Nikita Kucherov scored 100 points last season which was good enough for 3rd in the league. In 2016-17, he scored 85 points which was 5th in the league. So in the last 2 seasons, the only other player in the National Hockey League who has scored more than 185 points is a guy that goes by the name of Connor McDavid with 208 points in the last 2 years. But yeah. That’s it. In the last 2 years, it goes Connor McDavid and then Nikita Kucherov. So here’s my hot take on the signing–it is very good to lock up a 100-point scorer in the NHL who is still only 25-years-old and very much in his prime for 8 years and under $10 million AAV. I’d even go as far as to saying that it is a great signing. The only downside of the signing?
Well it’s probably going to be a little more difficult to fit Erik Karlsson into the equation now for Tampa moving forward. Next year Kucherov will be the highest paid player on the team at $9.5M. Then Stamkos is clocking in at $8.5M. You’ve got Victor Hedman at $7.875M and yeah, that’s a pretty tight wallet for Steve Yzerman to keep the rest of the way. You have to imagine that Karlsson is going to be looking for around $11M and even with the salary cap going up, that’s damn near half your cap filled by 4 players. Obviously there are still trades that could be made to relieve some cap space for the Bolts and Steve Yzerman has proven himself to be able to make things work. But I feel like announcing this extension at this time right now shows that that Bolts are more interested in locking up their core right now instead of focusing on getting Erik Karlsson in Tampa long-term. Again though, Yzerman has been letting his hammer swing in the wind and could very easily still have something up his sleeve here.
Regardless, this is big for the Bolts. Nikita Kucherov is a killer. He’s got that in his DNA. The guy wants to win and you can tell the money is just an added bonus to him. Just go back to this quote from the 2017 offseason.
Dude ripped a few teammates last summer after they got their payday, stopped working and the Bolts missed the playoffs in 2016-17. This was after Kucherov himself decided to sign a 3-year bridge deal in 2016 after his ELC just to make sure the Lightning had enough money to build a contending team. And in the first 2 years of that bridge deal, he’s put 185 point. He’s still under contract for “only” $4.75M next season. The 2nd most points in the NHL for the past 2 years and he’s pretty much the same cap hit as guys like Karl Alzner and Jori Lehtera. It’s a joke. So he sure as shit earned this payday but realistically he could have easily gone out and got more. Here are 3 quick examples to help prove my point.
And even if Tampa Bay doesn’t end up landing Erik Karlsson, they’ve still got pretty much everything they need right now to contend for the next 5-6 years. Their 2-time Rocket Richard winning captain is locked in through the 2023-34 season. Their future Art Ross and potential Hart Trophy winner is now going to spend the next 9 years with the Bolts. Their current Norris Trophy winning defenseman is signed in through the 2024-25 season. Ryan McDonagh is locked up long term as well. Kids like Sergachev and Brayden Point likely won’t break the bank on their next contracts. And Andrei Vasilevskiy was a Vezina finalist this past year soooo yeah. Tampa is loaded and there are very few excuses left now if they don’t find themselves playing for the Stanley Cup in the next couple of seasons.