first-rounders to acquire Brandon Hagel while also bringing in Nick Paul at the 2022 deadline and surrendered five draft picks to acquire Tanner Jeannot last year.

While the Lightning are running short on available draft capital — BriseBois is without his first-, second- and fourth-round picks this year, plus his 2025 first-rounder — they hold down a wild-card position in the Eastern Conference and will want to stay aggressive with a strong core and captain Steven Stamkos playing out the final year of his contract.

“As a general manager, you’re looking for opportunities to take advantage of and threats to mitigate. That’s a 365-day-a-year endeavor,” BriseBois told reporters last month. “The difference being that around the trade deadline, there are more opportunities out there because you end up with more teams that are making players available. But we’re always on the lookout for opportunities to improve our chances of being successful and this trade deadline is not different.”

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(Photo: Sarah Stier / Getty Images)

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