Boston Bruins

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

The Boston Bruins’ top Atlantic Division rival continues to strengthen itself for the long haul.

All-Star winger Nikita Kucherov has agreed to an eight-year contract extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning worth an average annual value of $9.5 million. Tampa first announced the new deal on Tuesday. The extension keeps Kucherov in the fold through the 2026-27 season.

The Lightning now have Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Tyler Johnson signed through at least 2023-24. With defensemen Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi, and Braydon Coburn (collectively $11.2 million against the cap) coming off the books after next season, Tampa can comfortably fit all their stars under the limit starting in 2019-20. They’ll have a defense to fill out, but with Hedman, McDonagh, and Mikhail Sergachev atop the depth chart, they’ll be in great shape with the meat of their roster moving forward.

Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning shoots on Tuukka Rask while Zdeno Chara chases. (Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning shoots on Tuukka Rask while Zdeno Chara chases. (Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

They’ll have to figure out a way to keep Brayden Point long-term, with Sergachev lined up to become a restricted free agent in 2020. Tampa is nonetheless proving that teams can keep several high-priced stars around long-term while safely staying under the cap.

Kucherov’s extension realistically takes Tampa out of the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes. But the organization has identified the core that it wants to lead the team as serious Stanley Cup contenders for the next several years. They’ll be in the Bruins’ way in the division and the playoffs every year for the foreseeable future; the goal for the B’s is to get to their level in terms of high-end talent.


What It Means For The Bruins


(L-R) Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

(L-R) Charlie McAvoy, Zdeno Chara (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Zdeno Chara played strong defense overall against Kucherov and Stamkos in the Bruins and Lightning’s second-round playoff series, but there’s no denying Kucherov’s scoring prowess. He’s coming off a 39-goal, 100-point campaign, and will be a tough assignment for the Bruins for long after the 41-year-old Chara calls it a career.

The question for the Bruins, now, is whether they’ll be able to identify more of their own young stars internally. Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk certainly appear to be on that trajectory, and should eventually get extensions of their own. Prospects like Anders Bjork, Ryan Donato, Jack Studnicka, and Urho Vaakanainen are showing promise.

But if the Bruins can’t depend on a few of these kids to emerge as game-changing talents on par with Tampa’s, they’ll have to find another way to improve the roster over the next 3-5 years. Whether it comes inside or outside the organization, help is going to be needed for the Bruins to legitimately compete with the team that just dispatched with them in five games in the playoffs.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.