Playing with the Salary Cap is Nothing New

This postseason there has been a lot of discussion about the Tampa Bay Lightning and their salary cap usage. While a lot of fans have found Tampa to be the NHL’s new villain, this cap loophole is something that has been going on for quite awhile and fans ire should go towards the league for avoiding closing the loophole sooner.

We’ve talked countless times on Two 4 Roughing this season that it’s been garbage that Nikita Kucherov skated for two months but never skated in a regular season game before returning to his prime playoff form this year. Hell it was known from day 1 that Tampa was going to be playing this game with Kucherov when it was announced he would be out until the postseason. The fact that he came back and was on the ice for as long as he was raises legitimate questions.

The one thing fans need to realize though is that Kucherov’s surgery was absolutely needed but the fact that he needed two months time on ice to get his “game” back was stretching the truth for sure. I could absolutely buy a month of rehab time but two months just seemed excessive at the time and watching Kucherov’s play now makes that seem a little less believable. The fact that once he stepped on the ice, it not only seemed like he didn’t miss a step but has been dominating adds more fuel to the fire.

One thing fans have to remember though is that this isn’t the first team to use the NHL’s loophole to remain a Cup contender. The Chicago Blackhawks won their third Cup in 2015 by using this same loophole. Stan Bowman easily was a master of the LTIR plays to circumvent the cap. The Pittsburgh Penguins used it to remain competitive and in the hunt for the Cup for years. Even this season, the Vegas Golden Knights have played games with the cap practically all season albeit their cap circumventing caused lineup shortages. One could say that the LTIR needs to be modified in the next CBA as this season has proved it is beyond ridiculous with the level of teams using it as a tool to stay cap compliant. Unfortunately and honestly fortunately, we won’t have another round of CBA negotiations until 2026.

Tampa isn’t the first team and they won’t be the last team unless the NHL decides to finally close this loophole. One thing is for sure sports are better when you have a team you clearly hate, the NFL with the Patriots, NBA with the Miami Heat’s Big Three, the Yankees are universally despised, and Tampa is now joining this group.

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