If there’s an NHL team out there that didn’t really need to catch a break this season, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning.
But that’s what is going to happen with the news right winger and top scorer Nikita Kucherov will be undergoing hip surgery that will knock him out for the regular season. Suddenly the cap-strapped Lightning were able to sign a flurry of players including Mathieu Joseph, Erik Cernak, Alexander Volkov and Jan Rutta, and are expected to come to agreement with top RFA center Anthony Cirelli within the next few days.
They never had to trade or waive Tyler Johnson, never had to think about dealing captain Steve Stamkos, and essentially were able to keep together the entire defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning group once they put Kucherov and his nearly $10 million cap hit on LTIR. Our friends at PuckPedia lay out the LTIR scenarios for the Lightning, but it looks like they can sign Cirelli to a very reasonable deal if they opt to carry less than 23 players on their active night-to-night roster.
To summarize this again, with no roster moves, there’s $1.9M for Cirelli w/ 23 on Roster. Reducing the roster saves $700K (league min) to $1.075M (burying limit).
Space for Cirelli depends on how many & who is sent down. The max possible is $5.13M w/ 20 on Roster https://t.co/MiSN2YTTkS
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) December 24, 2020
It may end up being a challenge for the undermanned Bolts to get through a compacted 56-game schedule this season while thrust against the cap, but it’s better than tearing the team apart by trading Johnson, Stamkos or Ondrej Palat. It remains to be seen when/if Kucherov will be back for the playoffs, but consider that David Pastrnak is on a five-month timetable to return following hip surgery back in September.
People will say that Kucherov is one of Tampa’s best players, so it’s really no benefit to lose him for the entire regular season. But to this humble hockey writer, that’s really overstating and oversimplifying things by half.
it’s entirely possible Kucherov could miss the entire regular season where the Lightning are more than good enough to qualify for the playoffs without him. Then Tampa Bay gets him back fresh and recovered for the playoffs with a loaded roster under zero cap constraints.
That almost doesn’t seem fair to the rest of the NHL, does it?
At least it won’t be the Bruins problem unless they are good enough to get all the way to a potential conference final, or Stanley Cup Final, match-up against the Tampa Bay Lightning based on the postseason format for this unique 2021 NHL season.
Now on to the links:
*The Bruins will face the New Jersey Devils in a two-game series to open the 2021 NHL season, and should see newly signed goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood after he inked a three-year deal with the Devils (no pun intended). (NHL.com)
*Tough break for the Chicago Blackhawks and youngster Kirby Dach after he appeared to suffer a hand/wrist injury while playing in the World Junior tournament for Team Canada.
Video of Kirby Dach’s injury in Team Canada’s exhibition game vs. Russia. He went straight to locker room. Not great. #Blackhawks
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) December 24, 2020
*Could training camp in Arizona and a long road trip to start their season actually be a good thing for the San Jose Sharks? (San Jose Hockey Now)
*The Boston Bruins are heavily featured in a number of the top Stanley Cup Final scenarios unique to this season given the realignment due to COVID-19. It goes without saying that a Bruins/Canadiens or Bruins/Leafs Stanley Cup Final would be off the hook. (NBC Sports)
*There are tough questions and no easy answers when it comes to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and a new contract with the Edmonton Oilers. (Edmonton Journal)
*NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire says he thinks Zdeno Chara could “do a Ray Bourque” and sign with the Colorado Avalanche. (Boston Hockey Now)
*For something completely different: HBOMax is now streaming the old Wonder Woman TV series with Lynda Carter for those interested. (Variety)