NHL Salary Cap Could Significantly Increase for 2018-19

NHL Salary Cap Could Significantly Increase for 2018-19

During a press conference in Montreal on Friday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said league revenues for 2017-18 could be between $4.5 – $5 billion. If so, that means the salary cap could significantly increase for 2018-19.

Salary-cap fluctuations are tied to league revenues. During the previous collective bargaining agreement (2005-06 to 2011-12), the salary-cap ceiling rose from $39 million to $64.3 million. Throughout that period, the cap rose annually by roughly $5 million.

Since the implementation of the current CBA, the cap ceiling once again climbed by $5 million from $64.3 million in 2013-14 (the first full season under the current agreement) to $69 million for 2014-15. Since then, however, the gains were modest. In 2015-16, the cap rose to $71.4 million. In 2016-17, to $73 million. For this season, to $75 million. Those increases were largely due to the NHL Players Association agreeing to invoke their annual five-percent escalator clause.

As The Athletic’s James Mirtle observed, if NHL revenues “are as robust as Bettman claims, the salary cap will go way up next summer.” Based on the commissioner’s projects, Mirtle suggests the cap ceiling to rise to plausibly “$80-$82 million. Pretty interesting.”


So what’s changed to trigger Bettman’s optimistic forecast?” One factor, of course, is the addition of the Vegas Golden Knights. The expansion club is providing a boost to league coffers this season.

Another is the improvement in the value of Canadian dollar this year against the American greenback. With seven Canadian NHL teams accounting for over 40 percent of league revenues, any variations in the value of the “loonie” affects the salary cap. In 2013, it was worth .97 cents USD but steadily decline in subsequent years, bottoming out at .73 cents USD by May 2017. It’s since rallied, fluctuating between .78 cents to .80 cents USD.

An increase of $5 million – $7 million in the 2018-19 cap ceiling will provide welcome relief for several NHL clubs carrying limited salary-cap room for next season. Fourteen teams – the Anaheim Ducks, Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, Los Angeles Kings, Minnesota Wild, Montreal Canadiens, Nashville Predators, Ottawa Senators, Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning – currently have over $60 million invested in their respective cap payrolls for ’18-’19.

Several of those clubs have key players to re-sign. Others, meanwhile, could use the extra cap space to bolster their rosters. 

A big bump in the cap ceiling could have a substantial effect upon next summer’s trade and free-agent markets.

With such notables as John Tavares, Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, the Sedin Twins, James van Riemsdyk, John Carlson, James Neal and Evander Kane eligible for unrestricted free agency next July, the extra cap space could tempt more teams to get into the bidding for those players.

If contract negotiations stall for noteworthy restricted free agents such as Ottawa’s Mark Stone, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba, the NY Rangers’ J.T. Miller, Toronto’s William Nylander, Detroit’s Dylan Larkin or Carolina’s Noah Hanifin, a club flush with cap room could be tempted to employ the rare tactic of signing one of them to a lucrative offer sheet. Perhaps one of them gets targeted by a team keen to invest its windfall in the trade market. 

A big raise in the cap ceiling could also affect the cost of signing those players. With clubs carrying much more cap room compared to recent years, the price of signing next summer’s top free agents could be higher than anticipated. Signing a superstar such as Tavares could jump from $10.5 million annually to as high as $13 million. Never underestimate the ability of NHL general managers to overpay for talent. 

Agents representing players eligible for new contracts in 2019 could seek even higher asking prices if their teams opt to open contract talks next July. Top stars such as Toronto’s Auston Matthews, Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov, Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty, Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson, Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Dallas’ Tyler Seguin could cash in big time. 

Bettman usually makes his annual salary-cap projections for the following season in early-December. By then, we’ll hopefully start to get a clearer picture of what the cap ceiling will be for 2017-18.


NHL Rumor Mill – September 28, 2017

NHL Rumor Mill – September 28, 2017

The fluctuating Canadian dollar will be among the factors that could drive the NHL’s 2018-19 salary cap ceiling toward $80 million.

Salary cap speculation plus the latest on the Blues and Cam Atkinson in your NHL rumor mill.

SPORTSNET: In his latest “31 Thoughts” column, Elliotte Friedman reports that word from Wednesday’s NHL Board of Governors’ meeting is the possibility the salary cap could reach $80 million for 2018-19.

Friedman points out this season’s cap would’ve reached $79 million had the league and the NHL Players Association implemented the full salary-cap inflator. He also notes other factors, such as the Canadian dollar, revenue projections, the inflator and escrow, will affect the final figure of next season’s cap ceiling.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I believe the value of the Canadian dollar could have the biggest effect upon next season’s cap ceiling. The decline in the value of the “loonie” in recent years is largely behind the modest salary-cap increases. If it remains at over .80 cents USD for the remainder of the season it should significantly bolster the cap ceiling for 2018-19. As Friedman observes, that would be good news for cap-strapped teams and general managers. 

The injury-ravaged St. Louis Blues could be in need of some short-term help. Forward Robby Fabbri (knee injury) is done for the season while Patrik Berglund and Zach Sanford will be out for months. Forward Alex Steen will be re-evaluated next week and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester the following week.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: If the Blues go shopping for help it’ll likely be at forward. I think they have sufficient depth to offset Bouwmeester’s absence if he’s sidelined for a lengthy period. They had high hopes for Fabbri this season and losing him could hurt their offense. Same with Steen if he’s out longer than expected. 

Friedman reports it doesn’t sound as though there’s been much contract talk between the Columbus Blue Jackets and right wing Cam Atkinson. He’s an unrestricted free agent next summer who tallied 35 goals last season. Even if they re-sign defenseman Jack Johnson, Friedman thinks there’s enough room for Atkinson, though much will depend upon how things go this season. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Atkinson’s contract talks could also depend upon how much they invest in re-signing restricted free agent Josh Anderson and other moves they make this season. The Jackets have been linked to Colorado Avalanche center Matt Duchene since early July. If they acquire Duchene and his $6 million annual cap hit through 2018-19, that could affect how much they’ll have to re-sign Atkinson. 


NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2017

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – June 15, 2017

The New York Rangers will buy out the contract of defenseman Dan Girardi.

Salary cap update, Rangers to buy out Girardi, Karlsson undergoes surgery & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

THE ATHLETIC:  James Mirtle cites sources saying the NHL salary cap for 2017-18 is likely to be set at $75 million. The NHLPA executive board is hearing arguments on escrow and the five percent escalator clause. Should it rise to $75 million, it means the PA will have voted against using the full five percent. The current cap ceiling is $73 million. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: As Mirtle explains, the PA could vote for that lower cap figure to ease the burden of rising escrow clawbacks from players salaries. It could, however, affect several cap-strapped teams, such as the Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Columbus Blue Jackets and New York Islanders.

NEW YORK POST: The Rangers announced yesterday they are buying out the final three seasons of defenseman Dan Girardi’s contract. “With the buyout, they will have dead space on the cap for the next six seasons, the value going from $2.61 million next season, followed by two seasons of $3.61 million and three seasons of $1.11 million.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Rangers appear to be making room on their roster and salary-cap payroll for a significant addition or two in the coming weeks. 

Speaking of the Rangers, they re-signed Matt Puempel yesterday to a new contract yesterday, meeting their exposure requirements for the upcoming expansion draft. It’s a one-year deal worth $725K. 

OTTAWA SUN: Senators captain Erik Karlsson underwent surgery to repair torn tendons in his left foot and will require four months of recovery. The Sens also parted ways with long-time enforcer Chris Neil after 16 seasons. Neil is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. 

PHILLY.COM: Agent Anton Thun, who represents goaltender Steve Mason, doesn’t expect his client will be re-signed by the Philadelphia Flyers. Mason is due for unrestricted free agency in July. 

ARIZONA SPORTS: Long-time Coyotes captain Shane Doan is leaning toward returning for another season. 

TSN: Nashville Predators winger James Neal played in the Stanley Cup Final with a broken hand. 

SPORTSNET: New Jersey Devils GM Ray Shero doesn’t expect to trade his first-round pick (first overall) in the 2017 NHL draft. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: The last time the first overall draft pick was traded occurred in 2003, when the Florida Panthers shipped their pick to the Pittsburgh Penguins for the third overall pick. The Pens used that selection to draft goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. 

CSN MID-ATLANTIC: The Washington Capitals acquired center Tyler Graovac from the Wild in exchange for a 5th round pick in 2018. The move will allow the Capitals to protect center Lars Eller in the upcoming expansion draft. 

TRIBLIVE.COM: An estimated 650,000 people turned out in downtown Pittsburgh yesterday to watch the Penguins’ Stanley Cup parade.

TSN: The NHL is telling general managers not to leak any trades made with the Vegas Golden Knights prior to the unveiling of that club’s inaugural roster on June 21.  

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Good luck with that. 

SUN-SENTINEL.COM: The Florida Panthers promoted Bryan McCabe to director of player personnel. 

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: “Over the entire run of the 2017 playoffs, the average audience on CBC and Sportsnet was 1.61 million viewers a game – a 94-per-cent increase over last year.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Certainly helped to have several Canadian NHL teams in the playoffs. 


The Thrill is Gone from the NHL Trade Deadline

The Thrill is Gone from the NHL Trade Deadline

Fading star Jarome Iginla was among the few notable players on the move during the NHL’s 2017 trade deadline day.

The NHL trade deadline day used to be an exciting day for NHL fans. Even the slowest deadline gave us the possibility of a star player changing teams. Playoff races and even Cup contenders could be decided by these deals.

But in recent years, deadline day has become a bust. This year’s best trade was a rare three-way deal involving the Tampa Bay Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Lightning shipped center Valtteri Filppula to the Flyers for defenseman Mark Streit, then flipped Streit to the Penguins for a draft pick.

It was a creative way for the Lightning to shed Filppula’s bothersome contract. The move freed up $5 million in cap space for next season to put toward re-signing restricted free agents such as Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat. The Bolts also rid themselves of Filppula’s no-movement clause, which would’ve forced them to protect him in June’s expansion draft at the expense of exposing another player.

A slick move by Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman, but hardly the sort of pulse-quickening deal fans expect at the trade deadline.

The few notable players available in this year’s trade market – defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and goaltender Ben Bishop – were dealt days before the deadline. By the big day, fading stars such as Jarome Iginla and Thomas Vanek were the only noteworthy names on the move.

It’s not unusual for talented players to be dealt leading up to deadline day. In the past, however, that day would dawn with still a couple of notable stars still up for grabs. Where they would go and how much teams would pony up to get them provided plenty of buzz for pundits and fans as the 3 pm ET deadline drew near.

That trend has changed in recent years. Nowadays, the few stars available are usually gone well before deadline day.

Parity among the teams contending for playoff berths is one factor affecting deals at the deadline. The expansion draft in June certainly affected this year’s trade market. 

The biggest impediment remains the salary cap. Since its imposition in 2005, the cap has made it increasingly difficult to swing substantial deals on deadline day involving star players.

At first, the cap appeared to have little impact upon the trade market on deadline day. Mark Recchi moved from Pittsburgh to Carolina in 2006, Ryan Smyth from Edmonton to the NY Islanders in 2007, Marian Hossa from Atlanta to Pittsburgh and Brad Richards from Tampa Bay to Dallas in 2008, Olli Jokinen and Justin Williams in 2009 and Lubomir Visnovsky in 2010.

But things were starting to change by the dawn of this decade. In 2011 and 2012, the notables moved on deadline day were declining stars (Jason Arnott, Sergei Samsonov, Fredrik Modin) or second-tier talent (Dustin Penner).

Deadline day business improved in the two years following following the 2012-13 lookout. One reason was a new collective bargaining agreement containing a provision allowing teams to absorb part of a player’s salary in a trade. 

On deadline day 2013, Marian Gaborik was traded from the New York Rangers to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Meanwhile, Jason Pominville was traded from Buffalo to Minnesota and goaltender Steve Mason was moved from Columbus to Philadelphia.

Gaborik was on the move again at the 2014 deadline, shipped from Columbus to the LA Kings. That date also saw the Tampa Bay Lightning ship Martin St. Louis to the New York Rangers for Ryan Callahan, while Thomas Vanek moved from the Islanders to Montreal.

But since 2015,  the deadline-day market was again limited to past-their-prime pending free agents and second-tier players. The notables moved at the 2015 and 2016 deadlines included Kris Russell, Mikkel Boedker, Alex Tanguay, Patrick Maroon, Niklas Backstrom, Jeff Petry, Braydon Coburn, Marek Zidlicky and Chris Stewart.

One reason is the marginal increases in the salary cap since the summer of 2014 left teams with little wiggle room to made deadline swaps involving stars carrying significant salary. General managers now look toward the offseason, when they have more salary-cap space, to make big trades involving star talent.

It’s been suggested general managers are also getting smarter, that they’re becoming increasingly wary of giving up assets on playoff rental players. That may be, but if they had more cap space to work with at the deadline, or no payroll limits as in the pre-cap days, it’s doubtful many would show the restraint they’re being lauded for now.

General managers could also be growing leery of making bad deals that fail to pan out. During TSN’s coverage of this year’s trade deadline, host James Duthie posited the decline in the movement of star on deadline day could be traced back to the Ryan Smyth trade at the 2007 deadline.

At that time Smyth was eligible later that year for unrestricted free agency. Leading up to the 2007 deadline, he was involved in intense contract negotiations with the Oilers. Neither side budged, resulting in his trade to the Islanders. It was a move all sides regretted. 

While subsequent deadline day moves involving Hossa, Gaborik, Callahan and Vanek were also the result of breakdowns in contract negotiations, they’re occurring less frequently. In recent years, notables such as Kevin Shattenkirk this season, as well as Eric Staal and Andrew Ladd last year, were moved before deadline day.

The GMs involved in those moves evidently felt they wouldn’t get better offers by waiting an extra day or two. Perhaps they also wanted to avoid the brinkmanship that can lead to a regrettable move.

Failing to find better offers for a player in the final hours leading up to the deadline can sometimes blow up in a GM’s face. The Vanek trade in 2014 is a prime example.

New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow thought he could squeeze a few teams seeking a scoring forward into ponying up a significant return for Vanek. But when those clubs turned elsewhere, Snow was forced to ship the winger to Montreal for a marginal return.

Because of these factors, general managers no longer look at the NHL trade deadline with the same urgency as they once did. With fewer stars on the move, that means less excitement for hockey fans and pundits on trade deadline day.

It’s a trend that appears unlikely to change over the remainder of this collective bargaining agreement.

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 9, 2016

NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – December 9, 2016

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price punches New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri.

Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price punches New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri.

Game recaps, injury updates, Board of Governors news & more in your NHL morning coffee headlines. 

NHL.com:  Torrey Mitchell scored twice as the Montreal Canadiens downed the New Jersey Devils 5-2. Canadiens goaltender Carey Price lost his temper with New Jersey Devils winger Kyle Palmieri for crashing into him, throwing several punches with his blocker at Palmieri.

The Habs also got defenseman Nathan Beaulieu back from injury, but announced blueliner Greg Pateryn will miss eight weeks with a broken ankle. Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty also revealed he played most of November with a broken foot, but it’s fully healed now. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Price was fortunate he wasn’t tossed from the game for his uncharacteristic loss of temper. The Habs injury woes continue, as Pateryn joins Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais (knee injuries) on the sidelines. A broken foot explains Pacioretty’s offensive struggles last month. 

Claude Giroux scored twice and added an assist while Michael Raffl scored the winner late in the third period to lift the Philadelphia Flyers to a 6-5 victory over the Edmonton Oilers, giving their Flyers their seventh straight win.

Following the game, Oilers captain Connor McDavid claims Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning told him he deliberately tripped him in a game last season that resulted in McDavid being sidelined for nearly half the season with a broken clavicle. Manning denied this, maintaining that it was an accident. 

Sidney Crosby scored his league-leading 18th goal and collected an assist to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers. 

Jamie Benn scored his 200th career NHL goal and added two assists as the Dallas Stars beat the Nashville Predators 5-2. 

Jayson Megna and Jack Skille each scored twice while Ryan Miller made 38 saves to give the Vancouver Canucks a 5-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. 

David Pastrnak’s two goals weren’t enough to prevent the Boston Bruins from falling 4-2 to the Colorado Avalanche. The Avs hoped to have captain Gabriel Landeskog (lower-body injury) back in action but he was sidelined by illness

Dougie Hamilton’s overtime goal lifted the Calgary Flames to their fifth straight win by edging the Arizona Coyotes 2-1. 

Anders Lee scored twice as the New York Islanders nipped the St. Louis Blues 3-2. 

Kevin Hayes’ late power-play goal gave the New York Rangers a 2-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets. 

Derek Ryan scores twice as the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Los Angeles Kings 3-1. 

OTTAWA SUN:  Erik Karlsson set a franchise record for points by a defenseman (411) during the Senators’ 4-2 win on Wednesday over the San Jose Sharks. 

CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook (head injury) will miss Friday’s game against the New York Rangers. 

THE WASHINGTON POST: Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (upper-body injury) will miss tonight’s game against the Buffalo Sabres. 

THE MERCURY NEWS: San Jose Sharks blueliner David Schlemko remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. 

USA TODAY:  NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said there was “strong negative sentiment” among the league board of governors toward participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics. No vote was taken on the matter, but it appears likely the league won’t be sending players to the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea. The International Olympic Committee’s unwillingness to pick up the transportation and insurance costs of the players plus the risk of injuries are among the reasons behind the BoG disenchantment. 

YAHOO SPORTS:  Bettman also revealed the NHL salary cap for 2017-18 could rise by $2 million over the current cap of $73 million, but was vague in his overall comments on the matter. 

SPECTOR’S NOTE: That’s merely a projection by Bettman. As we’ve seen in recent years, those predicted numbers usually don’t match the actual amount. It could go up by $2 million but I wouldn’t be surprised if it only goes up by half that amount. 

THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER:  The Anaheim Ducks placed forward Ryan Garbutt on waivers. 

DETROIT FREE PRESS: “Jamie Daniels, son of Detroit Red Wings television play-by-play broadcaster Ken Daniels, died in his sleep Wednesday morning, the team announced today. He was 23.”

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My condolences to the Daniels family.