Updates on the salary cap, expansion, status of the Carolina Hurricanes, Alex Semin on waivers and much more in your NHL morning coffee headlines

Check out last night’s NHL highlights, including Radim Vrbata’s hat trick against the Sabres, Predators rally to down the Bruins and the Avalanche down the Wild in overtime.

NHL Board of Governors News. 

NBC SPORTS: The NHL salary cap for 2016-17 is projected to reach $74.5 million, though there’s some skepticism from some observers that it could actually go that high.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That figure takes into account the NHLPA’s five percent escalator clause, plus it’s also likely based on the assumption of the Canadian dollar remaining at its current level of around 0.75 cents USD. However, I doubt it goes much higher above the current ceiling of $71.4 million.

My estimate is it’ll rise by $1.5 million to $72.9 million. Because unless there’s a sharp increase in oil prices, the Canadian dollar won’t be rising anytime soon. And with 38 percent of league revenue coming from Canadian teams, a lower Canadian dollar means another marginal increase (at best) for the cap ceiling. 

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes a number of hurdles must be addressed regarding expansion.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman believes a number of hurdles must be addressed regarding expansion.

SPORTSNET: There was no decision from the NHL Board of Governors regarding expansion.  Damien Cox speculates some of the governors could be having second thoughts about adding two more teams, despite the combined $1 billion in expansion fees that would be pocketed by the current 30 team owners. Commissioner Gary Bettman denies the delay could be to allow another city, like Seattle, to make a bid, insisting it’s between Las Vegas and Quebec City.

TSN: The format of an expansion draft could also be a hurdle to address. “There are a myriad (of issues), and within that are a lot of sub-issues that have to be addressed,” Bettman said. “For example: When? What will be the terms of the expansion draft? What would be the terms of an expansion draft if it’s one team or if it’s two teams? What will be the role or the position in the entry draft?”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: A couple of readers recently asked me why I haven’t addressed the potential effects of an expansion draft upon the salary cap, specifically teams carrying limited cap space with a number of key players to re-sign. As I stated then, it’s pointless to rush into hypothetical musings on this when we don’t even know the facts, such as  when expansion might take place and what the rules will be. Bettman’s comments clearly indicates we simply cannot assume the next expansion draft will be governed by the rules of previous drafts, or even when such a draft takes place. 

Notable NHL Headlines.

TSN: Among Frank Seravalli’s musings over what the NHL could look like in 2020 is the suggestion the league could be in the midst of another lockout by then.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The current CBA expires on Sep. 30, 2022. However, the NHL BoG can vote to opt out on Sep. 1, 2019, meaning another lockout could go into effect during the 2020-21 season. The NHLPA could also opt out on Sep. 19, 2019. While it’s a possibility the league could do this, it’s important to remember that it voted in 1998 to extend the 1995 CBA to 2004, and declined to exercise its early opt-out during the previous CBA.

Much will depend, of course, on what league revenues are by 2019. There could also be a desire to maintain labor peace, rather than go through this cycle again so soon after the previous one. We also don’t know if Gary Bettman will still be league commissioner, let alone if some of the hardliners among the team owners (such as Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs) will still be as influential by that point. 

NBC SPORTS: Recent comments by Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford suggest he’s questioning some of the roster moves of head coach Mike Johnston.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Add this with the recent report suggesting a rift between Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux and captain Sidney Crosby, combine it with the Penguins poor performance this season, and it appears things aren’t rosy in Pittsburgh. 

NBC SPORTS: Carolina Hurricanes president Don Waddell denies a recent rumor suggesting his club could be relocated to Quebec City. He points out the Hurricanes current lease arena runs to 2024.

MIAMI HERALD: Broward County officials will vote today on a new arena-lease deal for the Florida Panthers. “The lease would remain for 13 years, although the team could opt out after eight years if it gives the county a year’s notice and proves it lost $100 million over the next seven years.”

MONTREAL GAZETTE: The Canadiens placed left wing Alexander Semin on waivers.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If Semin is demoted as expected, it’ll free up $950K of his $1.1 million cap hit. Looks like his NHL career is sputtering to an end.

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: Logan Couture (broken leg) could make his return with the Sharks tonight against the Calgary Flames.

CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: Blackhawks defenseman Trevor Daley is listed as day-to-day with a head injury.

PHILLY.COM: The Philadelphia Flyers have recalled defenseman Andrew MacDonald.