Contract or not, Kucherov enjoys World Cup
Wing Nikita Kucherov isn't interested in talking about his contract, or lack thereof.
But the restricted free agent certainly took notice this summer when the Lightning locked up teammates Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman for eight-year deals.
"It's great that Tampa is keeping everybody," Kucherov said after Russia's practice Wednesday at the World Cup of Hockey. "It's a great chance to go on another run at the Stanley Cup. I'm just happy for Stammer and Heddy signing in Tampa for the next 8-10."
Kucherov, 23, would love to be in that spot. But the fact Kucherov, the team's leading scorer last season, is still unsigned is one of the biggest unanswered questions facing the Lightning as opens training camp Thursday at Amalie Arena. General manager Steve Yzerman has said he hopes to get a deal with Kucherov before the Russian returns from the World Cup. But Yzerman said Wednesday there's nothing new with negotiations. A deal doesn't appear imminent.
It's not easy. Kucherov could warrant in the six-year, $36 million range Filip Forsberg signed with the Predators, maybe more. The Lightning should have between $5-$6 million in cap room for this season.
There's still time. Russia plays Finland Thursday night hoping for a chance to reach this weekend's semifinals of the tournament, which could run until Oct. 1. Contract or not, Kucherov has thoroughly enjoyed playing for his country, especially with idols Pavel Datsyuk and Alex Ovechkin.
"A crazy experience," Kucherov said. "Just unbelievable to be on the team and around them, see how they prepare. It's just a great experience and just looking up to those guys and take some little things from them and try to transfer to my game."