Stone Injury May Solve VGK Salary Cap Crunch as Eichel Nears Return

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Prior to Wednesday night’s game versus the Calgary Flames, the Vegas Golden Knights announced that Mark Stone was out of the lineup due to an upper-body injury.

Given the fact that he played the night prior against the Edmonton Oilers and also suited up for the All-Star game, most didn’t expect the injury to be very serious. However, it has since come out that Stone is dealing with a lingering back injury, one that has affected him all season long. Though nothing is official yet, there is talk he may be forced to miss significant time and could be put on the long-term injured reserve (LTIR).

“Not a precaution, this is an important game. He would have played if he could have,” DeBoer told reporters after Wednesday’s game. “Upper-body injury. Something he’s been dealing with off and on for awhile here now. We’ll get him back to Vegas and get him evaluated.”

It goes without saying losing Stone for a significant amount of time would hurt this team. Not only is he a leader in the room, but he is their best overall forward and is having another solid season with 28 points in 28 games. While this is an unfortunate situation, however, there is one positive that could come from it.

From the sounds of things, forward Jack Eichel is nearing a return and could be ready to go as soon as next weekend. Currently, the Golden Knights would need to trade at least one player, if not a couple, to fit in his $10 million cap hit. However, if Stone is moved to LTIR, they would be able to activate Eichel without having to do any sort of roster-juggling.

If this were to happen, but Stone were to return before the end of the regular season, the Golden Knights would still have to move a few players to get back under the maximum cap. However, many believe management could do something very similar to what we saw with Nikita Kucherov on the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, which would be keeping Stone on LTIR until the playoffs begin. As soon as that happens, the salary cap no longer exists, meaning they could keep their full roster intact.

Many were upset with the Lightning situation last season, and if it were to happen again with the Golden Knights in 2021-22, there would be plenty of discussion about changing the rules. For now, however, there is nothing saying a team can’t do it. As mentioned previously, losing Stone is certainly not a good thing for this team, but with the return of Eichel, it truly could have long-term benefits assuming he is healthy by the time the playoffs begin.

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