Lightning lose Nikita Kucherov for entire regular season, avoid severe cap consequence
Tampa Bay Lightning superstar striker Nikita Kucherov will miss the 2021 regular season as he will undergo surgery on his injured hip. (Andy Devlin / NHLI via Getty Images)
For the Tampa Bay Lightning, the good news is that they should be able to escape serious wage cap related consequences.
The bad news is that they will be without their most dynamic striker and former league MVP for the entire 2021 regular season.
Lightning GM Julien BriseBois announced on Wednesday that Nikita Kucherov would need surgery on an injured hip and will miss the entire 56-game campaign to recover from the injury and major surgery.
As a result, Kucherov's entire $ 9.5 million salary will be shifted to a long-term injured reserve that should allow BriseBois to bring the remaining portions below the salary parameters - an excellent job that included reaching an agreement with the restricted free agent- Striker Anthony Cirelli includes.
While the screams suggesting bypassing can be heard across the league, it's hard to argue that this decision - although perhaps deliberate from a timing perspective - is positive for the lightning bolt. Kucherov is a significant, significant loss, even to a team that has just proven they can win championships without the services of key players.
The hope (and maybe the design) for the Blitz, however, is that Kucherov can return when the postseason runs around or when teams are allowed to cross the salary cap. So rival teams and fan bases are sure to express their displeasure with the ability of lightning to avoid the same consequences that many other teams have suffered.
Kucherov had 33 goals and 85 points in 68 games last season. He added seven goals and a postseason high of 34 points in 27 games as the Lightning won the franchise's second Stanley Cup in the safe Edmonton bubble.
Tampa's title defense begins on January 13 without Kucherov - and within the redesigned Central Division - against the Chicago Blackhawks.
BriseBois also issued a quick update on Steven Stamkos, saying he expected the Tampa Bay captain to be ready for the season to start.
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