Lightning Forward Kucherov Out for Regular Season

Nikita Kucherov Tampa Bay Lightning

  • Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov is out for the 2020-21 regular season with a hip injury
  • Kucherov is coming off another big season and has been the second-best point producer in recent seasons
  • Injury hurts Lightning futures value, although a return for the playoffs is possible

As the NHL teams digest the 2020-21 regular-season schedule that was released on Wednesday afternoon, the defending Stanley Cup champions announced they will be without a key contributor for the 2020-21 regular season.

Kucherov Out for 2020-21 Regular Season

In his media availability in Wednesday, Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois announced that superstar forward Nikita Kucherov has a hip injury that will require surgery, thus ending his 2020-21 regular season before it began.

“Unfortunately, [he] has a hip injury that will require surgery… that means he will not be available to play this upcoming regular season,” he said.

“No one loves playing hockey more than Nikita Kucherov,” BriseBois continued. “It pains him to miss the regular season and he’ll work as hard as he can to get back as soon as possible. We want to get back into the playoffs and give [him] another chance.”

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported on Monday that he was hearing Kucherov was battling an injury that may keep him out a while. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun added that Kucherov had an injection in his hip last week and the plan was to wait and see how he reacted to the shot.

This is certainly not how the Lightning wanted to solve their salary cap issues. Before confirmation on the season-ending injury, the Lighting were in excess of $6M over the salary cap with restricted free agent Anthony Cirelli still in need of a new deal.

Now, Kucherov’s $9.5M cap hit will be Long-Term Injured Reserve bound, providing the team with the cap flexibility to become compliant and under the $81.5M ceiling by opening night on Jan. 13.

One of the Best

Simply put, Kucherov is one of the very best players in the NHL and his loss cannot be overstated.

Not only has the Russian led the Lightning in scoring in each of the last five seasons, but he’s been among the best in the league of late as well. Over the last six seasons, Kucherov’s 529 points is tied with the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane for the most in the NHL in that span while only Connor McDavid (421) has more points than Kucherov’s 398 over the last four seasons.

After ranking seventh in the league last season with 85 points, Kucherov tallied 34 points across 25 playoff games in helping the Lightning to their second Stanley Cup victory in franchise history.

Kucherov led the NHL with 128 points in the 2018-19 season, taking home both the Art Ross Trophy and Hart Trophy as leave MVP that season. Those 128 points are the most the league has seen in a single season since the 1995-96 campaign when Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr recorded 161 and 149 points, respectively, for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Needless to say, Kucherov’s absence cannot be taken lightly despite the talent that remains on the Tampa Bay roster.

Value Nicked, But Only Slightly

Even with the Kucherov injury, BetOnline has the Lightning ranked second with +750 odds to win the 2021 Stanley Cup. They’re favored to win the new-look Central Division with +115 odds in that department.

The long-term injury to Kucherov hurts those odds’ value, but there’s reason to believe it’s not by much.

For one, the Central Division appears to be the weakest of the four realigned divisions for the 2020-21 season. After Tampa Bay, it’s the Carolina Hurricanes (+400), Dallas Stars (+500), Nashville Predators (+650), Columbus Blue Jackets (+750), Florida Panthers (+800), Chicago Blackhawks (+1200) and Detroit Red Wings (+2500).

The Stars have injury problems of their own with Tyler Seguin and Ben Bishop out long-term while the Predators and Panthers have had unimpressive offseasons. Add in the Blackhawks and Red Wings in rebuilds and it appears the Hurricanes and Blue Jackets stand to benefit the most moving forward.

While news has been scarce regarding the health of fellow superstar Steven Stamkos after appearing briefly in just one postseason game in 2020, the Lightning sport elite depth both among their forward group and defense corps. Additionally, Andrei Vasilevskiy remains one of the game’s elite netminders and a serious Vezina Trophy threat.

The Lightning were set to steamroll the remainder of the Central, and while the Kucherov injury is a setback, it would still be a surprise to see anyone else win that group other than Tampa Bay.

With Kucherov possibly returning in the postseason, there’s a real chance the Lightning’s 2021 Stanley Cup odds will not be affected by today’s unfortunate news.

As great of a player as Kucherov is, the Lightning’s 2021 futures still contain value, especially in the weak Central Division.

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