Nikita Kucherov tweet has Lightning fans longing for Artemi Panarin

From left, Andrei Vasilevskiy,Artemi Panarin and Nikita Kucherov. [Twitter]
From left, Andrei Vasilevskiy,Artemi Panarin and Nikita Kucherov. [Twitter]
Published August 23 2018
Updated August 23 2018

Nikita Kucherov sent Lightning fans into a frenzy Thursday when he tweeted out a photo of him and Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy posing, shirtless, alongside Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin in front of a volleyball net on a bay area beach.

Either Kucherov was having fun, or perhaps the Lightning has the Columbus sniper in its sights.

"Vasy and I showing @9Artemi how good it is to play in Tampa," the tweet read.

Panarin added further intrigue by retweeting Kucherov's photo.

Panarin is a perennial 30-goal scorer who will become an unrestricted free agent following the 2018-19 season. So far, he has rebuffed the Blue Jackets' attempts to sign him to an extension before the start of the season.

Panarin twice scored 30 or more goals with the Chicago Blackhawks. His 27 last season with Columbus would have tied Steven Stamkos for third on the Lightning, behind only Kucherov (39) and Brayden Point (32). Panarin added 55 assists for a career-high 82 points.

Reactions to the tweet differed based on users' loyalties.

One hopeful Lightning fan posted a photo of Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman on the phone, as if a trade was imminent.

Blue Jackets fans replied with GIFs reading, "Nope. Don't Like That" and "Objection."

Some of the more clever read, "Russian Collusion," in reference to the three players' home country, and "Sunscreen Please!" for, well, obvious reasons.