Joe Smith of The Athletic penned an interesting article today leading to speculation that the NHL salary cap could see a larger increase this summer than the $1MM that was expected. Gary Bettman seemed to temper expectations last week when he said that he still expected the increase to be just the $1MM.
Smith’s league sources say that the number which has been discussed for most of this year doesn’t appear to be final as of right now. The official figure will be announced at the NHL draft and now it appears that there are some negotiations going on behind the scenes to see if there is wiggle room to add to the increase.
Many expect the salary cap to go up between $10MM-$12MM over the next three years based on revenue, leading to a wild disparity for those who become free agents this season versus those who hit the market in 2024 or 2025. The conversation going on behind closed doors appears to be whether the increases could be more proportional starting this year to allow the group of players hitting free agency in a few weeks to have a bit more money in the market to chase.
Any additional cap increase would certainly be welcome news for teams that are currently cap strapped. The Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins come to mind as both teams stand to lose considerable talent and don’t have much cap room to retain them. The news could also be good for the players that want to stay with their current clubs but aren’t sure the money will be there. An extra one million in cap space could be the difference that allows a player like Alex Killorn to stay with the only team he’s ever known instead of moving on with a new team.
While Smith teases the different possible cap increases over the next three years, he does end the article by stating that the likeliest outcome for next year’s salary cap is a $1MM to $1.5MM increase. This could also affect the contracts that this year’s free agents sign. Players might opt for shorter term deals with the hope that they can cash in down the road when the cap is quite a bit higher. We’ve already seen defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov sign for just two years, despite the Los Angeles Kings pushing for a longer-term arrangement. It could become a major story over the next month or so as more players sign deals for next season.