Lightning Re-Sign Nikita Kucherov
The Tampa Bay Lightning announced they’ve re-signed Nikita Kucherov to an eight-year, $76-million contract extension. The 25-year-old right winger’s new deal begins in 2019-20. Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports $44.5 million of that money is in signing bonuses.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Kucherov is entering the final season of a three-year, $14.3-million contract, with an annual average value of over $4.76 million. He’s getting a significant raise, doubling his AAV to $9.5 million per season. Cap Friendly has the breakdown of the signing bonuses, which includes $11 million in the first season. They also point out the Lightning now have over $65 million tied up in 12 players for 2019-20.
It’s not surprising Kucherov got this big raise. After all, he left money on the table in his previous contract to give the Lightning more cap flexibility with the promise of a bigger reward later on. He could’ve sought much more but once again appears to have given up extra dollars to leave his club some wiggle room under the cap ceiling. Playing in Florida, which doesn’t have a state tax, also makes accepting $9.5 million annually a lot easier.
Since his NHL debut in 2013-14, Kucherov has steadily blossomed into one of the league’s top scorers. He followed up a 40-goal, 85-point performance in 2016-17 with a career-best 100-point campaign last season. He’s also led the Lightning in scoring in each of the last three seasons. Now entering the prime of his career, Kucherov is well established as an NHL star.
Kucherov’s hefty signing bonuses probably won’t sit well with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who reportedly frowns on these tactics, but there’s nothing in the current collective bargaining agreement to prevent player agents from pitching these type of deals or the teams from accepting them. Expect this little loophole to be closed in the next round of collective bargaining between the league and the NHLPA.
A more interesting question is how Kucherov’s new contract might affect Tampa Bay’s well-documented efforts to acquire Ottawa Senators superstar defenseman Erik Karlsson. Though Kucherov’s deal won’t affect the Lightning’s cap hit for 2018-19, they still have only $3.4 million in cap space, prompting speculation they were attempting to shed salary to free up cap room for Karlsson’s $6.5-million cap hit.
With Karlsson a year away from unrestricted free agency, it’s believed he could command over $11 million annually on a long-term extension. Given how much the Lightning have invested already for 2019-20, they’ll have to free up considerable cap room if they intend on bringing Karlsson in for the long term.
Extending Nikita Kucherov does not take #TBLightning out of the Erik Karlsson trade talks. Quite the opposite; it gives them more certainty about their future.
Word is they continue to engage outside teams on a potential three-way deal with OTT.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 10, 2018