March 29: Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic confirms that at the general manager meetings in Florida, the league has officially announced that the 2022-23 salary cap will be set at $82.5MM.
March 26: The end of the flat cap era could be in sight. After three seasons at a salary cap upper limit of $81.5 due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a long-awaited increase could be coming – and just in time for a number of teams. TSN’s Chris Johnston reports that the NHL is continuing to project a $1MM bump to the current ceiling and that teams will be informed of the expected $82.5MM mark for the 2022-23 season at the upcoming GM Meetings.
The 2021-22 season has not been without its hiccups, specifically a large number of games postponed due to COVID in December in January. However, with the NHL also opting out of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the league was able to reschedule many of those missed games during the planned Olympic break in February, with other dates being added and swapped throughout the rest of the season. Johnston reports that these changes did not impact the league’s revenue stream in a meaningful way. While attendance limits in Canada have cost overall revenue, it has not been enough to dislodge the league’s planned cap increase. In fact, Johnston says that 2021-22 returns thus far appear “strong”.
This will be welcome relief for a number of teams. Although the cap has been stagnant for several years, it has not necessarily deflated player salaries which has put a number of teams in difficult spots this year and as they plan ahead for 2022-23 and beyond. This is especially true for long-term contracts for defensemen, many of which kick in next season. Though $1MM may not seem like a significant increase, more than half the league is currently using Long-Term Injured Reserve or is less than $1MM under the cap ceiling and this has been true for most of the season. Many of these same teams also have an uncomfortable amount of salary expenses already committed for the 2022-23 season and will greatly appreciate some added flexibility.
With business running smoothly and the upper limit trending up, there could be a shift in the NHL’s salary cap floor as well. The league boasts impressive competitive balance and much of that comes from a hard salary floor in addition to the ceiling, and a narrow margin at that. Johnston does not make note of any imminent announcements on the cap floor just yet, but if the NHL believes that revenue is healthy enough to increase the cap, they will likely do the same with the floor.