Jason Brough

TAMPA, FL - APRIL 16: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning is checked by Danny DeKeyser #65 of the Detroit Red Wings in front of Petr Mrazek #34 in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on April 16, 2015 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

Report: Talks ‘intensifying’ between Bolts and Kucherov, likely a bridge deal coming

Nikita Kucherov hasn’t signed yet, but according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, he’s “likely” to suit up for the Lightning on Thursday when they open their regular season at home to Detroit.

McKenzie reported this morning that negotiations between Kucherov and the Bolts have been “intensifying.” The 23-year-old winger is a restricted free agent. It’s probable, says McKenzie, that it’s a bridge deal, as opposed to a long-term contract.

Tampa Bay has less than $6 million in cap space at the moment, per General Fanager.

Related: Yzerman thinks he can get Kucherov signed without making a trade first

Once a major weakness, the defense is now the ‘engine’ of the Blue Jackets

2015 NHL Draft - Round One
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When Dan Boyle officially retired last week, his former coach in Tampa Bay, John Tortorella, called him the “engine” of the 2004 Stanley Cup-winning Lightning squad.

Boyle had an outstanding career as an NHL defenseman, putting up 605 points in 1,093 games.

So it’s interesting that Tortorella chose to use the same metaphor in describing his young defense in Columbus.

“That’s our engine,” Tortorella said of Ryan Murray, Seth JonesZach Werenski, and training-camp surprise Markus Nutivaara, per the Columbus Dispatch.

“We can’t wait to work with them through it. There are going to be some struggles with it, but to see the youth and the legs and the puck skills … When you understand the big picture of what we’re going through, it’s exciting.”

The Blue Jackets’ back end was a major weakness last year, to the point they traded their franchise center, Ryan Johansen, to get Jones out of Nashville.

Now, all of a sudden, the future of the defense looks extremely bright. Murray is still only 23; Jones and Nutivaara are 22; Werenski is just 19.

To be sure, the Jackets are still expected to struggle this season. The defense is talented but inexperienced, and the forward group is less than impressive. If there’s any hope for a playoff spot, it’s that Sergei Bobrovsky can stand on his head in goal.

But long term, there’s optimism.

“Within our organization, and some didn’t come to camp, there’s some good speed and skill to get up the ice coming from our back end,” Tortorella said, per the Dispatch, recently. “We have youth in that situation. I don’t think it’s all going to come together right away, but the progression of this is very encouraging.”

Flyers’ Del Zotto out 4-5 weeks with reported knee injury

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 19: Michael Del Zotto #15 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates against the San Jose Sharks at the Wells Fargo Center on November 19, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Flyers defenseman Michael Del Zotto will miss 4-5 weeks with a lower-body injury, the club announced today.

The team did not say how Del Zotto was injured. The 26-year-old logged 16:34 in Thursday’s preseason game against the Rangers. It is reportedly a knee injury.

The Flyers announced just yesterday that defenseman Brandon Manning was week-to-week with an upper-body injury, and also that forward Scott Laughton would be out 3-4 weeks with a lower-body injury.

Manning said this morning that he hopes to be ready for Friday’s opener is Los Angeles, but if it wasn’t a given before that 19-year-old Ivan Provorov will start the season in the NHL, it surely is now.

Related: Impressive Travis Konecny pushing for roster spot in Philly

Rangers waive Glass and Gerbe, opening-night roster appears to be set

Zack Stortini, Tanner Glass

The New York Rangers put a couple of veteran forwards, Tanner Glass and Nathan Gerbe, on waivers today, presumably to send them to the AHL should they clear.

Glass, 32, had just four goals in 57 games last season, while struggling badly in terms of possession. He has one year left on his contract, at a cap hit of $1.45 million. (His cap hit will be reduced to $500,000 while he’s in the minors.)

Gerbe, 29, was signed to a one-year, $600,000 deal on July 1. But the addition of Jimmy Vesey in August didn’t help Gerbe’s chances of making the opening-night roster.

The Rangers are now down to 24 players, and that includes Oscar Lindberg, who will reportedly start on injured reserve after having offseason hip surgery.

So in reality, the Rangers have made all the cuts they need to make. They start the regular season Thursday at home to the Islanders. They finished their preseason schedule with a record of 2-2-2.

Related: Pavel Buchnevich is looking to make the leap

IOC says Jan. 15 is the deadline for agreement to send NHLers to Olympics

PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - JULY 07:  South Koreans celebrate being selected as 2018 Winter Olympic host city at Alpensia Resort on July 7, 2011 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Pyeongchang finally won the Winter Olympic host race after being beaten by Vancouver for 2010 and Sochi for 2014.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
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A drop-dead date has apparently been set to reach an agreement to send NHLers to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“When it comes to the final participation … there is a date set at Jan. 15 to find an agreement,” the IOC’s Christophe Dubi said, per the Associated Press. “Until then it will be work between all parties involved to make sure that we get the participation of the very best, and that’s for both Pyeongchang and Beijing (in 2022).”

The IOC’s decision to no longer cover expenses like travel and insurance is the biggest impediment to an agreement.

“I’m pretty sure that our teams are not really interested in paying for the privilege of disrupting our season,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said.

And even if there’s a solution to the costs issue, there’s no guarantee an agreement will get reached. Even when costs were covered, NHL owners weren’t all that keen about Olympic participation.

That being said, according to the AP story, the NHL has agreed to visit South Korea later this month for an inspection.

Which begs the question: if the league were dead set against further Olympic participation, would it bother to inspect the next host country?

Related: Alex Ovechkin vows to play in the Olympics, even if NHL doesn’t participate