NHL Teams That Could be Affected by a Stagnant Salary Cap in 2017-18
Should the NHL salary-cap fail to significantly increase for 2017-18, several clubs could find themselves in cap hell.
On Feb. 5, Puck Daddy Greg Wyshynski cited the New York Post’s Larry Brooks reporting the NHL doesn’t anticipate much of an increase (if any) above the current $73 million ceiling. Wyshynski singled out the Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning as two teams that could be up against it next season.
As per Cap Friendly, the Blackhawks currently have over $66 million invested in 15 players for ’17-’18. Assuming a flat cap, they’ll have less than $7 million to re-sign such notables as goaltender Scott Darling, defenseman Brian Campbell and forward Richard Panik.
Granted, the ‘Hawks aren’t in danger of losing any core players. Losing some experienced depth, however, could adversely affect their performance next season.
The Lightning, meanwhile, have over $60 million tied up in 14 players, but that doesn’t leave much to re-sign unrestricted free agent goaltender Ben Bishop and restricted free agent forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Jonathan Drouin. Bishop is expected to depart via free agency, as the Bolts have committed to Andrei Vasilevskiy as their starter. Johnson, Palat and Drouin, however, are slated to receive substantial raises.
General manager Steve Yzerman could get those three to accept less than market value to remain with the Bolts, just like he did with Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. But even if those three accept hometown discounts, there won’t be much left to fill out the rest of the roster.
The Blackhawks and Lightning aren’t the only teams that’ll face a cap crunch if the ceiling fails to significantly rise over $73 million.
With over $66 million tied up in 15 players, the Detroit Red Wings won’t have much room to re-sign Thomas Vanek (UFA) and restricted free agents Tomas Tatar and Andreas Anthansiou. Placing Johan Franzen, who’s all but retired due to concussion symptoms, on long-term injured reserve at the start of next season will free up over $3.9 million. They could attempt to use Tatar as a trade chip for a defenseman. Still, they won’t have a lot of room to pursue a big-ticket free agent or acquire a high-salaried star.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have over $61 million invested in 16 players. They could free up cap room by trading or buying out goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury ($5.75 million cap hit). That could be crucial if they intend to retain Conor Sheary, Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, Justin Schultz and Brian Dumoulin.
Carrying a $61 million invested in 18 players, the St. Louis Blues are all but certain to part company with pending UFA blueliner Kevin Shattenkirk. Re-signing him could cost at least $6 million annually, biting deeply into their remaining cap room.
The Minnesota Wild (over $60 million in 14 players) can afford big raises for forwards Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. However, the cost of doing so could push their cap payroll to $70 million, which won’t leave much for the rest of the roster.
At first glance, the Washington Capitals don’t appear to have significant cap difficulties. They carry just over $51 million committed to 12 players. But with T.J. Oshie, Karl Alzner and Justin Williams eligible for free agency and restricted free agents Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitri Orlov and Andre Burakovsky due for raises – and in Kuznetsov’s case, a big pay increase – a flat cap significantly hampers the possibility of re-signing all of them.
The Los Angeles Kings must re-sign RFA forward Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Peason. With over $59 million tied up on 15 players, they can afford to re-sign the duo. However, a flat cap won’t give them much room to address their need to bolster their anemic scoring punch.
With over $67 million tied up in 16 players, the Columbus Blue Jackets could be squeezed for cap space after re-signing notable RFAs Alexander Wennberg and Josh Anderson.
The New York Rangers are expected to be among the suitors for Kevin Shattenkirk via free agency in July. But with over $63 million invested in 17 players, they won’t have sufficient room to add him and re-sign notable RFAs such as Mika Zibanejad.
The expansion draft could alleviate some of the cap pressure these teams face. Under the draft rules, the Vegas Golden Knights must draft one player from the existing 30 franchises. A team could get some much-needed additional cap space if the Knights select a player carrying significant salary on his contract.
Following the release of the Knights new roster on June 21, there could be an increase in salary-dumping trades leading up to the NHL Draft weekend in Chicago (June 23-24). By that point, the league should have officially confirmed next season’s cap limits.
It also means the players eligible for unrestricted free agency, particularly stars such as Shattenkirk, Bishop and Oshie, could find suitors willing to pay high prices for their services hard to come by.