As could have reasonably been expected, the Tampa Bay Lightning have faced some criticism of their handling of the salary cap this season, especially as they race toward what could very likely be back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships. The Lightning employed the Long-Term Injured Reserve to keep forward Nikita Kucherov off the pay roll for the entire 2020-21 regular season, allowing them to re-sign other players and add at the trade deadline by using the entirety of his $9.5MM cap hit as added space. Then, when the postseason began and the salary cap was no longer a factor, the 2018-19 Hart Trophy winner was ready to return, looking fresh and looking no worse for wear. At best, the timing of it all was extremely lucky. At worst, it was salary cap circumvention.
Defending his team against these allegations, Tampa GM Julien BriseBois tells Sportsnet’s Josh Beneteau that the NHL did in fact investigate the club’s LTIR usage and found that they had not broken any rules. The league had issued a warning earlier this season, with an unusually high number of teams using the LTIR, that they would be monitoring those transactions and would investigate. This was the case with Kucherov, but nothing about the Bolts’ actual transactions raised any alarms. After all, the LTIR, for all intents and purposes, is a legal form of circumvention. If other clubs are upset with how it is being used, it is an area that will need to be addressed in the next CBA negotiation in 2026.
However, the vast majority of complaints were not how the LTIR itself is structured or was used by Tampa, but rather the suspicious timing of Kucherov’s rehab lasting through the entire regular season but not into any of the postseason. BriseBois noted that this too had to be proven to the league. “We had to be able to justify the surgery, the rehab time, (and) the return to play clearance,” he told Beneteau. “Sometimes the stars align for you,” he added, qualifying what others believed to be a designed manipulation of the LTIR system. If the NHL was convinced that the timing was just right, then other teams and fans alike should be as well. BriseBois is right though – the team certainly got lucky and that luck might just lead them to another title.
“These are not the salary cap violations you are looking for. Move along…move along…”
Ridiculous. The League Office and Department of Player Safety should be gutted from the top on down.
They are not going to find a team in the final 4 guilty of anything.
What’s there to investigate? Kucherov was hurt. He missed the regular season. Do people think Tampa was at an advantage having him miss the whole season…That’s basically saying they treated the year like spring training.
They treated the year like spring training. Defending champs often do. And they got to put together a better playoff roster because of it.
Unless you think the majority of hockey writers and fans are medical experts, everyone knew he’d be back for Game One of the playoffs back in October. And sure enough.
He practiced for two months, FFS.
What major moves did they make? Trading a 1st for David Savard should have been punishment enough.
With the div they were in in was pretty easy to be in the top 4, then magically playoff time and Kucherov is ready to go, but not ready with even 1 week or 1 game of the regular season? No that’s not suspicious at all!!
They were trying to move Tyler Johnson and couldn’t find any takers. They would have had to trade someone like Cirelli to begin the year in compliance had Kucherov not been moved to IR.
Instead, they got to keep all of them and add Savard.
It’s not Spygate or anything, but they are essentially using the league’s deference to team doctors to game the cap.
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Hahahahahaha! Yeah, okay! I love how LA has consequences for Richards and potentially Carter, if he retires, for contracts that where legal when they were signed and weren’t even signed by that team. However, Chicago and Tampa just keep writing their own rules essentially.
as a Hawks fan i do agree that its bs, Tampa is a lot more. Kane went down before the deadline and was a $6M cap hit, brought in Vermette and Timonen who both spent plenty of time as healthy scratches though Vermette came up big vs the Ducks and Lightning. Tampa on the other hand got to keep higher talent and avoided cap casualties which allowed them to keep Johnson, Killorn, Gourde, Palat, Sergachev Cirelli. had Kucherov not gone down they would’ve lost 3 of those guys. Tampa also announced like 5 games before the regular season ended that Stamkos and Kucherov WILL be ready for game 1. sounds like they were already good enough to play in the remaining games and should’ve been $18M over the cap with the addition of Savard. Kane was announced as a game time decision and wasn’t announced til right before game 1 vs Nashville. yeah it’s dumb either team was allowed to do so which is why they need to put at least some kind of cap restrictions for playoffs. no problem with calling up a guy of Johnsons level because he’s more of a depth piece now than a top 6 so his cap hit really doesn’t matter but how much over the regular season cap is absurd and understandable why Dougie Hamilton was upset in his post series interview
Yeah really ironic that the timing is game one of the playoffs.
Easy fix, player must play x% of regular season games to be eligible for post season play.
Or, just force teams to be cap compliant through the playoffs. You use LTIR during the season? Cool. But you need to be cap compliant during the playoffs.
Every player would be wavier eligible so they could be shuffled in and out of the line up without fear of losing that player to another team.
Arizona gets gutted draft picks for working guys out. Franchise set back years. Tampa gets an added 10M to their cap space so they can repeat as champs. NHL looks like a league run by crooks and/or amateurs.
It’s proven that Bettman wants certain teams to win – to help promote certain area’s for hockey.
Tampa doesn’t get fans unless team is winning, same as Florida.
He wants his favourite players to win. Crosby, Ovi, Mcdavid, Toronto, Mtl.
It just some are on teams that their management isn’t that great.
I agree on Tampa and any large population (ahem market) teams being favoured by Bettman.
He does not value star players otherwise there’d be a lot more calls made by refs to allow the stars to shine.
He also does not like Canada teams as they do not carry lucrative television contracts.
I don’t like the Lightning being that far over the cap, but they are just using a loophole in the CBA to accomplish cap compliancy. That’s not the Lightning’s fault, it is the CBA’s. The one thing I’d like to see change is to stop allowing teams who already significantly over the cap to trade for players to just put them on LTIR. The Lightning did that this season with Gaborik & Nilsson. By changing that rule, you force teams to make hard decisions about their roster if they want to make a trade and forces them to do a better job cap wise
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But when other teams used loopholes to sign legal contracts, the league retroactively punished them and are still threatening to do so.
Obviously it’s not just a coincidence that Kucherov’s rehab took exactly the length of the regular season. He practiced for two months and looked like he hadn’t missed a day in game 1. However, rules are rules. Lightning didn’t do anything wrong; just a smart team taking advantage of every opportunity. Can’t blame ‘em one bit.
I’d like to see the rules changed so that teams that are not cap compliant cannot make trades. If you want to make a trade then get your roster cap compliant first.
Don’t blame the team(s) for taking advantage of the way the system was set up, blame those who set up the system. The same brainiacs who just signed a new TV deal that turns them into 2nd class citizens once again behind the NBA and MLB.
Easy fix: the cap carries over into the postseason and no team can be over the cap for the duration of the playoffs. You can switch players in and out without fear of losing them (so basically every player would ever waver eligible), but you can’t be over the cap. That way teams can’t be millions of dollars over the cap and have it be legal.
My response to this is GO ISLANDERS!!!
The NHL management is a constant joke.
i’ll drink to that XD lets go Isles!!! sweep the bolts, 3 more W’s to go
I’ll settle for winning at home in 6 games just like the Penguins and Bruins.
It’s such an easy fix and should be changed for next season. if a player doesn’t play in 50%of his teams regular season games, he is not eligible for the post season roster. Bettman and Daly can’t even see things that are so close that they would hit them in the nose.
50% is way too high of a number
Thats dumb… just make the cap last into the postseason.
It was blantant but guaranteed there was money passed u see the table to “document” everything! It’s garbage the NHL allows no salary cap for playoffs. That in itself should be eliminated. And “practicing for 2 months” and not cleared to play is a joke too! He’s cleared to skate he’s cleared to play. Team feels he’s not ready then they scratch him but his cap hit counts then! BS upon more bs!