TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he's in "constant communication" with RW Nikita Kucherov's representatives and hopes to get the wing signed "as soon as possible."
But though the goal is to get Kucherov, a restricted free agent, signed by the time he returns from the World Cup of Hockey, Yzerman indicated Thursday "that may or may not happen right away."
Kucherov, 23, led the Lightning in points last season and in the playoffs. Playing in the World Cup for Russia — which advanced to the weekend's semifinals — it's unknown if Kucherov would report to training camp without a deal. But Yzerman said he didn't anticipate the situation being a distraction for the team.
"We want him here," Yzerman said. "He's a tremendous player, a popular player on the team. Being young (23), he's still one of our leaders on our team. We want to get him here as soon as possible. It takes time."
Wing Ryan Callahan said Kucherov's emergence over the past two seasons makes him vital part of the team.
"He's one of the main reasons why we had two really good years here," Callahan said. "There's no hiding the fact he's a really important piece."
Yzerman said he also hoped to get a deal done with the other remaining restricted free agent, D Nikita Nesterov, who also is with Russia at the World Cup.
CALLAHAN UPDATE: Callahan (hip surgery) said he's progressing well and "on schedule" for a mid-November return. Yzerman said Callahan is not cleared for contact, the only regular not ready to go "full bore" in Friday's first practice. It's unclear how much participation Callahan will have early in camp.
"On schedule right now," Callahan said. "(The expected return is) kind of far away, so you never know if things can speed up quicker than that, but as of right now, it's still November."
FAN FEST SUNDAY: There is no admission for Fan Fest on Sunday at Amalie Arena, though fans must register for a ticket at tampabaylightning.com. Here is the schedule:
9 a.m.: Doors open for season-ticket holders, who can watch practice from 10:30-11.
11: Doors open to the general public.
11:15-11:45: Lightning scrimmage
11:45-noon: Owner Jeff Vinik interview session.
Noon-12:30 p.m.: Lightning scrimmage, followed by High School Hockey Shootout
Noon-1:30 p.m.: Players at autograph/selfie stations. Autographs are free, but fans need a voucher they can pick up at Gate B. One voucher per person.
NUTS AND BOLTS: Yzerman said forward prospects Mathieu Joseph and Jonne Tammela — who didn't participate in the rookie tournament last weekend — were scheduled to be evaluated by doctors Thursday morning to determine their availability for camp. … D David Henley has a thumb hand injury.
Times staff Writer Roger Mooney contributed to this report.
DIRK SHADD | Times
A mirrored wall catches the reflection of Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn as he hits the weights during the traditional fitness testing on the first day of training camp at Amalie Arena.