There has been much speculation over the past few months over where exactly the upper limit of the NHL salary cap will land for the 2017-18 season. Some have claimed it will remain flat, but a new report from James Mirtle of The Athletic (subscription required) refutes that. Because of the revenue that the league has generated over the past year, Mirtle writes:
It’s important to note here that there’s actually no scenario where the cap goes down or stays flat at $73-million.
Mirtle’s sources tell him that the most likely number for the cap will be $75MM, a relatively low bump but one that could be crucial to teams already pressed to the limit. The Chicago Blackhawks for example are already projected to be over the cap by more than $4MM for next season, while others like the Ducks, Red Wings and Kings could all desperately use a few extra million to work with. It also means that the cap floor is likely to increase at least slightly, meaning teams like Carolina and Arizona, currently projected for less than the 2016-17 floor, will need to do some work to increase their payroll for next season.
The decision on the upper limit comes down to whether the NHLPA exercises its full 5% escalator as it has traditionally done. This year, as Mirtle writes, the players’ union is considering not pushing it up as far as possible because of the escrow issue that has been brought up several times. Not only is the amount of escrow players are losing off each paycheck determining this specific decision, but negotiations on a whole between the two sides when it comes to the next CBA. It has been widely speculated that the players may use their 2019 termination deadline to opt-out of the current agreement in 2020, which could potentially cause another work stoppage for the league should a new deal not be ironed out.
Either way, the expected increase in the salary cap for next season will come as a breath of fresh air for several teams hoping to make an impact in free agency this summer, and for those with several high-priced restricted free agents to sign this summer (see: Tampa Bay, Nashville). For other clubs, like Toronto and Edmonton who will have to pay their young talent over the next few seasons, any increase above $75MM would also be welcome. According to Mirtle, should the NHLPA use the entire 5% the cap would sit somewhere around $77.5MM, a large increase from last season.