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

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

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 04: Nikita Kucherov #86 of the Tampa Bay Lightning looks down the ice from the bench during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on December 4, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The Lightning defeated the Red Wings 6-5 in a shootout. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

NHLI via Getty Images

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

  • Expect the Blues to name Ryan O’Reilly as their next captain, according to reporters such as Jeremy Rutherford.
  • Heading into the 2020-21 NHL season, the Oilers likely weren’t expecting Oscar Klefbom to be healthy. Still, maybe there was some hope of a late recovery? GM Ken Holland ended any hope there, as the goal is for Klefbom to be ready for 2021-22.
  • Not all the injury news was bad. The Flyers believe Oskar Lindblom is “good to go,” while there’s some optimism about Nolan Patrick, via Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • Also at The Athletic (sub required): Pierre LeBrun reports that the UFA market is heating up again. From Mike Hoffman to Mikael Granlund, certain talks are gaining steam. Lingering RFAs such as Mathew Barzal may gain some steam, too. That all makes sense, being that there’s not much of a turnaround between these announcements and training camp time.
  • Remember the talk of advertisements on helmets? Hurricanes GM Don Waddell expects that to happen, but not with jerseys, as Chip Alexander reports.
  • Speaking of the Hurricanes, they announced that fans won’t attend games. At least for the start of the 2020-21 NHL season:

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