The Lightning have signed Nikita Kucherov to a 3 year contract for $4.766 million dollars a year.
Lightning fans every where can rejoice as the saga of #Kuchpocalypse finally comes to an end. Kucherov led the Lightning last season with 66 points and had 30 goals, both career highs. Coming off of his three year entry level contract after putting up 65 and 66 points, to go along with two incredible playoff performances the past two seasons, Kucherov was due for a significant raise.
It has taken a lot longer than expected though to get a deal done. The problem was the amount, or lack there of, of salary cap space the Lightning had available. After a raise to Steven Stamkos on a new contract as well as raises to Alex Killorn, J.T. Brown, and Vladislav Namestnikov, the Lightning were left with around $5.8 million in cap space to start the year depending on the exact make up of the roster. It seemed pretty clear though that Kucherov would be asking at a minimum $6 million on any long term deal of five to six years.
This summer, there were a bevy of restricted free agent forwards of similar age, experience and performance as Kucherov that have already signed. Though most of them failed to match up across the board due to his playoff performances, we reviewed these contracts earlier in the offseason.
A four year deal was likely out of the question since it would not buy any of his free agent years. That meant that a bridge deal was probably the best way to solve the short term issues for the Lightning while putting off some of the cost until the next deal. When Kucherov is a restricted free agent, he’ll also have the power of salary arbitration much like Alex Killorn did this summer.
But it’s finally done. Kucherov is signed. He and the Lightning, and the rest of us fans, can finally get on to worrying about the season and the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup!