The Lightning is operating in the red, but that won't stop owner Jeff Vinik from continuing to spend to the salary cap.
"I don't want to predict out because things can change," Vinik said. "But for the foreseeable future our strategy is to have a great team on the ice and spend at or near the salary cap."
Tampa Bay is spending above this season's $64.3 million cap because of the accounting relief gained by putting defensemen Mattias Ohlund and Brian Lee on long-term injured reserved.
Vinik declined to say how much money the team is losing, though he said losses "have come down dramatically" from when he bought the club in 2010. Spending at or near the cap, he said, is part of the plan to eliminate those losses.
"We want to have an extremely competitive hockey team," Vinik said. "It's part of a strategy. First of all, I'm competitive. We want to win. We want to win a Stanley Cup. It's a lot more fun for our fans, but it also helps us make the playoffs and, hopefully, go deep into the playoffs which is good for the financials."
It also is good for team morale.
"He's a fan of the team," coach Jon Cooper said. "He wants to put a product on the ice everyone is proud of. You like that from your owner."
"Let there be no doubt," Vinik said, "we want to have one of the best teams in the NHL and compete at the highest level year-in, year-out. We want another Stanley Cup and bring it back here."
PRACTICE: Tampa Bay resumes practice at 2:30 p.m. today at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon, and at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the RDV Sportsplex in Orlando. All are open to the public.
Injured goaltender Ben Bishop (wrist, upper body) and center Valtteri Filppula (ankle) might not immediately be available, though Cooper said he expects them ready for the Feb. 27 game at Nashville.
The timetable for Steven Stamkos (leg) still is open-ended, Cooper said, though the goal also is for him to be ready for the Predators.