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Capped out: Flat salary cap makes NHL teams get creative

Several teams were forced to get creative to manage the cap at the expense of valuable players being injured.
Credit: AP
FILE - Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8), of Russia, and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33), of Slovakia, battle for position during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Washington, in this, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, file photo. The Capitals won 3-2. Ovechkin goes into the final year of his contract with the Capitals looking to win the Stanley Cup for the second time. He’ll have 43-year-old past champion Zdeno Chara with him but not Henrik Lundqvist chasing his first title, after tests showed the veteran goaltender couldn’t keep playing because of a heart condition. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

WASHINGTON — The NHL salary cap remained flat this season at $81.5 million for each team. It has made for quite the challenge. 

Several teams were forced to get creative to manage the cap at the expense of valuable players being injured. 

That includes the past three Stanley Cup champions: the Tampa Bay Lightning, St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals, as well as 2018 finalist Vegas Golden Knights. 

Tampa Bay is less than $500 from the cap and can't afford for injured star Nikita Kucherov to return before the playoffs.