The Tampa Bay Lightning salary cap has had some major scrutiny on how they processed the road to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Tampa Bay Lightning salary cap was $18 million over the salary cap threshold. There is nothing against the rules in how they got away with this and this has also happened before. What led to the Lightning going over and how did they use a loophole to their advantage?
How the Tampa Bay Lightning salary cap accumulated
The upper cap limit for the 2020-2021 NHL season was set at $81,500,000. The projected Tampa Bay Lightning salary cap hit was $98,840,470. That puts them at $17.3 million over the cap.
How did this happen?
First of all the Tampa Bay Lightning salary cap numbers are a bit misleading. Two players that they have were on LTIR or Long Term Injured Reserve. Those players were Marian Gaborik taking on a $4.75 million hit and Anders Nelsson taking on a $2.6 million salary cap hit. $7.475 million is through LTIR so technically they would only be $9.8 million over the cap.
After looking at those two LTIRs now let’s look at Nikita Kucherov. His contract is worth $9.5 million a season. He was also an LTIR. Julien BriseBois, the general manager of the Lightning, took complete advantage of the system in place. He and the team doctors told Kucherov to have his surgery before the season started and that way he can fully recover by game one of the playoffs.
Now the ingenious thing about this is that LTIRs don’t count against the Tampa Bay Lightning salary cap. During the season they were technically on the mark for the cap although by the rule there is no cap limit in the playoffs. There it is. The Tampa Bay Lightning cap is legally binding due to the fact there is no cap limit in the playoffs.
There is no way to change this. In fact, people might not have a gripe about this but Kucherov has gone completely insane in the playoffs. He scored 27 points in 18 games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning Cap wasn’t the Only One Inflated
The Tampa Bay Lightning led the season with a $98 million cap hit. The St. Louis Blues had just over $90 million in “salary cap dollars.” The New York Islanders which lost in the Semifinals to the Lightning had $86 million in “cap dollars”. There was more than the Lightning that we’re “so-called” cheating.
The Tampa Bay Lightning Cap Could be Payback
Something similar to this happened before. In 2015, the Chicago Blackhawks had a similar case with Patrick Kane. By game 61 Kane had 67 points a game but then had to be taken off the ice in a game against the Florida Panthers. He misses the rest of the season.
Patrick Kane was making $6.5 million that season and was at the end of his contract. He was sidelined for twelve weeks which marked the end of the regular season. With Kane becoming an LTIR the Blackhawks decided to make some trades since they were $6.5 million under.
Three days after the injury to Kane, the Blackhawks acquired Kimmo Timonen which was a $2 million hit. A few days after that they acquired Antoine Vermette which was a $3.75 million hit. Then finally they acquired Andrew Desjardins for $750,000. All three acquisitions were the exact amount of Patrick Kane’s cap hit.
When the season ended and the playoffs started Patrick Kane was ready to play again. It was totally legal due to not having a cap limit in the playoffs. To add to the effect, Kane scored 23 points in 23 playoff games.
Guess who the Blackhawks defeated in the finals that year? Of course, it was the Tampa Bay Lightning. It is awkward that a team that got screwed in the past by being victims of circumventing the cap would take this course of action. Well, how can you blame them? It has worked so far.
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