Nothing’s official, but it appears the NHLPA is prepared to use the five-percent escalator clause to give the salary cap a bump.
TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reported Thursday evening that the Players’ Association is expected to once again elect to exercise their right to increase the salary cap by five percent, but it doesn’t sound as though the cap will be increasing much even with NHLPA getting involved.
During the Stanley Cup final, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported that if the players chose not to vote for the increase — which increases escrow and costs the players money — there was a possibility the salary cap could drop below $70 million next season, which would be a decline of roughly $1.5 million. And if that’s the case, and at minimum the cap limit was set to fall to $69.9 million, the highest possible salary cap would be $73.49 million.
Unfortunately for some teams up against the upper limit, a $2.09 million rise in the salary cap doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reported in early June that “a source with ties to the Players’ Association” had said the salary cap was set to fall to $69.3 million without the escalator. However, if the players were to use the inflator, that would jump to $72.77 million, which would be an increase of a mere $1.37 million from 2015-16. However, that may just be enough to get a few teams enough breathing room to work this off-season.
That the NHLPA is reportedly choosing to use the escalator will save quite a few teams headaches. If the cap were $69.3 million, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers, San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues would each have less than $10 million to spend against the cap with fewer than 20 players who were on their end-of-season roster signed for the 2016-17 campaign. There’s always the option to add from the AHL ranks, but those teams could likely say goodbye to the opportunity to bid on free agents if the salary cap doesn’t rise.
It also gives players, especially free agents, more chances to latch on at what they believe is a fair price. Without the increase, players looking for contracts may have to face pay cuts in order to fit within an organization. The increase, though, gives more wiggle room for teams to sign free agents, unrestricted or otherwise, to more player-friendly deals.
The cap floor in 2015-16 was set $18.6 million below the upper limit, and a similar figure would see the floor for 2016-17 set at $54.2 million. There are currently 12 teams below $54.2 million in salary, with the Arizona Coyotes, New Jersey Devils, Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes and Calgary Flames all sitting below $50 million.