The relatively flat salary cap over the last few seasons has certainly been a limiter on player movement over that time. However, speaking with reporters today including Sportsnet’s Eric Engels, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman indicated a potential openness to boost the Upper Limit by more than the prescribed $1MM next season. However, doing so would be tied to escrow:
We’re hearing around the bend from players and others that there may be interest in having that, but one thing to keep in mind if we’re going to raise the cap and the escrow hasn’t been paid off, is then we’re going to have to look at raising the escrow rates, which under the CBA extension in 2020 is locked into the last three years of the CBA term at 6 per cent. So, if you’re going to raise the cap prematurely, then you’re going to have to look at the escrow percentage as well. The two are inextricably tied together.
As Bettman noted, there now is a fixed cap on escrow which there wasn’t in the past and by his estimation, there is still around $100MM owed back to the owners to get back to the required 50/50 share of Hockey Related Revenue. Increasing the escrow hasn’t been popular in the past so if incoming NHLPA Director Marty Walsh finds that the players don’t want to go that route again (even for just a short time), it could be one more year with a small increase before the cap goes up more quickly beginning in 2024-25.
Elsewhere around the hockey world:
- The Coyotes are likely to be one of the few teams with significant cap space this summer but don’t expect them to automatically be too active in free agency. GM Bill Armstrong indicated on the latest Cam and Strick podcast (video link) that they’re also open to doing what they’ve done in recent years which is taking on unwanted contracts while stockpiling extra draft picks for doing so. Arizona has stockpiled 47 picks over the next four seasons but have shown a willingness in the past to take on selections that are several years out. If they opt to take on more unwanted contracts, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them concentrating on adding 2026 and 2027 draft picks in order to try to keep their pick cupboard spaced out.
- While it has been speculated for a while, Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews confirmed to Jonas Siegel of The Athletic (subscription link) that the upper-body injury he has been dealing with for most of the year is a hand issue. However, the 25-year-old indicated that the hand is feeling a lot better now as of late which is certainly good news for a Toronto team that has made several moves to augment their roster at the trade deadline in the hopes of a long playoff run. Even with the injury, Matthews still has 31 goals and 36 assists in 59 games so far.