Next week holds in store an NHL general managers’ meeting in Manalapan, Florida, and Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli reports that the agenda may include a discussion around altering the long-term injured reserve “loophole” used by teams to build legal, but non-salary-cap-compliant rosters for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As it stands, teams are allowed to gain cap relief from players on injured reserve for the end of the regular season before the salary cap disappears for the playoffs, then bringing those players back once healthy for playoff runs. It theoretically allows teams to exceed the hard cap by several millions of dollars during the playoffs due to the salary cap not being in effect at the end of the regular season. Seravalli says at least one general manager has requested that this be included on the meeting’s agenda, with that GM believing “strongly that wasn’t the intended spirit of the CBA when it was written.” It’s a rule that’s been taken advantage of by multiple Stanley Cup-winning teams in the past, including the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2021 with Nikita Kucherov and the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015 with Patrick Kane.
The anonymous general manager cited in the article doesn’t think a complex solution is required to fix this inequity, however. While they don’t advocate for overall financial roster limits, they put forth a proposal that the 20-man roster on the ice for each team during a playoff game can’t exceed the salary cap. This would provide a boost to essentially all playoff teams, considering that during the regular season, any healthy scratches or players on regular injured reserve count against the salary cap as well. It gives teams flexibility, allowing them to make roster decisions freely during the playoffs among healthy players within the constraint of a combined $81.5MM cap hit for the on-ice lineup.
However, as Seravalli notes, any modification to this rule requires negotiation with the NHLPA, as it constitutes a “material change” to the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
While no surefire playoff team this season is taking advantage of this loophole in earnest, it was widely assumed the Vegas Golden Knights’ playoff lineup would benefit from this ability due to captain Mark Stone’s long-term back injury that’s expected to keep him out through the regular season. Now, with additional injuries continuing to pile up for the Knights, it’s feasible the team misses the playoffs entirely.