Lightning Re-sign Nikita Kucherov
The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed restricted free agent winger Nikita Kucherov to a three-year, $14.3 million contract.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Another coup for Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman. He got his club’s leading scoring in 2015-16 (regular season and playoffs) to agree to a short-term deal worth $4.766 million per season. In this age of free agency where free agents pursue top dollar, getting a two-time 60-plus point performer to accept well below market value is an impressive feat.
Over the last two years, Kucherov emerged as a scoring star in his own right. In 2014-15, he netted 29 goals and 65 points, followed by last season’s 30-goal, 66-point effort. During the 2016 playoffs, the 23-year-old topped the Lightning in goals (11) and points (19).
Kucherov is the third member of the Lightning this year (Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman being the others) who agreed to accept less money to remain in Tampa Bay. By leaving money on the table, he helps the Bolts avoid a potential salary-cap nightmare this season.
He also sets himself up for a significant pay raise in three year’s time, when he’ll become a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. If he continues to match or exceed his current level of production over that period, his next contract could be worth well over $7 million per season for seven or eight seasons.
The Kucherov signing leaves the Lighting with $1.7 million of available cap space, with all their free agents now under contract. Yzerman now has a bit of wiggle room to address any short-term roster needs that might arise over the course of this season. That likely means he won’t be making any significant salary-dumping deals this season.