With the eight-year, $100MM extension of Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid already in the rearview mirror, many people have been speculating on the next big contract in the NHL. There are some who are looking at teammate Leon Draisaitl to break the bank, others at Auston Matthews in Toronto. Nashville’s Ryan Johansen just picked up $8MM per year, while Washington Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up $7.8. However, Larry Brooks of the New York Post, points the finger at Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov who should be getting a huge extension in two years.
Kucherov is going into his second season of a three-year deal where he will be making $4.76MM, but when his contract is up in two years, expect there to be a major payday. The big-scoring winger will be just hitting his prime at age 26 when his contract is up and Tampa Bay’s Steve Yzerman will have a tough time from keeping Kucherov’s next contract from doubling, according to Brooks.
The 24-year-old winger took another major step this year, putting up career highs in both goals and assists, scoring 40 goals and 45 assists for 85 points. Kucherov has come a long way in just a short time. Originally drafted as a second round pick in 2011, he stayed in Moscow for one year before coming over and playing junior hockey, before finally reaching the AHL in 2013-14 season. After 17 games, he was quickly promoted to Tampa Bay where he put up nine goals and nine assists in 51 games, but broke out the following year. He put up consistent numbers the next two years, combining for 58 goals and 72 assists, before taking the next step this past year.
While his 30 goals and 66 points in the 2015-16 season was still outstanding, Kucherov had little negotiating room when he hammered out this three-year deal. According to Brooks, Kucherov did not threaten to return to the KHL and had little recourse but to accept the three-year deal offered to him as a restricted free agent without arbitration rights. However, everything will change in two years when he can dangle his unrestricted free agency tag. His improved performance should only increase his pricetag. Add in the fact that Kucherov went out and got a new agent in Daniel Milstein of Gold Star Sports and expect that Kucherov should break the bank unless Yzerman can prove that he can lock up another great player to a team-friendly deal.