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BREAKING: Kucherov signs eight-year extension

Wayne Masut | Staff Photographer

While fans nervously watch Twitter for the latest Erik Karlsson news, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman locked up one of the top scorers in the league a season early. Now Yzerman will turn his attention to Brayden Point.

No more bridge deals

Since debuting in the NHL back in the 2013-2014 season, Nikita Kucherov has been a man who gets better every single season. Ahead of the 2016-2017 season, Kucherov signed what most called a “bridge” deal. Basically, it is a way of saying prove you’re worth a big contract before we give you one, and Kucherov did just that. The contract carried an AAV (average annual value) of $4.76 million a season for three seasons. Following the signing, Kucherov had his best season as a pro (40 goals and 45 assists for 85 points). The second season of that three year deal saw his goals drop by one (39), but saw him hit 61 assists while being paired with captain Steven Stamkos most the season.

New deal

Kucherov’s new deal won’t kick in until 2019-2020, and will vault his cap hit to $9.5 million a year. This is a deal worthy of a man who was in the Art Ross and Hart trophy conversation for nearly 75 percent of the 2017-2018 season. The new deal is for the league max of eight seasons, a contract only a player can sign with their existing team.

What’s next

With Kucherov locked in for the next eight years, Yzerman will turn his focus to pending restricted free agent Point following the 2018-2019 season. While this new contract for Kucherov could take the Lightning out of the Karlsson sweepstakes, there is still a chance the Lightning GM can make magic happen. If the Lightning were to let Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi and Brayden Coburn walk next off-season as unrestricted free agents, that would open nearly $10 million in salary cap space. Factor in who could be traded in what is speculated as a three-team deal, and there could be even more cap room opening up.

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