For the second season in a row, Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov has been put on long-term injury reserve. With that, the Lightning gain $9.5m in salary cap, but it’s not as good as your might think. The loss of Kucherov hurts the team’s momentum going forward, and with Kucherov being a top five player in the league, it will hurt the teams success at least somewhat.
Last year during the playoffs, Nikita Kucherov was a huge part to the team’s success, and broke multiple records, one of which he’s tied with Wayne Gretzky. While Tampa Bay was able to survive last year without Kucherov, it was evident that losing him was very difficult, and it didn’t help when Steven Stamkos also went onto LTIR, along with Hedman getting injured but stayed playing throughout the rest of the season.
So what does all of this mean for Tampa’s success heading into the rest of the season? First off, it means that Tampa will probably not look as good as they did before, but that doesn’t mean they’ll become a non-playoff team. Tampa Bay usually struggles pretty early in the season, so it’s nothing to worry about, but the loss of Kucherov alleviates those fears, and it’ll look bad at first, but will quickly not look nearly as bad.
We’ll also see Julien BriseBois making some moves this season to either fill in the hole Kucherov left, or get some solid defensive players to fix the broken defense that Tampa Bay currently has. Last season, only one major move was made, which is the one that brought David Savard to the Lightning. That turned out to be a very helpful trade, as Savard would be a big piece in the Lightning’s 3rd ever Stanley Cup. If BriseBois doesn’t make any moves now, he most definitely will during the trade deadline, where teams will be looking to move players out to get draft picks.
With the Atlantic and Metropolitan becoming more difficult now that both the Detroit Red Wings and New Jersey Devils have proven to be tough opponents, it’s important that Tampa Bay finds a backup plan, and quick, as this season might just be the toughest season to get a spot in the playoffs. A very good team could easily miss, so the Lightning need to figure out a way to make the loss of Kucherov seem non-existent.
Most likely what will happen is that the Lightning pick up some depth forwards and defenseman and let Brayden Point prove his worth with Kucherov now gone, and most likely Stamkos on the first line with him. Nikita Kucherov will most likely be available again during playoff time, but right now it’s important that the Lightning figure out the best way to deal with another season without Kucherov.