The cap circumvention claims against the Vegas Golden Knights have reached an elevated level. Fans, media, and now at least one NHL team feel the Golden Knights circumvented the salary cap, according to Elliotte Friedman on “32 Thoughts: The Podcast.”
Friedman stated, “The NHL went hard at Vegas this time, in terms of investigating them and asking for the medical reports on Vegas.”
Mark Stone did not finish the Jan. 12 game vs. the Florida Panthers. At the time, it did not seem like a long-term concern. Stone started to rehab the following day, but a setback led to his second back surgery in less than a year. Stone was able to rehab, and the Golden Knights went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Friedman would later say, “This is Mark Stone’s reality. He’s battling a legitimate injury. The NHL considers it a very legitimate injury. During the season there were teams that complained, and the team backed them (Vegas).”
That’s pretty heavy stuff there. We can conclude that multiple teams complained about the Golden Knights circumventing the salary cap and that the NHL conducted an investigation. We can also conclude that the Golden Knights were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Per Friedman, the Golden Knights do not believe Stone’s previous injuries will be a reoccurring issue. The hope is Stone can continue playing hockey with a pain-free back.
By now, it has been proven that Stone has a bad back. He has needed multiple surgeries in less than a one-year span. We now know that there are medical records that the NHL investigated as well.
The biggest issue with Stone and the Golden Knights would seem to be how he mysteriously came back for Game 1 of the playoffs after being out three months. Why didn’t Stone return prior to the playoffs? Did his injury timeline call for him to wait until sometime in the playoffs? Or did Stone need a few extra days? The Golden Knights did not have the cap space available to activate Stone during the regular season due to acquiring Teddy Bluegar, Ivan Barbashev, and Jonathan Quick. The fans, media, and at least one NHL team did not want to see a repeat of what the Tampa Bay Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks did.
Nikita Kucherov missed the entire 2020-21 season due to injury. The Lightning had a roster that exceeded the salary cap by nearly $18 million. Kucherov returned for the playoffs and the Lightning went on to win the Stanley Cup. Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks suffered an injury down the stretch in the 2015 season, which allowed the Blackhawks to add Kimmo Timonen and Antoine Vermette. Kane returned to the Blackhawks early in the playoffs and they went on to win the Stanley Cup.
Similar to Stone’s situation, Kucherov and Kane hitting LTIR was not looked upon highly once the playoffs started.
“We had a great season. We lost to a team that’s $18 million over the cap, or whatever they are, unbelievable goalie and all that stuff. We played them pretty close.” Dougie Hamilton said after the Carolina Hurricanes lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Friedman did not name the team or teams that called for the Golden Knights to be investigated. The Edmonton Oilers targeted Stone’s back more than any of the teams the Golden Knights faced in the playoffs. Perhaps the Oilers wanted answers from the NHL. As far as the second team goes, perhaps it could have been the Winnipeg Jets, as they faced the Golden Knights first after Stone’s return.