NHL Rumors: Lightning lose Nikita Kucherov for the season, closing in on Anthony Cirelli

The Tampa Bay Lightning took a big hit today as they announced Nikita Kucherov will have hip surgery and be out for the regular season. Losing your top player, cap issues or not, is a big blow. There is the possibility he could return for the playoffs at some point, so it may not be a total loss.

Nikita Kucherov out for the season

“Unfortunately, Kucherov has a hip injury that will require surgery that means he will not be available to play this upcoming regular season,” Lightning GM, Julien BriseBois said this afternoon.

Tampa will place Kucherov on LTIR and the Lightning will gain his $9.5 million in cap space. This has allowed Tampa to resume signing players as they did yesterday with Jan Rutta and Erik Cernak.

Lightning and Anthony Cirelli close to a deal

anthony cirelli
Anthony Cirelli (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

Losing Kucherov will sting, but when one door closes another one opens. Tampa now has the ability to sign RFA, Anthony Cirelli. With the most recent talks being described as “active” and the 23 year-old center is expected to sign soon.

Another bit of good news is that Steven Stamkos, who had abdominal surgery this offseason, is expected to be ready for the start of the year.

Other things have also started to work out for Tampa. The cap relief should allow them to hold onto Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn for now. And while the team would rather have their best player, signing Cirelli and keeping key vets will help.