Lightning a preferred destination for free agent Zaripov

As the offseason comes to a close, the Tampa Bay Lightning could be making one final signing in former KHL forward Danis Zaripov.

The Magnitogorsk Metallurg winger is now considered an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with an NHL team of his choosing following a two-year suspension from the KHL. Zaripov was exiled in July after he tested positive for pseudoephedrine, which is not included on the NHL's banned substances list.

On Monday, Zaripov was deemed eligible to sign in the NHL, and the Lightning are among suitors in which he is most interested in joining, his agent Dan Millstein told Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times.

Millstein stressed that while Zaripov would like to sign with a top team, he will continue to consider his options. There is no immediate timeline for a decision.

The 36-year-old has spent the past nine seasons in the KHL and last played in North America in 1998-99 as a junior with the WHL's Swift Current Broncos.

Zaripov appeared in 56 games with Magnitogorsk last season, finishing fourth in team scoring with 16 goals and 29 assists. He is a four-time winner of the Gagarin Cup, awarded to the KHL playoff champion, last hoisting it in 2016.

As Smith notes, Zaripov could easily acclimate to the Lightning, as he shares the same agent with Lightning forwards and fellow Russians Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov.

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