The NHL Must Address Loopholes in the Salary Cap

Vegas Golden Knights, Jack Eichel (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Vegas Golden Knights, Jack Eichel (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) /

The Vegas Golden Knights, as many teams did before them, are abusing the NHL’s LTIR conditions.

The NHL’s LTIR conditions have been under the microscope for the last five years now. Just recently, the Vegas Golden Knights have placed Mark Stone on LTIR while they activate Jack Eichel prior to the Golden Knight’s tilt vs the Colorado Avalanche. The Tampa Bay Lightning made the same moves as Nikita Kucherov was placed on LTIR before the playoffs last season, as did the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015 with Patrick Kane‘s injury, and both were activated off LTIR as the playoffs began.

LTIR is defined as “long term injured reserve” and, to put it simply, the injured player’s salary is not on the cap while they are labeled with LTIR. Now, as the playoffs begin, the salary cap is thrown out the window and all systems go. This is what the Tampa Bay Lightning did to add David Savard for defensive depth WHILE being strapped to the salary cap. When Kucherov returned, with the depth additions at the deadline, the Lightning were a well-documented 19 million over the cap.

And now the Vegas Golden Knights appear to be going down the same path.

As with many fans, they don’t care about this as their team DID stay within the set guidelines. When the Chicago Blackhawks won the Cup in 2015, I didn’t really care about the cap as, as the rulebook says, they didn’t break any rules.

Now, as this continued and Patrick Kane DID come back much earlier than anyone expected, it feels like teams are starting to abuse the rule. Nikita Kucherov got surgery suspiciously late and Mark Stone had lingering back issues for a while before he was placed on LTIR. Salary cap relief into the postseason seems to have gone from “good luck” to “loopholes”.

Are the Blackhawks in the right for their situation? Looking back, I don’t think they were, and neither were the Lightning AND now the Golden Knights. You can argue it either way, but, in the end, teams are abusing their relief in order to stack their roster. When an expensive star player goes down with an injury late into the season or gets surgery or rehab just four or so months before the playoffs, GMs take advantage of it immediately.

I would like to see the NHL revise their salary cap relief by not allowing teams to exceed the cap when the postseason begins. Place their guys as needed to maintain a competitive team WHILE staying under the cap. While it may seem unfair for some fans (mainly those who are up against the cap), it is one of the only fair options to the other teams contending for the Cup. Either raise the cap, or add stricter rules as teams are constantly abusing the lenient conditions.