- Tampa Bay Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov will miss the entire 2021 regular season due to a hip injury
- The Lightning’s Stanley Cup odds are sitting at +950
- Read below to see how Kucherov’s injury impacts Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup chances
The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without star forward Nikita Kucherov for the entirety of the 2021 regular season after it was announced Wednesday that the superstar will require surgery on his hip. The 27-year-old led the NHL in scoring during the Bolts’ 2020 Stanley Cup run.
The Lightning are currently sitting at +950 in the Stanley Cup odds. Tampa Bay is looking to become the first NHL team to win back-to-back Stanley Cups since the Pittsburgh Penguins accomplished the feat in 2016-2017.
Is Kucherov’s injury reason to fade the Lightning, or is there value backing this talented squad at a longshot price?
2021 Stanley Cup Odds
|Vegas Golden Knights||+800|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||+950|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||+1500|
|St. Louis Blues||+1800|
Odds taken Dec. 23 at FanDuel
Losing Kucherov Is A Major Blow
There’s no way around it. Losing Kucherov for an entire season is a massive blow to a Lightning team that originally seemed like a solid bet to repeat as Cup champs. Over the last four years, Edmonton Oilers’ phenom Connor McDavid is the only player in the league that has racked up more points than Kucherov.
Kucherov played a massive role in the Bolts’ 2020 Cup run, leading the postseason in scoring with seven goals and 34 points in 27 contests. He has developed great chemistry with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat on the top line and is a key reason why the Lightning have had one of the league’s top power plays in recent years.
Losing Kucherov is massive, but there’s still a reason oddsmakers didn’t immediately drop Tampa’s Cup odds. They still have one of the league’s top goalies in Andrei Vasilevskiy and one of the game’s top blueliners in Victor Hedman. They’re also getting back a key weapon on offense.
Return of Stamkos Helps Soften Loss
While Lightning GM Julien BriseBois announced that Kucherov will be out for the year, he also revealed that he expects captain Steven Stamkos to be ready to start the season. The Lightning sniper had been recovering from a lower abdominal core muscle injury that he suffered prior to the NHL’s 2020 return to play.
GM Julien BriseBois on Nikita Kucherov during today’s availability: “Unfortunately, [he] has a hip injury that will require surgery…. that means he will not be available to play this upcoming regular season.”
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) December 23, 2020
The Lightning won the Stanley Cup without Stamkos, so there’s still great potential for this team if the 30-year-old can return to form. In his last full season in 2018-19, Stamkos had an impressive 45 goals and 98 points. Aside from the Kucherov loss and Stamkos addition, this is basically the same Tampa powerhouse that won it all last year.
It’s also important to note that Tampa won’t be playing in it’s usual Atlantic division in 2021. Temporary divisional realignment means Tampa will be playing in a Central Division with Carolina, Dallas, Nashville, Columbus, Florida, Chicago, and Detroit.
While the Canes pose a great threat to the Bolts, there’s no reason to believe Tampa won’t make the postseason for a fourth straight year.
Verdict on Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup Odds
Kucherov has become one of the best players in the NHL over the past several years, but there’s still plenty of weapons on the Bolts. Whether or not Tampa Bay is an elite team again will likely depend on Stamkos returning to form. It might be best to observe the team with him back in the fold before placing a wager.
The 400th goal of Steven Stamkos’ (@RealStamkos91) illustrious career. ?? pic.twitter.com/vxsTEO5uQX
— NHL (@NHL) November 17, 2019
Kucherov could make a return for the playoffs, which means this news really has more of an impact on the division race. Don’t expect any big change in the Bolts’ Cup odds, but their odds to win the Central could lengthen. Carolina could be worth a look at +350 right now considering they’re a team that’s been on the rise for a couple of years now.