The Tampa bay Lightning finally got its last piece of the puzzle signed to a new contract.
The Lightning and forward Nikita Kucherov agreed to a new three-year, $14.3 million deal that has a cap hit of $4,766,666 per season. The two sides couldn’t agree to a new long term deal so the bridge deal was agreed upon instead, and at the end of the three years Kucherov will still be a restricted free agent. Kucherov wasn’t practicing with the team, but he did participate in the World Cup of Hockey last month.
In 77 games played last season, he had 30 goals and 36 assists for a total of 66 points. That was a career high for him and a team high in points. He was second on the team in goals. Kucherov got some more time, and played a bigger role due to the fact that Steven Stamkos missed time with a blood clot. Kucherov had nine power play goals and four game-winning goals last year while averaging 18:12 of ice time per game. In addition to points, the forward set career highs in goals (30), power play goals (9), power play assists (19), shots (209) and time on ice per game (18:03).
Kucherov has consistently improved throughout his prior three seasons with the Lightning. He was really good last year with the spotlight on him especially during the postseason. In 17 postseason games played, Kucherov had 11 goals, 8 assists, 19 points and averaged 20:08 of ice time per game. In those 17 postseason games, he averaged 1.12 points per game. The 19 postseason points led the way for the Bolts. In 45 playoff games in the past two seasons, he has 42 points and has helped lead the Bolts to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2015 and an Eastern Conference Final appearance in 2016.
Kucherov is a great scorer and he can beat opponents easily with his slick moves when playing one-on-one. He is creative and can spot the open man in the offensive zone. The versatile forward can play either the left wing or the right wing. One downside is that he isn’t very big, but he can use his speed and creativity to get away from defenders.There is a chance that he could play in the Lightning’s home opener on Thursday night against the Detroit Red Wings even though he wasn’t skating with the team.
The deal was a good one for the Lightning because they have one of their best players returning to a lineup that doesn’t have much turnover from last season. The biggest reason that the deal worked in Tampa Bay’s favor is because it was cap friendly, and they didn’t have to make a major move to get Kucherov signed. It worked out for both sides because now the contract talks won’t be a distraction during the regular season.