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Lightning signs Nikita Kucherov to richest contract in team history

The Lightning took another step toward securing its future Tuesday by announcing that right wing Nikita Kucherov will sign the richest contract in franchise history.

Kucherov's eight-year contract extension will pay him an average of $9.5 million starting in the 2019-2020 season, the team announced. That passes teammate Steven Stamkos as the team's highest-paid player.

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Kucherov, who turned 25 last month, ranked third in the NHL last season in points (100) and ninth in goals (39). He was the leading scorer on a Lightning team that won the Atlantic Division and reached its third Eastern Conference final in four seasons.

Kucherov's scoring totals have increased in each of his five NHL seasons, from 18 points as a 20-year-old rookie in 2013-14 to 65 to 66, then 85 and 100 as an All-Star this past season.

With Kucherov's extension, the Lightning now has Stamkos, Kucherov, defensemen Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh and forwards Tyler Johnson and J.T. Miller all under contract through the 2022-23 season, keeping the nucleus intact for the next five years.

"I'm truly grateful to sign this contract extension to keep me in Tampa for another eight seasons," Kucherov said in a statement. "I'd like to thank the Lightning organization and all of the fans for the support since making the Bay area my home."

Contact Greg Auman at Follow @gregauman