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Salary cap looms over keeping Lightning's back-to-back Stanley Cup championship roster together

“We’re gonna have to get creative," Bolts general manager Julien BriseBois said.

TAMPA, Fla. — Editor's note: The video in the player above was prior to the Bolts' Stanley Cup victory parade.

The last two seasons for the Tampa Bay Lightning have been electric, to say the least. But bringing home back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with a team of elite, workhorse-type players comes at a cost — literally.

Yes, we're talking about the salary cap. 

During an end-of-season press conference, Tuesday Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said the salary cap poses the greatest challenge to keeping the team's championship roster intact.

“We’re gonna have to get creative," he said.

In the past, the Bolts have looked to trades to help manage the financial regulations of how much the franchise can spend to put its team together. 

RELATED: Why the back-to-back Stanley Cup champs likely won't stay together

There was the trade of Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette to Ottawa after the team determined it could "no longer afford" the two. BriseBois says the trade allowed the Lightning to get two contracts back of two players that were injured and therefore could be assigned to the long-term injury exemption.

The Bolts also acquired Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, two players the team says "greatly outperformed" the space they were assuming under the team's cap, through trades. 

Plus, don't forget David Savard who was picked up ahead of this season's deadline. BriseBois says the trade was set up in a way that Columbus and Detroit retained 75-percent of the cap space.

“The reality is as much as I would like to bring this team back exactly as is — and I would have faith that they’re gonna have a lot of success — the reality is that we won’t be able to do that," BriseBois added.

RELATED: Tampa Bay Lightning join elite list of NHL teams to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships

Outside of salary cap challenges, the Lightning need to take the upcoming expansion draft into consideration. The Seattle Kraken recently entered the NHL scene in need of building a currently empty roster. To do that, they'll get to select one player from each NHL team, excluding the Vegas Golden Knights.

BriseBois could not share more about who isn't coming back to the team because he says he isn't 100-percent sure himself. There has been some chatter about Coleman and Goodrow's future in the Tampa Bay area given they are unrestricted free agents. 

In terms of BriseBois' confidence in their return: "I don’t know.”

The Bolts general manager says he has to balance contracts, free agents, a salary cap and the fact that the two have earned "substantial" raises when it comes down to the final decision. 

“It’s going to be challenging," he explained.

RELATED: Oops: Stanley Cup damaged during Lightning championship celebration

BriseBois made it clear he expects the team to continue to be a Stanley Cup contender regardless of who takes the ice for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Hopefully the stars align again for us, just like they did the past two years, and we can go on another magical run and bring back the Cup one more time," he said.

As for the health of the team, it's safe to say the Bolts took some major hits during the 2021 season. 

Here's a running list of the team's injuries, per BriseBois: 

  • Victor Hedman: Has been playing through a torn meniscus since March 30. The defenseman is having a Meniscectomy today (July 13) and is expected to have a 3-4 week downtime. “We’re not concerned going forward,” BriseBois added.
  • Alex Killorn: A broken fibula from blocking a shot during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final took “Killer” off the ice. BriseBois said an x-ray showed a break in two distinct pieces. A rod was inserted into his leg on the Thursday after the incident and the Lightning forward was back to skating two days later “in hopes of being able to come back and help us win the Stanley Cup.”
  • Nikita Kucherov: The fan-favorite suffered a non-displaced rib fracture from a cross-check during the playoff series against the Islanders. The remainder of the post-season had Kuch playing in a flak jacket and getting nerve-blocking shots the day before every game from that point on. “He’s a tough hockey player. He’s an incredible hockey player and all of us in Bolts' nation are happy that he’s out Kuch,” BriseBois said.
  • Barclay Goodrow + Ryan McDonagh: Have taken the ice during the playoffs with broken hands.
  • Some players (not specified) had banged up shoulders

BriseBois got emotional while listing off the collective heart the Lightning put out this season while unbeknownst to fans were pretty beaten up.

“That’s how you win the Stanley Cup,” he said.

None of the injuries suffered during the season are expected to impact training camp. The staff, team and coaches were also commended for their hard work to keep the Bolts healthy during two seasons where they came out on top.

RELATED: 'Champa Bay' celebrates third pro title in less than a year

You can watch the full end-of-season press conference below: 

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