The NHL’s Board of Governors (BOG) are in the midst of two days of meetings designed to cover several important topics before wrapping up today. Chief among them – and of particular interest to team executives as well as fans of the sport – is an early projection of the 2017-18 salary cap ceiling. Commissioner Gary Bettman advised the BOG to expect a modest increase, perhaps as much as $2MM, if any at all. Specifically, Bettman suggested the salary cap may remain flat. Naturally, that may present problems for several teams already close to the cap ceiling while pending free agents might find their respective markets depressed due to fewer clubs being in position to take on big salaries.
Craig Custance of ESPN.com wrote about a few teams and players who stand to be affected the most should the salary cap ceiling remain flat for the 2017-18 campaign. Among those he listed were Artemi Panarin, who will be a RFA coming off his ELC and in line for a massive raise. As we already know, Chicago is tight up against the cap and have already been forced to deal away key contributors due to a lack of cap space – Brandon Saad, Patrick Sharp and Teuvo Teravainen, for instance. They’ll likely have another tough decision to make given the situation.
Tampa Bay and their GM, Steve Yzerman, are two others Custance mentions as being impacted by a flat cap. The Lightning are set to watch Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat become RFAs this summer and with just less than $60MM in cap commitments already on the books for 2017-18, it’s highly unlikely that Yzerman will be able to re-sign all three players.
In addition to those already brought up by Custance, there are several other clubs who will have a difficult time navigating the salary cap if the ceiling remains at or near the $73MM mark. Here are a few of those teams:
- Los Angeles Kings – The Kings already have just more than $60MM committed to the 2017-18 salary cap with forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli slated to become RFAs next summer. Toffoli tallied career highs in goals (31) and points (58) in 2015-16 and while his scoring out put is down some this year, he could still easily command upwards of $4MM annually on a new contract. Pearson, meanwhile recorded 36 points last year and is on pace for about that same total this season. That could well push his salary north of $3MM next year.
- New York Rangers – The Blueshirts might be in a bigger bind than the Kings. They have about $63MM tied up in 2017-18 commitments with top-six center Mika Zibanejad and checking forward Jesper Fast, among several others, scheduled to become RFA’s. On top of that, the team will likely be in the market for a blue line upgrade and unless they can find a way to unload one of Dan Girardi or Marc Staal, the Rangers won’t have enough cap space to make an impact addition in free agency.
- Detroit Red Wings – The Red Wings are projected to have less than $5MM in cap space next season with Thomas Vanek hitting free agency. Additionally, five other players will be RFAs, including Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco. It’s hard to imagine the Wings being anything more than a fringe playoff contender next season given their current roster and with virtually no salary cap space available next season, as it’ll be tough for the team to improve through free agency.