Armchair GMs and their real life counterparts now have a figure to work with when it comes to next season’s salary cap, as commissioner Gary Bettman says the upper limit will be around the $71 million mark.
During Thursday’s broadcast of Game 3 of the Western Conference final on NBC, Bettman said that the boost in the upper limit should be somewhere in the five percent range, but will depend on the strength of the Canadian dollar. The $71 million figure is $2 million dollars less than what was projected by Bettman in December, when he said teams could expect an upper limit closer to $73 million.
The current $69 million upper limit already has some teams under a serious cap crunch and the $71 million figure for next season does little to help those teams out. With such a slight rise in the upper limit – a $2 million jump would be the smallest increase since 2009-10 when the salary cap went from $56.7 million to $56.8 million – it puts clubs such as the Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning and Boston Bruins under serious restrictions for the coming years.
This past off-season, the Blackhawks and Bruins were already forced to shed salary as the opening day of the regular season approached, which resulted in Chicago sending out defenseman Nick Leddy and Boston shipping out blueliner Johnny Boychuk. Both players were sent in trades to the New York Islanders.
The very minimal raise in the cap also serves to hurt players heading to restricted and unrestricted free agency. When normally teams would have a small windfall of room to play with thanks to a large lift in the cap’s upper limit, that will now be non-existent as teams and their GMs work hard at keeping their club cap compliant and in good enough standing that there is wiggle-room throughout the year.
In 2014-15, the Los Angeles Kings were struck with one of the worst salary cap crunches in memory when they were having trouble finding the money to bring in depth defensemen following the suspension of blueliner Slava Voynov. Voynov’s contract, which counted against the salary cap up until late November when the NHL granted the Kings relief from the deal, hindered Los Angeles ability to move players to and from the AHL, as well as bring in a suitable replacement for the suspended defender.
The league tends to make public the formal cap figure shortly after the end of the post-season, which will include the announcement of the salary cap floor. This season, the lower limit was $51 million, up from $44 million in 2013-14. Teams that will need to spend money to get to the cap floor include the Arizona Coyotes, Nashville Predators, Buffalo Sabres and Calgary Flames.