Speaking with the media today, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there’s a “good probability” that the remaining COVID-related escrow balance could be paid by the players this season, and remains optimistic about revenues. If the escrow balance gets paid off, the salary cap could jump more than the predicted $1MM incremental increase, two years sooner than originally expected coming out of the pandemic.
Bettman did note that it would be a close call, but if the revenue numbers hit, the cap could jump roughly $4MM to a figure of around $86.5MM for the 2023-24 season. The league’s cap growth would then mirror pre-pandemic trends, if not more.
This is gigantic news for a number of teams, especially those who have big-name free agents due for contracts by July 1 of next year. It also bodes well for teams tight to the salary cap to be able to have more roster flexibility in the offseason.
That list of big-name unrestricted free agents next summer is no joke, and a ~$4MM salary cap increase would have a massive effect on many negotiations. Ryan O’Reilly in St. Louis, David Pastrnak in Boston, Dylan Larkin in Detroit, Bo Horvat in Vancouver, and Frederik Andersen in Carolina are some notables who could re-sign with their current teams for a big payday.
It also makes life easier for teams like the Vegas Golden Knights, who are poised to get a healthy Robin Lehner back but already remain well over the currently projected $83.5MM salary cap for 2023-24.