According to a report from NHL insider, the Tampa Bay Lightning's salary cap issues may be no issue at all. The Lightning currently have $0 in cap space and still have to re-sign restricted free agents Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak. The team already tried dumping forward Tyler Johnson and his $5 million annual salary on waivers, but there were no takers. It's believed that Alex Killorn and his $4.45 million salary have been shopped on the trade market as well with no takers to date.
But, again, according to Friedman the Lightning's cap problems are no longer problems... but they do come at a major cost: Nikita Kucherov.
According to Friedman, Kucherov has an injury that may keep him out of the team's lineup long-term. If that's the case, the Lightning can place him on Long-Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) and receive full relief from his $9.5 million annual salary.
Check it out:
Now, if you find yourself thinking, "Well... that's awfully convenient," you're not alone. Several fans have accused the Lightning of using Kucherov's injury as an easy way out of the salary cap violation that they were sure to commit with him on the roster.
Check out some of these reactions:
Now... let's think about this for a moment...
Nikita Kucherov is one of the best players in the world. In fact, he won a Hart Trophy as the league's MVP just over a year ago. Don't you think the Lightning would prefer to play with this guy in their lineup? If they were going to "fake" an injury to one of their highly paid players, don't you think it would be... oh... I don't know... maybe someone like their captain who makes $8.5 million but can't seem to stay healthy for more than a few months at a time?
The fact is that if the Lightning wanted to construct some sort of conspiracy to get out from under the NHL's salary cap restrictions, they'd likely place Steven Stamkos and his $8.5 million on LTIR. Makes a lot more sense, right? Stamkos has a long, long, loooooong injury history and there's not a person in the world who look suspiciously on a Stamkos injury report.