According to Bob McKenzie of TSN, restricted free agent Nikita Kucherov is en route to North America from Russia to sign a bridge deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. While the team has been trying to lock the winger up long-term, it doesn’t look like that kind of a deal will get done before the season starts; instead, the two sides will agree to a shorter term and re-evaluate in two or three years.
Kucherov is coming off back-to-back all-star seasons, scoring 65 and 66 points over the last two. Leading a team in scoring that includes Steven Stamkos is no small feat, though the winger did just that in 2015-16. Already a 30-goal scorer at 23, Kucherov will eventually be given a huge contract to play in this league.
After re-signing Stamkos, Victor Hedman and others this summer, the Lightning have to be careful with their cap space going forward, having just $5.5MM at the moment for this season. Though a bridge deal would likely come in just shy of that for Kucherov, a long-term deal that bought out any free agent years would have seen that rate jump quite a bit. Johnny Gaudreau recently signed for $6.75MM, and only gave up a single year on the open market.