Tampa Bay Lightning talent Nikita Kucherov is still without a contract, and the threat of an offer sheet for the restricted free agent – however unlikely – looms.
“If anybody’s going to get offer-sheeted, you would think this would be the guy,” said NHL Insider Bob McKenzie during a Monday morning radio segment on Montreal’s TSN 690. “Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning are really, really up against it in terms of the cap, and that’s going to continue to be the case. Next year, Drouin is a restricted free agent. Palat and Tyler Johnson are both restricted free agents. So they’ve got three critical players that are coming up for big raises next year. Now you’ve got Kucherov sitting here; who, if you were to give him market value, which would be anywhere between $6-7 million dollars a year on a six or seven or eight-year deal. They’re not in a position to give him that.
“So I’m sure Tampa Bay would say, ‘Offer-sheet him if you want, but we’re going to match no matter what.’ Fair enough. Boy oh boy. What a nightmare scenario that would be for the Lightning if someone did.
“If you really believe Kucherov was a special player – and he’s demonstrated fairly quickly that he might be… he’s got 22 goals in 45 playoff games – if you were to give this guy $7-7.5 million a year times seven, which would be the max number of years you could give him, it would cost you a first-round pick, a second-round pick, and a third-round pick.
“Now, that’s a steep price to pay and maybe Tampa matches no matter what. But boy oh boy, if anybody did offer Kucherov $7 million-plus on a seven-year deal – if Tampa matched, they’d have to be throwing some pretty significant bodies overboard to accommodate being ready to be salary cap compliant by 5 p.m. on a week tomorrow.”
Offer sheets of a top young talent can be a scary proposition for any team’s fan base, but they happen so infrequently.
“The notion of an offer sheet these days just seems like a foreign concept,” said McKenzie. “Some general managers are probably fearful of doing it because as soon as they get into a salary cap jam – payback’s a bitch, as they say. Some teams don’t want to put themselves in that situation. Some teams just think it’s a waste of time because the other team always matches, and the more aggravation – I don’t know, maybe people are afraid of Steve Yzerman’s death stare (laughs).
“In any case, if we haven’t seen it yet, there’s a part of me that says there’s no chance we’re going to see it. But like you say, you always allow for the possibility of everything in this game.
“And so many other teams are so tight to the cap. And here’s the other thing – Kucherov has to want to go (to the team that offer-sheets him). A team that has nothing but cap space is probably not a team that’s going to contend for the Stanley Cup this year. So he would get his money, but he’d not be playing in a venue that would be anything close to what he’s got going with Tampa right now.
“Yzerman did a good job of getting Stamkos and Hedman in under market value, but he’s still got lots of salary cap headaches. This is a tough one on Kucherov because he should be, at minimum, $6 million-plus on a long-term deal. And right now, the Tampa Bay Lightning can’t do that deal. So maybe they’ll be able to make a move, move some bodies out and sign him. Or maybe they’re just going to have to try to grind Kucherov down to a bridge deal – a fairly lucrative bridge deal. Players like Kucherov probably shouldn’t be bridged, but there might not be any choice in that situation.”
Source: TSN 690/ Transcript: Nichols