Kucherov scored 30 goals with 36 assists last season, good for a team-high 66 points. The 23-year-old winger will still be a restricted free agent when his contract expires in 2019.
The Lightning’s cap situation is why Kucherov was only signed to a bridge deal. Assuming his production remains high, he’ll be looking for a significant raise in his next contract negotiation.
But that’s a problem for another day in Tampa Bay. For now, Yzerman has to be happy after first getting his captain, Steven Stamkos, to re-sign, and then being able to keep Kucherov without making a trade.
The next big decision for Yzerman? What to do with pending UFA goalie Ben Bishop — keep him for a playoff run, or trade him before the deadline?
The answer to that question could be largely determined by the play of 22-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy. If Yzerman feels the youngster is ready to carry the mail in the postseason, Bishop could be dealt. If not, Bishop will stay, even if he walks away for nothing next summer.