It’s been a foolish game to try and project future revenues over the last few years, with COVID-19 creating so much unpredictability from day to day. In the summer of 2021, it seemed clear that because of the loss of huge amounts of gate revenue, broadcast commitments, and other sources of income for the NHL, the salary cap would be relatively flat through the 2025-26 season. Frank Seravalli and Daily Faceoff worked out the escrow debt that was holding back any cap increases and projected it would take several seasons to pay off.
Then, in December, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was very bullish on the way the league revenues had rebounded and suggested that the escrow debt could be paid off a year earlier. Unfortunately, in the days that followed that announcement, a huge number of games started being postponed, Canadian teams started playing in empty rinks, and once again those projections were put in jeopardy.
Now, as things have at least stabilized for the time being, it appears as though the league is still on track for an increase in 2025-26. NHLPA director Donald Fehr told Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet that it is a “reasonable bet” that the escrow debt will be paid off by the end of the 2024-25 season. If they do, it would almost certainly trigger a significant cap jump.
When Seravalli first projected out the cap numbers for the next few years, that jump was just under $6MM, to a total of $91.4MM. Remember though, that was for the 2026-27 season, meaning if the escrow is paid off a year earlier, it will come in a little under that number.
For now, the league is still limited to $1MM increases. Next season will have a cap ceiling of $82.5MM, 2023-24 is expected to be $83.5MM, and 2024-25 will have an $84.5MM. But as the entire world has learned since early 2020–don’t take projections as gospel.