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Nikita Kucherov happy to be back in Tampa Bay

Forward Nikita Kucherov says it's nice and he's happy to be back.

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

The gang's all here; now it's time to get the 2016-17 season under way.

Tuesday, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced the remaining piece of the Bolts' puzzle, restricted free agent forward Nikita Kucherov, re-signed with the team, inking a three-year deal worth an average of 4.766 million per season.

Kucherov was the last of the Bolts' restricted free agents, meaning everybody is back for another run at the Stanley Cup.

"It's nice to be here," said Kucherov, who spent much of the last two days traveling from Russia to Tampa. "I'm happy."

Kucherov was Tampa Bay's leading scorer during the 2015-16 regular season, posting 66 points. He finished second on the Lightning for goals (30, six fewer than Steven Stamkos) and assists (36, one fewer than Victor Hedman).

The Russian winger elevated his game in the playoffs, leading the Lightning for goals (11), points (19) plus-minus (+13) and power-play goals (3). He finished second in the NHL for postseason goals.

Kucherov said he focused on getting stronger during the offseason. He represented Team Russia at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, where he tied for the team lead for goals (2) and points (3).

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm5: Kucherov tallies two goals in Game 5"Playing against the best players, you learn from them, little things you can bring to your game," Kucherov said of his time at the WCH. "I think it was just a great experience. It was awesome playing against those players."

Kucherov said he enters 2016-17 in mid-season form coming off the WCH.
"I've never played that kind of tournament before a season, and I've never been in this kind of situation," Kucherov said. "I don't know what to expect, but I think it's going to help me be, it (doesn't) take a little while to get into the season. This year, it's going to maybe a little quicker. But, I think it was great to have that tournament before the season."

The Lightning open the season October 13 versus the Detroit Red Wings at AMALIE Arena.

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