In today’s collection of notable NHL headlines, the latest on expansion, salary cap & more.
Notable Game Recaps.
PHILLY.COM: Radko Gudas scored the game winner as the Philadelphia Flyers edged the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2. The victory enabled the Flyers to leap past the Detroit Red Wings into the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference, handing the Blackhawks their fourth straight defeat.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: It wasn’t that long ago the Flyers’ playoff hopes were on life support. Of late, they’re one of the league’s hottest teams, winning eight of their last 10.
THE DENVER POST: Mikkel Boedker’s two goals lifted the Colorado Avalanche to a 3-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks, vaulting the Avalanche past the Minnesota Wild into the last wild-card berth in the Western Conference.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Avs and Wild jockeying for that wild-card berth is the only real playoff race remaining in the Western Conference.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Kevin Klein scored twice as the New York Rangers edged the Anaheim Ducks 2-1.
EDMONTON JOURNAL: The Oilers tallied four power-play goals (one shy of the franchise record) to down the St. Louis Blues 6-4.
NBC SPORTS: Details emerged from the recently concluded NHL general managers’ meeting on a possible expansion draft. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said current NHL teams will only lose a maximum of one player if the league expands by one club or two players if two new teams are added. No decision was reached yet on rules regarding players with no-movement clauses, but there’s speculation those players won’t be eligible. “Prospects, first- and second-year professionals will be exempt from the draft. Those first- and second-year players can be in the NHL or AHL.” Various models of player protection were discussed, with each having a maximum of one goalie being protected. It’s believed NHL GMs will know prior to the 2016 NHL Draft in late-June if expansion will occur in 2017-18. That will allow teams sufficient time for prepare their player protection lists.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: At long last, we finally have some idea about the league’s plans for an expansion draft. The salary cap and no-movement clauses are key factors, as those weren’t issues of concern during previous expansion drafts. Teams that are pressed for cap space will attempt to dump salary by exposing players lacking movement clauses. I’ll have more about this in today’s “Rumors” section.
Interestingly, there was no mention of what the salary-cap limits will be for expansion teams. They’ll obviously have to spend over the cap floor. However, will they be allowed to spend to the cap ceiling? Or will that ceiling be set lower for them in their expansion year? We’ll likely have to wait until after expansion is confirmed to get those details.
An updated projection of next season’s salary-cap ceiling was estimated around $74 million with the NHLPA’s five-percent salary escalator. Without it, the cap could remain around the current level of $71.4 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’ve read some comments claiming this new projection means the lower value of the Canadian dollar isn’t having as adverse an impact upon league revenue (and thus the salary cap) as originally projected. That’s as may be, but this is the third straight year the league has lowered its initial cap projections. And while that reduced number isn’t as steep as some expected, it’s still a decline. Over the past couple of years, Bettman adjusted his original projection more than once. Don’t be surprised if he makes another before announcing the final figure in June.
I don’t expect it’ll be below $73 million (probably around $73.5 million), but it will still be a modest increase, provided the NHLPA once again votes to approve the five-percent escalator. I expect they will, despite their concerns about its effects on escrow payments.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL: The NHL has decided against making any changes to its current draft lottery format. Some general managers, including Doug Armstrong of the St. Louis Blues, floated the notion of a rule which prevents teams from winning the lottery multiple times in a short period.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Edmonton Oilers win this year’s draft lottery, it’ll mark the second straight year and the fifth time in six years they’ve won it. If that happens, you can bet your ass the GMs will revisit Armstrong’s suggestion the next time they meet to discuss league issues.
OTTAWA SUN: In the wake of the NFL’s senior VP for health and safety acknowledging a link between football and CTE, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman once again dodged the issue. “I think it’s fairly clear that playing hockey isn’t the same as playing football. And as we’ve said all along, we’re not going to get in a public debate on this,” said Bettman.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Joel Gasson put it best: “Technically, sure. Reality? Your head is still in the sand, Gary.”
NHL.COM: Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.
NBC SPORTS: Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman left last night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets with an upper-body injury.