In the final year of his three-year bridge contract he signed on October 11, 2016, Nikita Kucherov remains one of the NHL's best bargains with an average annual value of $4,766,667.
After posting a 65-point and 66-point seasons in his sophomore and third year in the NHL, general manager Steve Yzerman used his leverage and signed the 23-year-old RFA on the eve of the NHL season.
Although the NHL's salary cap was slightly $6.5 million less than it is now at $79.5 million, the production the left winger put up then is somewhat similar to Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander, who remains unsigned with the club after back-to-back 61-point seasons.
Speaking with Joe Smith of The Athletic, Kucherov to full well what Nylander is going through and supports the 22-year-olds decision to hold out.
“I would have done the same thing,” Kucherov told Smith.
"Everybody has their opinion on him, but as soon as he gets to play, he’s going to prove to everyone — they’ll just be talking about hockey. If he thinks he’s right. Good for him."
When Kucherov signed his bridge contract, the Lightning had limited cash left after lengthy long-term deals to franchise cornerstones Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos.
If Nylander and his agent eventually come down from their demands, then betting on himself by signing a bridge with a longer-term contract in mind down the right might just work for both sides.
"You go around the league and look at the contracts. It’s not just for him. He’s an unbelievable player. I’m sure he’s going to get paid a lot.”
This past summer, Kucherov inked an eight-year, $76,000,000 extension after notching 85 and 100-point seasons that carries a cap hit of $9.5 million.
Nylander must be signed by December 1st in order to play again this season, otherwise, he could become the first player since Mike Peca to miss an entire season (2000/01) over a contract dispute.