Welcome to the Stanley Cup Semifinals opening day!
The Tampa Bay Lightning’s cap maneuvering has been one of the main topics this season and the criticism of using LTIR cap advantage has been accompanying the team through the whole season. This topic has heated up after Dougie Hamilton’s remark during his exit interview, who left a comment that the Carolina Hurricanes lost to a team “$18 million over the cap”, which in all fairness was taken out of the context, as the Canes defenceman added that he “knocking the rules”. This quote however has been spread out to the media and even Nikita Kucherov himself was forced to comment this quote.
Yesterday, the Lightning’s general manager Julien BriseBois also addressed this situation during a pre-Semifinal round media availability, denying all accusations and saying that every Lightning’s move was approved by the NHL [NHL.com]
“When you place a player on long-term injury and get the salary cap exemption, you have to justify that to the NHL, and this year in particular the NHL investigated I believe all of the LTIR requests,” BriseBois said. “I know they investigated the Nikita Kucherov one, and we had to be able to justify the surgery, the rehab time, the return to play, clearance, to make sure everything was done according to the rules and according to the circumstances. Those are the cards we were dealt. That’s how we handled it. We had a player that was injured, needed surgery with about a five-month expected rehabilitation time. It just so happened this season, because of the extraordinary circumstances, the regular season was only lasting four months, so he was able to have surgery, miss the entire season, we got some cap relief during the season and he was able to come back a little sooner than expected.”
The Lightning initially anticipated that Kucherov will be able to return five months after his surgery, given the experience they had with Brayden Point, Yanni Gourde, Ryan Callahan and Ben Thomas, who underwent a similar surgeries in recent years. Luckily for the Lightning, Kucherov was able to start practicing already in March and was ready for the first game of the playoffs in May [NHL.com]
“Not only did (Kucherov) come back faster, it looks like he’s playing at the high level that he’s accustomed to over the year, which is obviously great news for us and part of the reason why we’ve been able to beat two really good teams in the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes and earn the opportunity to go up against the New York Islanders now here,” BriseBois said.
The added spiciness to this situation is the fact that Nikita Kucherov has been a difference maker for his team since his return. Currently the Russian forward leads the league in points with 18 of them in 11 games. Kucherov has also been very effective at power play, scoring 13 out of his 18 points this postseason with a man advantage. BriseBois admitted that he and the organization were very lucky with Kucherov’s return [NHL.com]
Nikita’s been able to come back and perform at a high level,” BriseBois said. “When all of the decisions were made that Nikita needed surgery and then we had to decide whether to place him on long-term exemption or not for the season, I didn’t know how things would unfold. Luckily for me and our organization, I don’t think they could have unfolded any better. But at the time when I was looking at all the possible scenarios and all the possible outcomes, none of them were as good as this one and there were a lot of ones that weren’t very good.”
Besides cap-related topics, BriseBois also discussed Victor Hedman’s and Andrei Vasilevskiy’s nominations for the NHL Awards and the upcoming series against the New York Islanders. The full video is available below:
Dom Luszczyszyn of the Athletic sees the Lightning as the mail favourite of the upcoming series, however the Islanders has already showed many times, that they’re feeling quite good as underdogs [The Athletic, paid content]
Anyone who pays any attention to hockey can look at these two rosters and correctly identify the better team. The same was true in each of the past two series for the Islanders. But the concept of “better team” just doesn’t matter when there isn’t a single NHL team that embodies the meaning of team more than the Islanders. On paper, they’re above average, but here they are anyway, playing in a second consecutive final four. They’re doing something right, a tried and true example of there being more to sports than numbers on a page. In terms of intangibles, there’s no doubt they’ll be hungry against the very team that eliminated them last summer.
Joe Smith and Shayna Goldman broke down Brayden Point’s performance this postseason. A 25-year old forward has proven his resumé as a clutch player in the playoffs, recording a three-game goal streak in latest three games, including a series clinching goal against the Hurricanes in Game 5 [The Athletic, paid content]
More importantly, he’s one of the most clutch players. Nobody has scored more playoff goals the past four seasons than Point (30) — not Nathan MacKinnon, not Alex Ovechkin, not David Pastrnak. His .55 goals per game for his career in the postseason at age 25 trails mostly Hall of Famers like Wayne Gretzky, Mike Bossy and Jari Kurri.
3:00 PM ET: NBC, CBC, TVAS, SN