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Kucherov back skating, still on track for playoffs

Mark Blinch / National Hockey League / Getty

Tampa Bay Lightning superstar Nikita Kucherov resumed skating this week and is still progressing toward a return for the playoffs, general manager Julien BriseBois said Friday, according to The Athletic's Joe Smith.

Kucherov underwent hip surgery in December and was ruled out for the regular season.

BriseBois is treating Kucherov's postseason return like a major trade-deadline acquisition. It's unlikely the club will add anyone else due to financial restraints.

"We literally have zero cap space," BriseBois said.

Kucherov's injury allowed Tampa Bay to stash his $9.5-million cap hit on the long-term injured reserve, freeing up room to make some crucial offseason signings. The Bolts would be roughly $10 million over the $81.5 million cap if the 2018-19 MVP was healthy right now. There's no salary cap in the playoffs.

The Lightning aren't struggling without their star winger while posting an 18-5-2 record. Kucherov registered 85 points over 68 games last season, and then he led the playoffs in scoring with seven goals and 27 assists in 25 contests as Tampa captured the Stanley Cup.

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