NHL rumor roundup: Kucherov and Lightning cap issues; Free agent movement?

NHL rumor roundup: Kucherov and Lightning cap issues; Free agent movement?
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After the NHL announced plans for the 2020-21 season, it only makes sense that teams may intensify efforts to get ready. In some cases, that means finding ways to get under the salary cap ceiling, even if Nikita Kucherov rumors don’t seem ideal for the Lightning. In others, it means some last-minute holiday shopping for free agents.

Check out this roundup of recent NHL news and rumors.

Potential Kucherov LTIR stint may ease Lightning’s cap concerns?

Beginning with a tweet from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, speculation grew regarding Nikita Kucherov possibly going on LTIR, and how that might help the Lightning ease their salary cap crunch.

From there, Pierre LeBrun reports that Kucherov took an injection to his hip last week. If Kucherov responds well, he’d play; if not, he’d go on LTIR. (You may remember some references to Kucherov’s hip issues during the Lightning’s 2020 Stanley Cup run.)

At the Athletic, Joe Smith went a little deeper on Kucherov and the Lightning cap situation (sub required). Smith confirmed that Kucherov’s representatives and the Lightning both declined to comment regarding various reports.

Kucherov currently carries a $9.5 million cap hit. With the Lightning about $2M over the $81.5M salary cap ceiling at the moment, a Kucherov LTIR stint would give Tampa Bay breathing room.

Of course, Kucherov is so essential to the Lightning that it wouldn’t really be worth it. Instead, it would be a silver lining.

Either way, the Lightning still face lingering issues. Anthony Cirelli ranks as the most prominent RFA, but Erik Cernak is relevant, too. Maybe a Kucherov LTIR trip would ease certain immediate salary cap pressures, yet the Lightning may still be wise to try to trade someone like Tyler Johnson.

No doubt, $9.5M is a big swing.

More NHL news, reports, rumors

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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