As the NHL playoffs begin, the Las Vegas Golden Knights welcome back their star winger, Mark Stone, for Game 1 against the Winnipeg Jets. Stone’s return from a back injury, however, raises questions about the team’s salary cap management, leading some to believe that they may have exploited the system.
Head coach Bruce Cassidy confirmed that Stone will be in the lineup for Game 1, which has sparked some controversy. Stone was placed on Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) earlier in the season, allowing the team to free up cap space and make moves in the market. Now that the playoffs have begun, and the salary cap is no longer in effect, Stone is conveniently ready to rejoin the team.
While there is no doubt that Stone suffered a back injury, the timing of his return raises eyebrows. The 30-year-old winger played in 43 games this season, tallying 17 goals and 21 assists for a total of 38 points. His return is a significant boost to the Golden Knights’ lineup, as they led the Western Conference with 111 points during the regular season.
Some will argue that Vegas may have manipulated the LTIR system to gain a competitive advantage. By placing Stone on LTIR and making moves during the regular season, they were able to strengthen their roster while keeping within the salary cap limits. With the cap lifted for the playoffs, Stone’s activation does not impact their financial situation. Stone may have been healthy for a while now, but was sitting out to protect the cap situation.