The Tampa Bay Lightning have some impressive cap thumping credentials, but how did they manage to go over the top?
First, a bit of background.
The NHL’s cap is $81.5 million per season, with an additional $10 million in escrow to be paid out to injured players. The NHL’s top players, including Alex Ovechkin and Nikita Kucherov, each take home about $4 million in salaries annually.
That leaves a lot of cash to play with for the rest of the squad.
To make the most of it, Lightning GM Julien BriseBois has resorted to some fancy footwork and a few smart moves.
The most obvious move was to get the best deal on some of their core veterans, including center Nikita Kucherov and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. The team also made the wise move of adding a young star in Mathieu Joseph to complement his more established teammates.
Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Over the Salary Cap?
Despite winning two Super Bowl titles, the Buccaneers have struggled to achieve success outside of those two big wins. They were a perennial losing team for most of their first two decades and suffered 26 consecutive losses in their inaugural season.
But after the Bucs made aggressive moves last offseason to bring back all 22 starters from Super Bowl 55, they were able to expand their cap space and sign several veterans at bargain prices this spring. They added safety Logan Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Leonard Fournette among others.
With Brady announcing his retirement, Tampa Bay has the opportunity to focus on re-signing some of their other free agents and young players who are eligible for a second contract next March. That will require the Bucs to navigate an increasingly complicated salary cap situation.
In the coming months, we’ll take a look at how the team might approach that task. Here are a few of the key decisions it will need to make.
How Did Tampa Circumvent the Cap?
During the 2021 NHL season, Tampa Bay used a technique called long-term injured reserve (LTIR) to circumvent the salary cap. They left their top player Nikita Kucherov on LTIR for the entire regular season and activated him just in time for the playoffs.
When I first heard about the Lightning doing this, I was immediately suspicious. They’d been tight against the cap all year, but had Kucherov slated to miss the entire season with hip surgery.
That was a huge hole in their roster, so I knew they would need to find other players to replace him. By leaving him on LTIR and activating him so late in the year, the team saved $9.5 million on his salary, which they could use to sign other players.
The day-to-day fluctuation of rosters is the biggest issue when teams attempt to carry their salary cap over into the playoffs. That’s why I believe the NHL needs to implement some sort of daily salary cap in the postseason like it does in the regular season.
How Much Cap Space Does Tampa Have?
In order to compete in the NFL, teams must be under the salary cap at the start of every league year. The amount of cap space a team has depends on the current roster and the player contracts.
Tampa Bay is in the middle of the pack among teams with cap space. The Bucs currently have over $3 million in cap room, but they still have a ways to go.
One of the biggest challenges Tampa faces is how to get under the cap while maintaining a quality nucleus for 2023 and beyond. The Bucs will need to find some restructures or extensions for free agents and try to fill the voids left by unsigned players.
To do this, the Bucs must rely on max restructures and void years that are already on their contracts to help them shift some of the cap burden to future seasons. There are a few prime candidates for this exercise, including Shaq Barrett ($9,813,750), Chris Godwin ($14,190,000), Vita Vea ($8,565,000), and Ryan Jensen.
The Bucs could save a total of $52,531,250 by using this strategy. They would also need to cut a few of their younger players.
Is Tampa Bay Over the Salary Cap 2022?
A salary cap is the maximum amount of money a team can spend on players in a given year. This number is set by the NFL and it is updated every day as teams sign free agents, cut existing players or restructure contracts.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a very difficult salary cap situation for 2022, according to Spotrac. They are projected to be $55 million over the cap without re-signing any of their pending free agents.
Among the pending free agents are Tom Brady, Lavonte David, Jamel Dean, Mike Edwards and Sean Murphy-Bunting. The bulk of this overage is due to a $35 million dead cap hit from previous restructures on Brady’s contract.
But that cap hit will be spread out across two seasons with Brady’s retirement, which should allow the team to process it more easily than if it all counted against their 2023 salary cap.
This move should put the Bucs in much better financial shape than if they had pushed all that money into 2023, and it will also allow them to save about $11 million in cap space this season. This is a significant savings, and it will allow them to keep some unrestricted free agents as well as add a few moderate newcomers.
How Much Will Tom Brady Make at Tampa Bay?
Tom Brady is one of the most successful football players of all time. He has won ten Super Bowls and made over $235.2 million in his 20-year career. He is also a well-known businessman who has made several endorsement deals over the years and has invested in various businesses.
As of March 2020, Tom Brady’s net worth is around $250 million. This amount is comprised of his earnings from his NFL careers as well as his net worth from endorsement deals and business ventures.
In the year of 2020, Tom Brady signed a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The deal includes $15 million in base salary and $10 million in roster bonuses. Both roster bonuses are virtually guaranteed at signing and will become fully guaranteed three days after the contract’s date of contact.
The decision to come back for a 23rd season has reportedly led to optimism in Tampa that Brady might actually play another year in the league. However, his 13-year marriage to Gisele Bundchen is no longer intact and he may be battling depression.
How are the Lightning $18 Million Over the Cap?
The Lightning have won two Stanley Cups in a row and their salary cap strategy has been the subject of a lot of scrutiny. Some fans and GMs believe the team used a loophole to manipulate the NHL’s salary cap system, but it was entirely legal.
The Tampa Bay Lightning placed Nikita Kucherov on long-term injured reserve during the regular season so his $9.5 million annual salary wouldn’t count against their cap. It also allowed them to keep him on the team during the playoffs without incurring any penalties or sacrificing other key players.
In fact, a number of teams have used similar maneuverings to circumvent the salary cap during the 2021 season. The Athletic reports eight other teams have gone at least $4 million over the cap in this way.
Some GMs have even accused the Lightning of hiding healthy players on LTIR, but it’s not illegal. That’s because the rules say a player can be placed on LTIR as long as they’re expected to play at least 24 games before returning to the NHL.
What is the NHL Salary Cap Loophole?
The NHL Salary Cap Loophole is a loophole that allows teams to circumvent the salary cap by using a rule called LTIR. The rule allows teams to put players on LTIR for the rest of the season, then activate them once they’re healthy for playoff runs.
During the regular season, a team’s LTIR pool is $4.8 million. When a player comes off LTIR and is placed on the active roster, that pool jumps to $12.4 million.
However, the NHL hasn’t really been too strict about enforcing this rule since it was introduced in 2015. They cited backloaded contracts like Roberto Luongo’s and Ilya Kovalchuk’s when they instituted recapture penalties.
But, the rule still hasn’t stopped teams from exploiting it in the playoffs. Vegas is a prime example this season, but the Lightning and Chicago Blackhawks have also used it in recent years to win Stanley Cups.
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