Don’t expect the Oilers to pull a Kucherov with Evander Kane on Long-Term Injury Reserve

Spread the love

Don’t expect the Oilers to pull a Kucherov with Evander Kane on Long-Term Injury Reserve

Back in the NHL bubble playoffs in the summer of 2020, Nikita Kucherov clocked 45:59 in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s five-way overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Game 1 of their first-round series.

After the game, it was revealed that Kucherov had sprained his groin. The 2019 Hart Trophy winner played through injury and scored a league-leading 34 points in 25 playoff games, helping the Lightning win their first Stanley Cup since 2004.

A few months later, Lightning announced that Kucherov would undergo hip surgery that would cause him to miss the entirety of the pandemic-shortened 2021 season. While Kucherov’s absence was a huge loss for the Lightning, placing him on Long-Term Injury Reserve allowed the team to meet the salary cap for the season without having to part with any other key players.

The Kucherov-less Lightning went 36-17-3 and finished third in the Central Division. As they began their first-round playoff series against the Florida Panthers, Kucherov suited up for the team in Game 1. Kucherov showed no signs of rust as he again led the playoffs in scoring with 32 points in 23 games as the Lightning won. his second consecutive Stanley Cup.

There was outrage that the Lightning simply allowed Kucherov to sit out for the latter part of the season instead of bringing him back when he was ready so they could stay under the upper limit until the salary cap became irrelevant in the playoffs. Tampa used the LTIR to ultimately rack up a salary cap of $98,840,470 over the course of the season, well above the $81.5 million upper limit that had been set.

General manager Julien BriseBois defended the team’s handling of Kucherov, stating that “sometimes the stars just align for you.”
“We had a player who was injured, he needed surgery with an expected rehabilitation time of about five months. It just happened with this season, because of the extraordinary circumstances, the regular season only lasted four months,” BriseBois said at a news conference following the team’s Stanley Cup victory. “So he was able to have surgery, miss the entire season, we were able to get some salary-cap relief during the season and he was able to come back a little bit sooner than expected.”

Was this an actual circumvention of the cap? Was it just good luck? It doesn’t really matter, since nothing came of the situation and teams can still use the LTIR to help them navigate tough salary-cap situations.

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Long-term injured reserve is a hot topic in Edmonton right now after Evander Kane suffered a horrific wrist injury in the Oilers’ win over the Lightning earlier this week. Kane will be out for three to four months after wrist surgery and it is suggested the team should use the LTIR bonus cushion to acquire an impact player.

Kane has a salary cap of $5.125 million, so going to the LTIR would give the Oilers enough room to acquire a much-needed defender like Jakob Chychrun, who pays $4.6 million a year, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Just ask the Golden Knights of Las Vegas.

Vegas pulled the trigger on a big trade last November, sending Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs and draft picks to the Buffalo Sabers for Jack Eichel, their disgruntled captain who had requested a trade during the offseason.

Pressed against the salary cap ceiling, the Golden Knights had a lot of work to do to figure out how to fit Eichel and his $10.5 million salary below the upper limit. Eichel had neck surgery shortly after the trade was announced and the Golden Knights placed him on the LTIR so they would have some time to sort out the finances. The expectation was that Vegas would get rid of some contracts before the trade deadline or they would dump Tampa and suddenly be fully healthy once the playoffs began.

What ended up happening is that the Golden Knights played a game of musical chairs in which one player came out of the LTIR and another player went into the LTIR in his place to open up the cap space needed for the team to stay below the ceiling. Vegas never froze their ideal roster in 2021-22 and ended up missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Kane is expected to be out for three or four months, which means he’ll be back sometime between mid-February and mid-March, well before the start of the playoffs in mid-April. If the Oilers agreed to another significant contract while Kane is in the LTIR, they would have to find a way to get rid of the same amount of money before he returns to play, otherwise they would be over the upper limit.

Another thing worth noting is that the league is cracking down more on LTIR-related shenanigans now since the outcry over what Tampa did in 2021. If Kane’s diagnosis is three to four months out and there’s a precedent for that specific recovery time, attempting to delay his return a month or two so that he only returns to the playoffs could result in the Oilers being penalized by the league. Kane is also a competitive person and probably wouldn’t respond well to being asked to sit at home for another month while his team plays down the stretch.

Having Kane on the LTIR will allow the Oilers the flexibility to operate with a full 23-man roster, something they were unable to do during the first month of the season due to their salary-cap commitments. Using the LTIR bonus cushion to add an impact player at this point will only create challenges down the road for the team to navigate, so don’t expect a big trade to be the answer to Kane’s injury.

#Dont #expect #Oilers #pull #Kucherov #Evander #Kane #LongTerm #Injury #Reserve

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *