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Optimism that Nikita Kucherov could be signed by opener

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) battles with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy (12) in the third period in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Friday, May 20, 2016.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) battles with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy (12) in the third period in game four of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena on Friday, May 20, 2016.

10

October

Turns out, wing Nikita Kucherov may be available for Thursday's season opener against the Red Wings.

As contract talks with Tampa Bay and Kucherov, 23, continue, there's a sense of optimism a deal with the restricted free agent can get done this week. It's more likely to be a bridge deal than a long-term deal, especially with the Lightning's salary cap situation.

Kucherov, the team's leading scorer last season, has been holding out of camp until he's signed. Whether Kucherov plays Thursday remains to be seen, depending on when a deal gets done and when he reports.

Kucherov has been in Russia working out and skating. The fact he played in the World Cup of Hockey, with a training camp, exhibitions and three highly-competitive games, should make up for him missing the Lightning's preseason.

On a long-term deal, Kucherov could have warranted $6 million or more annually. But with the Lightning having about $5 million in cap space, that kind of deal would have been tough to navigate. That's why a bridge deal makes sense, Kucherov signing for two or three years at a lower cap number, then being able to try to cash in long-term on his next deal.

 

 

 

[Last modified: Monday, October 10, 2016 12:28pm]

    

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