NHL Teams That Could be Affected by a Stagnant Salary Cap in 2017-18

by | Feb 12, 2017 | Soapbox | 8 comments

A flat salary cap for 2017-18 could create headaches for GMs of cap-strapped clubs, such as Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

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.


  1. Penguins will be in the best shape in a long time. MAF will gone for sure, Daley can go, The last of the Scuderi money will be gone, Kunitz and his 4 mill, Bonino can go if he wants more than 4, Cullen will retire, Fehr is a goner. The team can look to within to replace all vacancies except they will need to find a dman, could maybe trade Hagelen for a 3-4 one actually. They will be paying for 2 good young goalies about the same as they have been for one mediocre MAF. They still have one of the best dmen in the world eating big minutes. The hardest to find, most crucial positions to fill are 1C(they have 2), and 1D and a solid goaltender. They have that. Next year if they let all their UFAs walk it could look like this
    Sheary Crosby Guentzel
    Hornqvist Malkin Kessel
    Wilson Sundqvist Rust
    Kuhn Blueger(Rowny)Archy
    Dumoulin Letang
    Cole Shultz
    Maatta Pouliot
    That’s still a winning, top 5 team and I haven’t looked at the actual salary but it can’t be even near the cap.

    • Sheary – 667,500
      Crosby – 8,700,000
      Guentzel – 734,167
      Hornqvist – 4,250,000
      Malkin – 9,500,000
      Kessel – 6,800,000
      Wilson – 625,000
      Sundqvist – 700,833
      Rust – 640,000
      Kuhnack – 625,000
      Rowny – 612,500
      Archibald – 659,167 and is an RFA so he’ll go up some
      Dumoulin – 800,000 and is an RFA so he’ll go up some
      Letang – 7,250,000
      Cole – 2,100,000
      Shultz – 1,400,000 and is an RFA so he’ll go up some
      Maatta – 4,083,333
      Pouliot – 832,000
      Murray – 3,750,000
      Jarry – 630,833
      Carl Hagelin – 4,000,000 with 2 more years until a UFA
      Bonino – 1,900,000 and is a UFA
      Fleury – 5,750,000

      You seem to know what’s going on in the mind of the GM and are pretty cavalier about what will happen to guys like Bonino, Fleury and Kunitz. But that aside, the total for the players you list is $67,017,823 including Carl Hagelin who you seem to have overlooked as well as Fleury (who might not be as easy to trade as you think) and Bonino who, if he is retained, will certainly cost much more than 1.9. But if, as you think, they let him walk if he’s seeking anywhere near $4 mil, and without Kunitz, they sure are relying on a lot of guys named Joe. You also have to factor in what Archibald, Dumoulin and Shultz will receive as all are RFAs and the totals includes their current cap hits above.

    • I agree with the thought that the Pens COULD be in the best shape they have been in some time cap wise if things follow close to the way Dee is presenting them. I do wonder though if some of the thought of that cap savings is already burning a hole in Rutherfords pocket with the speculation of Duchene, I wouldn’t start counting my chickens that he doesn’t maybe make a move (for better or worse is debatable) that puts them right back to where they started.

    • Hagelin isn’t bringing back a middle pairing d man. Who says fehr is a gonna? MF buy out if it comes to it still effects the cap. Bonobo at anything over 3 is a walk. Kunitz if he signs for 2ish would be a good depth winger. Daley can definitely go but who replaces him?

  2. I would assume Sprong is in the lineup somewhere

  3. Deeeeee and George both make excellent points. George is correct to say it might not be as straightforward as Deeeeee suggests, but the Penguins have the deepest corps of talented NHL-ready forward prospects in the league, with more on the way. The defense is in decent shape and a goaltending tandem Murray and Jarry would be viable and affordable for years. Would it be easy if the cap doesn’t rise? No. Easier than for many other teams? Absolutely.

    • I wouldn’t say the pens have the deepest a lot of teams with better forwards coming up

    • Penguins are not deep at forwards at all. They have decent placeholders at best in the minors that can soften the bleeding. But definitely not top 6 by any means at all. The magic number of injured forwards is 3. I’ve learned in recent games if the penguins have 3 injured forward on the roster the talent and skill massively drops off and the problems start showing. That tells me an additional forward wouldn’t be a bad move at all. As for the defense that fans are crying is lacking, it’s not as bad as the fans make it at all. At best the penguins only need a seventh d-man that will cycle in every few games and will be a healthy scratch most of the time when everyone is healthy. Truth is the pens can pick a defensive player like that up at the deadline for a lower pick at best. The truth is the penguins are one of the teams in best shape moving forward with cap space and all moving into the offseason, but right now should be considered with gearing up for the 2017 playoffs more.