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Tampa Bay Lightning re-sign Nikita Kucherov to an eight-year contract extension

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Steve Yzerman sure has been busy. Now we know what he was really up to.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Washington Capitals - Game Three Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

With all of the talks going around about a potential trade for Erik Karlsson by the Tampa Bay Lightning, everyone has assumed that Steve Yzerman has been pretty busy. Such negotiations are certainly sticky and a lot of details have to be worked to get such a deal done. It turns out that the real work Yzerman was doing was negotiating an eight-year contract extension with superstar right wing Nikita Kucherov. The eight-year extension will have a salary cap hit of $9.5 million as reported by Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times.

Kucherov is entering the last year of his three-year contract that had a salary cap hit of $4,766,667. He signed the bridge contract as a restricted free agent after his entry level contract was completed. Those negotiations were contentious and lasted through the World Cup of Hockey and was completed just prior to the start of training camp.

[Update:] We now have the break down of the contract as reported by CapFriendly. More than half of his salary comes in the form of signing bonuses paid each season. This will help him with income tax as those earnings are taxed based on his primary residence of Florida. It also makes the contract less appealing to buyout later on if for some reason his performance was to fall off.

Now the team has locked their superstar forward after seasons of 40 and 39 goals and 85 and 100 points. Kucherov’s 100 points were the first by a Tampa Bay Lightning player since Vincent Lecavalier had 108 points and Martin St. Louis had 102 points in 2006-07. His 100-point season was only the third in Lightning history. His 61 assists were also the fourth most in Lightning history and he became the third Lightning player to hit the 60 assist plateau.

The $9.5 million cap hit also exceeds what Steven Stamkos received on his eight-year extension with an $8.5 million cap hit. There was some speculation around the community that Stamkos’ contract may have created an artificial ceiling within the roster. This contract for Kucherov disproves that notion.

Even still, the Lightning are getting a nice discount on Kucherov. Since the 2012-13 lockout, only four other players have hit the 100 point mark. Connor McDavid with two of the six total seasons signed an extension for $12.5 million. Patrick Kane was already making $10.5 million in 2015-16 when he accomplished that feat. Sidney Crosby’s $8.7 million cap hit seems like a bargain, but was also a contract signed before the new restrictions of long-term contracts were put in place by the 2012-13 CBA. Claude Giroux is on an $8.275 million cap hit, but he also signed that contract four years before hitting 100 points.

One question you might be asking is, how does this affect the Erik Karlsson trade talks? I don’t think it does. I’m convinced that Yzerman and Julien Brisebois have been planning for this all along. If they didn’t think they could fit Karlsson and Kucherov around these cap hits, then they wouldn’t be in these trade discussions with the Ottawa Senators. I have to believe that they have a five-year plan for how to make all of this work, including trading some contracts away, and bringing young guys up on entry level and cheap contracts in the coming years.

With this deal, the Lightning have wrapped up one of the best players the Lightning has ever had on it’s roster. Kucherov is now guaranteed to be a part of this core for almost the next decade of hockey. Tampa Bay, rejoice! These are exciting times and it’s a great feeling to know that Kucherov is here for the long haul!