Because a new collective bargaining agreement between players and owners must be negotiated before next season, there is plenty of uncertainty about the financial parameters under which teams will operate.
That said, Lightning owner Jeff Vinik sent an encouraging message to fans that money will not be a barrier to assembling a winning team.
"Like we've always said, we're not going to be restrained by money, whether it's the arena or developing people here or the hockey team on the ice, and that policy will stay in place going forward," Vinik said. "We want to win."
That's a good thing for general manager Steve Yzerman, who, as he did this season, faces a fairly complicated financial puzzle.
The Lightning next season has about $46.37 million in salary cap payroll committed to 14 players and Vinny Prospal, who as part of his ongoing buyout will get another $1.167 million.
Even assuming the cap is higher than this season's $64.3 million, that doesn't leave a lot of room to fill out a 23-player roster with Yzerman looking to add this summer a No. 1 goaltender, a high-end puck-moving defenseman, and, in a perfect world, a scoring forward.
The balancing act for Yzerman is how much cap wiggle room to leave himself in order to perhaps add players heading toward next season's trade deadline. How nice for him Vinik says he is willing to consider whatever the GM has in mind.
Vinik already has displayed his financial commitment. The Lightning's salary cap payroll this season is about $61 million, 15th in the league and $3.3 million below the limit, not bad for a small-market club. And the owner poured $40 million of his money into renovating a building he doesn't even own: Hillsborough County's Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"Steve and I talk about it all the time, and we both have the same perspective, which is, looking at the next 10-plus years, we want to be able to compete at the highest level year in and year out," Vinik said. "Steve has that very much on his mind, and I'm 100 percent behind him."