There have been some debatable trends occurring in the NHL since the lockout ended, but there’s at least one that is undeniable: the league’s salary cap has risen every season. The 2010-11 season’s ceiling is $59.4 million, but the NHL Players Association could vote on a measure that would bump it up about 4.7 percent to $62.2 million for 2011-12, according to Larry Brooks of the NY Post.
That would be an approximate jump of $2.8 million, a little bit less than what James Neal will make for the Pittsburgh Penguins next season. Obviously, such a measure would be a good thing for the teams who are hard up against the cap, such as Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago and Detroit.
If the NHLPA approves the five percent escalator that would make this happen — Brooks notes that revenues didn’t increase enough or at all to make the cap go up naturally — then the cap floor would be around $46.2 million. That minimum amount of spent money could be a serious downer for the league’s poorest teams, such as the Islanders.
Before fans of big market teams get visions of mid-level free agents dancing in their heads, Brooks notes that there would be some drawbacks for the players’ union, despite the fact that a higher cap means more money available in free agency.
There is no guarantee that the union will vote to adopt the 5-percent inflator, given that doing so leads to increased escrow as a tradeoff for additional dollars in the system that benefits free agents and high payroll, powerful teams seeking to keep their rosters intact.
But as 2011-12 represents the final year of the CBA, the 7.5-percent bonus cushion that allows clubs to defer up to that amount in performance bonuses on entry level and over-35 contracts will disappear. According to several sources, that will be an important consideration that is expected to prompt to players to vote for the escalator.
Keep in mind that this story is a based on information relayed to Brooks through the NHL’s agents and it isn’t an official report. It’s also speculation based on the union approving the escalator, so keep that in mind.
Still, it would be surprising if the players didn’t approve this measure. A higher salary cap stinks for the sad sack franchises, but ultimately is a good thing for the league. Of the 30 teams in the league, 12 are currently $1.1 million or less away from the cap ceiling at this moment according to CapGeek.com. Conversely, only six teams sit $10 million or more under the ceiling and one of those teams (the Atlanta Thrashers) might find themselves in a more hockey-mad market depending on their ownership situation.
So, overall, a higher cap would be a good thing for the teams that are making and spending money. It’s also a decent bet for fans since it helps clubs retain free agents, even if teams like the Flyers will use a rising cap as a goofy excuse when they raise ticket prices.
(Hey, Ville Leino won’t be cheap though, right?)