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TAMPA, AMONG OTHERS, HAVE A MASSIVE CAP ADVANTAGE OVER TEAMS LIKE THE LEAFS

With the Tampa Bay Lightning just one win away from their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 2015, it's crazy to think about what this team might have looked like if the Bolts were not able to take advantage of the fact that there is no state tax in Florida.

First and foremost, I take absolutely nothing away from the Lightning organization, Jon Cooper, his coaching staff and the team. What they've accomplished has been nothing short of spectacular, from last year's historic regular season to this year's dominant playoff run. The money situation is one thing. It's another thing entirely to go out there and execute the way this team has over the last handful of seasons.

That aside, the Bolts (as well as the Panthers, Preds, Stars and Golden Knights) have an undeniable advantage when it comes to negotiating contracts, whether it be with RFA's or UFA's due to the fact that they are able to exploit the state tax situation and pay players "market value" with a much lower cap hit than what the figure might look like in a market that requires a player to pay state or provincial income tax.

Is it a coincidence that Dallas, Tampa and Vegas make up three of the final four teams vying for the Stanley Cup? Maybe. However, if we use Tampa as an example and compare them to a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs, it doesn't take a mathematician to see the glaring differences in the financial positions of the Bolts and the Buds. The chart below tells the story.


Now, of course the argument could be made that this is all semantics and that the Leafs - even if in the same tax situation as the Lightning - would still have had to negotiate these contracts, and that there is no guarantee that current GM Kyle Dubas or previous GM Lou Lamoriello could have inked players to similar contracts. Still, the fact remains that the Maple Leafs could really benefit from that extra $13.4M in cap space right about now. And perhaps if they had it, they could have used it last offseason to acquire the missing pieces on the blueline - which is ultimately the difference between the two powerhouse offensive clubs.



I've been of the mindset for several seasons now that the NHL should intervene and make an attempt to balance the varying tax scales, the same way that they recently intervened and removed the Leafs' ability to flex their financial muscle and offer up club training facilities to players during the offseason.

It will be interesting to see whether or not this is an item we will see tabled during future GM's meetings. For now, I suppose it is what it is.
MIKE ARMENTI
SEPTEMBER 14, 2020  (10H59)
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