The NHLs long-term injured reserve (LTIR) situation has had fans quite frustrated. Last season, the controversy surrounded the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nikita Kucherov, as they kept him out all season long, only to activate him in the playoffs once the salary cap no longer matters. As everyone knows, they went on to win a Stanley Cup, which angered plenty of fans even more.
The hope from many was that the NHL would step in and keep the salary cap in place for the postseason in order to avoid this exact situation moving forward, but that hasn’t been the case. As a result, there is another team many believe is exploiting the situation in the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Golden Knights have been tightly navigating through the league’s maximum salary cap all season long, thanks in large part to the LTIR. The most recent example came on Tuesday night, as they activated Mark Stone and his $9.5 million cap hit, but were only able to do so by placing three players in Laurent Brossoit, William Carrier, and Nolan Patrick on LTIR. Many have taken notice of their cap situation and all of the shuffling that has taken place on their roster, including Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter.
Sutter Throws Shade at Golden Knights
As it turns out, Stone and the Golden Knights are set to face off the Flames on Thursday night at the Saddledome. Due to the matchup, Sutter was asked on Wednesday afternoon about the Golden Knights, who have been red hot as of late as they attempt to get back into a playoff position. The veteran head coach began by complimenting the opposition, as he is known to do, but made sure to throw in a little shade at the end.
“When they have the full squad, they’re the favourites to win the Stanley Cup,” Sutter said. “Other than the team that has the Stanley Cup, they’re the favourites. They have a $100-million payroll, so they have to figure out how to keep 20 out.”
What Sutter is alluding to at the end of his quote is the fact that the Golden Knights have close to $100 million worth of contracts on their books right now. However, $12.32 million of that is on LTIR right now, which has them sitting right at the maximum $81.5 million cap. Technically, what they are doing is within league rules, but it does seem to be an unfair advantage, and it appears as though Sutter feels that way as well.
Golden Knights a Serious Contender
As mentioned, Sutter has been known to boast up opposing teams, something many believe is done out of strategy. Regardless of what his intentions may be, he isn’t wrong about the credit he gave to the Golden Knights.
Heading into the 2021-22 campaign, they along with the Colorado Avalanche were viewed as the top two teams in the Western Conference. Due to being decimated by injuries all season long, however, they currently sit on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, though not by much.
Thanks to some solid play as of late, they sit just three points shy of the Dallas Stars for the final wild-card position in the Western Conference, as well as just three points behind the Los Angeles Kings for third in the Pacific Division. They are beginning to put fear into plenty of fanbases, as they would not be an ideal team to meet up against in the first round given just how much talent is on their roster.
With the Flames running away with first place in the Pacific, they are likely to play the first of the two wild card times in the West. As of now, that would be the Nashville Predators. However, the Golden Knights trail them by just four points, meaning it is possible they sneak into that spot. If that were to happen, the Flames are still certainly capable of winning that series, but you can bet that many, including Sutter himself, would have plenty more to say regarding the league’s salary cap rules if that indeed were to happen.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.