Fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning are still anxiously waiting for the team to announce a new contract for star restricted free agent Nikita Kucherov.
NHL Insider Bob McKenzie addressed the issue Wednesday morning while on Montreal’s TSN 690.
“If you’re going to give Nikita Kucherov a long-term contract – five, six, seven years, or whatever the case may be – at a number that makes sense for Kucherov, Steve Yzerman will have to trade a player and clear some cap space in order to do that,” said McKenzie. “If you’re going to do a bridge deal, then you probably could do that. But again, if you’re Kucherov – this is not the type of player that should be bridged.
“Kucherov is really unique in a lot of circumstances because he’s coming out of entry level, but I don’t remember very many entry-level players that have come out with as many games played in the playoffs, and as many goals scored and points scored in crucial playoff games as him.
“I mean, Filip Forsberg just got a six-year deal worth $6 million a year, which is kind of the standard contract for a lot of young promising players who come out of entry level. Taylor Hall got that deal. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got that deal. Variations of that deal – Jeff Skinner was I think 5.75. John Tavares was less than 6. But those are the numbers that general get thrown around.
“Now, Forsberg has an extra accrued season, so Nashville was only buying one year of his free agency on a six-year deal. If Kucherov signed a six-year deal, the Lightning would be buying two years of his. So if you take that into account, and you take into account that this guy has been a dynamo scoring machine in the playoffs for a very good Tampa team – 6 isn’t enough. 6 X 6 isn’t enough for Kucherov.
“So that’s great. Can’t do it anyway, because right now you’re capped out unless you trade a player. So now you’re going to do a two-year deal. Well, who are the really elite players that did two-year deals, and what did they get. Matt Duchene’s deal is kind of old now, but it was 3.5 X 2. You had that weird Ryan Johansen three-year bridge, but that was really unique circumstances because of his situation in Columbus. And he was coming off a terrible year when he got that. He was coming off a year when I think he may have been in the minors some of the time, and he ended up with a three-year deal worth $4 million a year. So, I mean, what’s the number if you do a two-year deal or a three-year deal for Kucherov. The number has got to be up around 4, I would think. 4 or 5. And I don’t even know if he wants to do that.
“So if ever there were a golden opportunity for somebody to come in with an offer sheet, this would be it. If you really wanted Nikita Kucherov. Because if the Lightning are going to match the offer sheet – boy, does it cause them enormous heartache. And Steve Yzerman is going through this all again next year. Jonathan Drouin. Ondrej Palat. Tyler Johnson. Welcome to my nightmare.
“And because Hedman took less than his market value, and because Stamkos took way less than his market value, Yzerman is at least in the game trying to shoehorn everybody in. But I’ve got to think at some point in time – you know, Bishop has got to get traded at some point. No question about that. I think they’ll start the season with him. But I just can’t imagine that they keep the two goaltenders all season long. They’re going to need some cap room here for next season, if not sooner.”
So who will be the odd man out for Tampa?
“That’s a good question,” said McKenzie. Obviously the goaltender makes the most logic right now. But there’s not a hot market for goaltenders to start the season. And quite frankly, they came close to trading him to Calgary in the off-season, Bishop, but right now you’ve got to kind of pull your horns back in and wait for the goalie market to heat up.
“And it’s a weird dynamic this year because the goalie market might be flooded because of the potential ramifications from an expansion draft. With teams having to expose a bunch of goalies, toward the deadline everybody could be looking to move them. But Bishop is obviously a cut above a lot of guys that could become available.
“So I don’t know. You could always make those subjective things. There’s no question some of the depth players on the Lightning are making more than you would like. But it’s the cost of doing business when you get to the Stanley Cup Final, or go deep into the playoffs.”
Source: TSN 690/ Transcript: Nichols