SALT LAKE CITY -- Mikhail Sergachev was taking out the trash when he found he was being traded to Utah.

“At first, I was in shock. I didn't expect it,” the defenseman said Friday of his reaction to being sent to the Utah Hockey Club on June 29 in exchange for defenseman J.J. Moser, forward Conor Geekie, a seventh-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft and a second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft.

The former Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman knew nothing about Utah before the trade, but speaking to the media for the first time since the deal took place, it didn’t take long for him to see the potential of what can happen with his new team.

“Talking to my agent, talking to some players, and talking to [Clayton] Keller, everybody said great things about Utah and the new franchise. It's pretty amazing, honestly. The whole setup, the city. I'm very excited. It's a big opportunity for me to prove myself, being a leader. I’m looking forward to it.”

The 26-year-old had 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) in 34 regular-season games for the Lightning in 2023-24 but missed most of the year because of a knee injury. He returned in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and had one assist in two games.

Despite the lost time on the ice, he comes into the new season as Utah’s top defenseman.

“We are in a situation where we want a proven player,” said Utah head coach Andre Tourigny on Friday. “Sergey is exactly that kind of player. He's been in championship games, been in pressure games. He was one of those guys who was on the ice in those big moments… We still have a young group of defensemen. He will bring experience. We're making a step in the right direction.”

When the 2023-24 season concluded, Utah general manager Bill Armstrong had to rebuild his defensive lineup from scratch. When the possibility of a trade for Sergachev came up during the draft, the team took its shot.

“I just thought to myself, as an organization, when do you get a chance?” Armstrong said. “It's a great chance to add a number one [defenseman] to your roster at 26 years old that's won two championships… That opportunity doesn't come around and we jumped on it.”

Sergachev had 257 points (48 goals, 209 assists) in 475 regular-season games, and 34 points (nine goals, 25 assists) in 100 career playoff games over seven seasons in Tampa Bay. He won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021 as a top-four defenseman with the Lightning.

In addition to his offensive ability on the blue line, he brings a physical presence to Utah’s defense.

“Obviously I love hitting, but you try to be smart about that when you play 25, 27, or 23 minutes,” Sergachev said. “I'm just going to use my legs, use my speed, and when I need to, I'm going to lay a hit. But for me, it's not all about that. It's about being aggressive everywhere, not just on defense, but on offense, too.”

Sergachev will also step into a leadership role with Utah, which will head into the 2024-25 season as one of the youngest rosters in the NHL. 

“I don't really like speaking a lot. I kind of follow the leaders that I had before, like [Steven Stamkos] and [Victor Hedman],” Sergachev said. “Most of the time they just play, they go out there and show by their example what they can do, and that speaks for itself. I feel like I'm going to do the same, and I'm just going to focus on that. Playing the right way and try to win as many games as possible.”

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