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A Tampa Bay Lightning-like plan for the Golden Knights?

Published November 6, 2021 at 6:49 PM

On Thursday morning, the Vegas Golden Knights completed one of the biggest trades in the hockey world by acquiring star forward Jack Eichel, who was desperate to leave the Buffalo Sabres. While this trade greatly improves the Knights' roster on paper, two mysteries remain as to the Nevada organization's plan.

First, Eichel still has to undergo surgery to repair the neck injury that has kept him out of the game for nearly nine months now. As a result, he may not play again until the Olympic break in February to complete his rehabilitation. Second, Eichel is under contract for five more years, with an average salary of $10 million per year. With a payroll already approaching the cap, the Golden Knights will likely have to move another big earner or two before they can add the former Sabres captain to their roster.

This second point, however, is reminiscent of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Nikita Kucherov's situation last season, and makes us wonder if the Golden Knights could borrow a page from the Lightning's playbook by keeping Eichel on the long-term injured list until the playoffs begin...

While highly unlikely, this is a scary assumption, as it would mean that the Golden Knights could go into the playoffs with a lineup that is well over the salary cap, and therefore extremely dangerous. This recipe worked for the Lightning, so it could also prove to be the winning formula for the Knights, who are still looking for their first Stanley Cup in their history after reaching the Grand Final in their first year in 2018.

The risk is certainly worth it for general manager Kelly McCrimmon, but it would be surprising if the National Hockey League would let such salary maneuvers happen every season without making any rule changes, obviously if this practice becomes too common.
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