Tampa Bay Lightning extend Nikita Kucherov

The Lightning aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Tampa Bay, seemingly out of nowhere, inked all-star right-wing Nikita Kucherov to an 8 year, $76 million extension that will begin following the 2018-19 season. Kucherov, just 25 years old, will make an average of $9.5 million per year, tying him for the 9th highest active average salary.

Kucherov is coming off of his second All-Star nominated season in a row, and his first as a first-team player. His 61 assists and 100 points were both career highs, while falling 1 goal short (39) of last year’s high mark of 40. His 100 points ranked 3rd in the NHL last season, and his 185 points since the 2016-17 season falls 2nd only to Connor McDavid.

The move makes a lot of sense for Tampa Bay in multiple ways. The Lightning have made the playoffs in 4 of the last 5 seasons, including clinching the highest seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Unfortunately, they haven’t won a Stanley Cup in nearly 15 years. Aiming to change that, this signing ensures an elite wing to play in front of Norris-winning defenseman Victor Hedman for years to come, as both are locked up for at least 7 more years.

The other crucial benefit in this signing is how affordable it came to Tampa Bay. A player with the offensive production Kucherov attains should be making more than $9.5 million a year. Past and present all-stars John Tavares and Drew Doughty both signed contracts this year worth $11 million per year, and neither player is better valued than Kucherov is. So, getting the Russian-native for such an affordable price keeps the door open for Tampa Bay to make more moves this offseason, such as possibly signing the much-needed defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Tampa Bay is more likely than not one piece away from being true threats to win the Stanley Cup, but this extension promises that they’ll be in the playoffs for years to come.

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