It’s still far too soon to tell, but early estimations have it looking like the salary cap could jump up as much as $2 million ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.
Following the NHL’s Board of Governors meetings on Thursday, commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about what the league sees as a potential cap for the upcoming campaign, which, among other things, will see the introduction of the league’s 31st franchise in the Vegas Golden Knights.
Bettman didn’t give an exact figure as to what the cap will look like, but he said there’s the potential for the upper limit to move by roughly $2 million.
"There's always a range, but it's something we're going to have to look at very carefully in terms of how may be best to approach it," Bettman said, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. "The cap could range from where it is now to a couple or so million up, but we're going to all have to focus on what makes most sense going forward.”
Any increase in the cap would be good news for the players, especially pending unrestricted free agents looking to land long-term, big-money deals. St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Ben Bishop are two of the biggest names currently slated to hit the open market come July 2017.
Of course, there’s a chance the cap stays flat, which Bettman also indicated, but said he’d prefer to speak with the NHLPA about a possible flat cap before answering questions about it.
Before any GMs with tight cap situations or fans who’re praying their respective teams get some cap breathing room go celebrating, it’s worth noting that early projections for the 2016-17 salary cap saw the upper limit increasing by close to $3 million. That would have seen the cap rise from $71.4 million to $74.5 million, and anyone paying close attention to the financials of the league’s teams is aware that rise in the upper limit didn’t quite come to fruition.
Instead, the cap for the current campaign is $71.4 million, and the rise is mostly thanks to the NHLPA using their five-percent “escalator clause.” Had the players not used the clause, there was some concern the cap could have actually dipped from the past season to the current campaign. Some projections had the cap possibly falling below $70 million for 2016-17.
A rise of $2 million would be only slightly more than the $1.6 million increase from 2015-16 to 2016-17, and it would be one of the smallest increases since the salary cap was introduced in 2005-06. From 2008-09 to 2009-10, the cap rose by only $100,000 and there was no rise in the cap from 2011-12 to 2013-14, with teams allowed to spend to a $60-million limit during the 2012-13 lockout-shortened campaign.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.