Lightning re-signs Nikita Nesterov
The Lightning re-signed defenseman Nikita Nesterov Monday, leaving it with just one (but important) restricted free agent left:
Nesterov, like Kucherov, was playing with Russia at the World Cup, and is set to rejoin camp in the next week. Nesterov was signed to a one-year, $725,000 deal.
That doesn't leave a lot of room for Kucherov, who could command $6 million or more per season. After Nesterov signing, Tampa Bay has between $5-$5.5 million of salary cap space remaining this season, per CapFriendly.com. Even if you temporarily put Ryan Callahan on long term injured reserve, it won't save a ton, plus he's expected to return by mid-November. The team also has to account for potential bonuses earned by the likes of Jonathan Drouin and Andrei Vasilevskiy this season.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said Sunday he's "very hopeful" to get Kucherov signed, adding he can "push harder" with the World Cup over. The two sides have been talking but nothing appears imminent.
The question remains whether the Lightning can sign Kucherov without having to first make a deal to clear space?
It could be an interesting few weeks, and creative cap-crunching, for the Lightning.