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Kucherov signing helps Lightning finish what it started

TAMPA — The Erik Karlsson sweepstakes hasn't ended for the Lightning.

But the Nikita Kucherov sweepstakes is over before it began.

The Lightning has locked up its star right winger. An eight-year extension that begins in the 2019-20 season will pay Kucherov $9.5 million annually.

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This is large news, a major offseason step for a team trying to finish what it has started and win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning needs to close out this deal, and Kucherov, who scored 39 goals and became the third Lightning player with a 100-point season, will be part of that.

An important decision by this franchise and its GM, Steve Yzerman.

And by Kucherov, who has chosen to pass on free agency.

The 25-year-old wants to be here.

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As an added bonus, Lightning fans get more of the same, the highlight reel, the dazzling speed, the sleight of stick, the talent that made Kucherov an all-star last season.

And he has unfinished business. Kucherov tailed off badly — disappeared — at the end of the Lightning's playoff run, which was ended by eventual Cup champion Washington in the Eastern Conference final.

It made some of us wonder if Kucherov would be part of any deal for Karlsson, the star Ottawa defenseman.

He won't be.

He's part of something here.

He needs to be part of this.

Kucherov's work ethic, always unquestioned, will clock in with the Lightning for years to come. His pronounced drive will be on hand to help steer this franchise.

Does this nix the Karlsson deal?

That's for later.

The Kucherov deal is done.

And that's a pretty day for hockey in Tampa Bay.

Contact Martin Fennelly at Follow @mjfennelly

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