Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton isn’t too upset about Carolina’s exit from the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs – especially as his team lost to a Lightning team that exceeds the salary cap of 17.5 millions of dollars.
In his playoff exit interview, Hamilton brought up the excessive bill that Tampa Bay carries these playoffs when discussing how Carolina played against them.
“We had a great season. We lost to a team that went over the cap of $ 18 million or whatever,” Hamilton said, according to The Athletic. “I feel like we played them pretty close.”
Of course, Hamilton wanted to make sure everyone knew he wasn’t looking to the Lightning for the strategy they used to get there.
“I wasn’t breaking the rules or anything. You realize how many weapons they have, and if you think about how many more players you could have with the money, you realize how deeper you would be. Hamilton said. “That’s how it went. I know it’s happened with teams in the past, I don’t have a problem with that. You just realize how good this team was.”
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Indeed, the Lightning is good, and that’s a big part of how they’ve been able to exploit the NHL’s salary cap rules over the season.
Because Nikita Kucherov was on the long-term injury reserve for the entire regular season, his $ 9.5 million salary did not count towards Tampa Bay’s salary cap. As such, they were able to make moves on the trade deadline to add talent that they otherwise might not have been able to if Kucherov had been activated.
And since the salary cap is not enforced during the playoffs, the Lightning was able to activate Kucherov ahead of their first-round game with the Panthers without making a move or receiving a penalty.
Would Kucherov have needed the entire regular season to recover, as the Lightning point out? Perhaps. But he was ready to play right away in the Tampa Bay Playoff opener, scoring twice, so it’s also possible that he could have come back earlier if the Lightning had had enough space to activate him. during the regular season.
Ultimately, we’ll never know if Kucherov could have come back before the playoffs started.
But the Lightning took advantage of the situation and that’s why they are shaping up as a strong contender to repeat as Stanley Cup champions.