CLEARWATER, Fla. (WFLA) – Fresh off the ice, about a week into his personal offseason workout program, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is suddenly the highest paid player on the Lightning roster.
Kucherov spoke about his 8-year contract extension that will pay an annual average of $9.5 million, expressing gratitude towards the Lightning front office and admiration for his teammates.
“It’s definitely huge for me and for my family to finally get locked up for long term here and to be able to not think about the contract during the season,” Kucherov said.
“I’m happy to be here, happy to be in Tampa and have a good chance to win a Stanley Cup.”
While Toronto Maple Leafs center John Tavares owned the free agency spotlight entering this summer, the Lightning made their own “splash” by avoiding a similar and awkward situation next year.
Kucherov was about to play the final year of a bridge deal, paying him $4.6 million per season. If he puts up similar numbers from last season (39 goals, 100 points), the price tag would force the Lightning to win a major bidding war, possibly disrupting Yzerman’s carefully planned salary cap management.
But Kucherov did not want to dwell on salary on Tuesday. He said it was difficult to sit on his couch and watch the Washington Capitals win the Stanley Cup, after eliminating the Lightning in seven games in the Eastern Conference Final.
“It just pushes you to work harder,” Kucherov said. “It’s a good thing that we have a good team, good players on the team and we always have a chance to compete for a Stanley Cup.”
And if Kucherov and the Lightning break through and raise the Stanley Cup in 2019?
“I think when it happens, it’s going to be like Pittsburgh. We may go for two in a row.”