The New York Post's Larry Brooks reports there's a good chance the NHL salary cap won't increase for 2015-16. Brooks cites the projected decline in the Canadian dollar and the potential unwillingness of the NHLPA (for escrow reasons) to exercise a five percent escalator for '15-'16. He also cites front-office sources claiming the struggling Canadian dollar has already affected contract extension talks in at least three cases.
That's bad news for several NHL teams with limited cap space next season. Assuming the cap remains at $69 million, the Chicago Blackhawks face the biggest hit. The Blackhawks currently have over $65.7 million invested in 15 players.
Re-signing restricted free agents Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger will take up all of their meagre cap space. They must also re-sign or replace unrestricted free agents Brad Richards, Johnny Oduya, Michal Roszival, Dan Carcillo and Peter Regin.
Following the Blackhawks' 2010 Stanley Cup championship, GM Stan Bowman was forced to make several salary-dumping trades to become cap compliant for 2010-11. He could face the same problem in the summer of 2015.
Core players Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford and Duncan Keith won't be dealt, and the Blackhawks are stuck with aging Marian Hossa's heavily front-loaded contract. Winger Patrick Sharp was mentioned during last summer's trade chatter so expect his name to resurface in the rumor mill following this season. Wingers Bryan Bickell and Kris Versteeg could also become trade candidates.
Not only must Bowman free up cap space for 2015-16, he must also make room to re-sign defenseman Brent Seabrook, who will be an unrestricted free agent in July 2016. Seabrook is considered part of the Blackhawks' core, but he'll likely seek a significant raise over his current $5.8-million annual cap hit. Should the cap fail to noticeably rise again in 2016, Bowman must either gut his roster again to create space for Seabrook, trade him or risk losing him for nothing to free agency.
CHARA'S FINAL DAYS IN BOSTON?
The Boston Bruins could also feel the pinch of a stagnant salary cap. GM Peter Chiarelli currently has over $56.4 million tied up in 14 players. His restricted free agents include Torey Krug and Reilly Smith (who'll have arbitration rights) and Dougie Hamilton, while pending unrestricted free agents include Carl Soderberg, Adam McQuaid, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. With roughly $12.5 million in projected cap space, Chiarelli could find it difficult to retain all his key players.
Prior to the recent reports about the salary cap, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty noted the Bruins won five of six games since captain Zdeno Chara was sidelined by a knee injury. That prompted Haggerty to speculate about the Bruins shopping Chara, though he concluded that was unlikely to happen.
Still, if there's a cap crunch following this season, the notion of moving Chara could seem appealing. He's carrying an annual cap hit of over $6.916 million. At 37, Chara also is beginning to slow down, which was very apparent in last spring's playoff series against the Montreal Canadiens.
As Haggerty noted, however, Chara also has a full no-movement clause, plus the Bruins' victories during their captain's absence were against weaker opposition. While the day will eventually come when the Bruins face moving on without Chara, it's not going to happen anytime soon.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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