The Tampa Bay Lightning announced today that they have signed forward Nikita Kucherov to a three-year contract. Kucherov, the team’s leading scorer during the 2015-16 season, had not participated in any pre-season training camp activities or exhibition games pending resolution of his contract status.
Speculation had heated up recently that the two sides were close to agreement on a “bridge deal”, a one-year contract that would allow Kucherov to play with the Lightning this season and delay long-term negotiations until next summer. However, the terms announced by Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman are for three years, a deal that will pay Kucherov an average of $4.766 million a season. His previous contract, which was for three years and paid him $2.775 million, expired after last season, rendering him a restricted free agent. Media reports yesterday had Kucherov arriving in Tampa today to sign the deal.
Kucherov was the Lightning’s leading scorer in 2015-16, netting 30 goals along with 36 assists in 77 games. He also skated in all 17 postseason games for Tampa Bay, picking up another 11 goals and eight assists as the Lightning lost in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Kucherov, 23-years-old and a native of Moscow, Russia, was originally drafted by the Lightning in the second round (58th overall) at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He has played in 211 games so far in his NHL career, all with Tampa Bay and has scored 68 goals and 149 points to go along with 81 penalty minutes and a plus-50 rating. He’s also appeared in 45 playoff games in his career, posting a total of 22 goals and 42 points. In addition, Kucherov represented Team Russia at the World Cup of Hockey in Canada this summer, where he scored two goals and three assists in four tournament games, ranking tied for first for the Russians in both goals and points.