Why a flat salary cap is possible


PITTSBURGH — This may finally be the year that something’s done about escrow.

And the result could be a flat salary cap.

“One of the issues that we hear from the players’ association that causes concern to the players is the escrow,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Monday before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“Obviously the higher the cap goes, the more exacerbated the escrow problem becomes. Certainly our position with the players’ association has been that we’ll manage the cap tighter and keep it lower to try to address the escrow situation, if that’s your preference.”

One way to keep the cap lower would be to nix the annual five percent growth factor that’s written into the CBA.

It sounds easy, but that wouldn’t be everyone’s preference. On both sides.

“We certainly have some clubs who have an interest in having the cap go up every year … and we have some clubs who don’t want the cap to go up every year,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said Monday. “Same on the players’ side. A certain segment of the population would like a bigger cap, which creates more opportunity, particularly for free agents in terms of signing new contracts. And there’s a significant portion of players, apparently, who have concerns that the higher the cap goes, the escrow goes up as well.”

Related: To understand escrow issue, consider Duncan Keith

Escrow is hardly a new concern for the players, and there’s been plenty of talk the last few years that the growth factor could be renegotiated to zero. But the only time that actually happened was the 2006-07 season.

So, why should we expect anything different this year?

“Because we heard, I think for the first time, this year a really strong sentiment on the escrow,” said Daly. “Our position is if that’s a huge concern for the players, one way to start to address it is to keep the cap lower.”

The league and players’ association will discuss the matter this week, at which point an alternative growth factor could be proposed. If there’s no growth factor, the cap could stay right around its current level of $73 million.

But one thing the NHL won’t consider is a change to the actual system.

“Escrow is part of the deal,” said Daly. “It is what makes the system a 50-50 split between the clubs and the players. You take escrow out of the equation, you don’t have a 50-50 deal anymore. I don’t know how you’d address escrow, unless you change the system in a material way, which certainly is not something our clubs are interested in doing right now.”

Daly was asked if he sensed that some of the players didn’t truly grasp the system.

“I can’t speak for the players, but the mechanism is now 12 years old,” he said. “So if you weren’t a player in this league 12 years ago, and you don’t know what the origins of the escrow are and what they were intended to do, sure, there could be a misunderstanding. You view it as, ‘It’s just a tax on my salary paycheck, and if the Canadian dollar stays where it is, it’s a pretty significant tax on my salary. So let’s do something about the escrow.’ I get it, but escrow is a material element of the system.”

At any rate, a flat salary cap could be a significant issue for some of the NHL’s big-spending teams. Just this morning, for example, Capitals GM Brian MacLellan said that T.J. Oshie could be re-signed if the cap goes up to $77 million, but that would require the five percent growth factor to kick in.

The Buzzer: MacKinnon the hero; Lundqvist gives up zero

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Players of the night:

Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, Carolina Hurricanes:

Teravainen picked up two goals and an assist in Carolina’s 4-2 win over the New York Islanders, while Aho had a goal and two helpers. It was a positive weekend for the ‘Canes as they were able to pick up victories over Buffalo and New York on Saturday and Sunday.

William Karlsson, Vegas Golden Knights:

The Golden Knights, who are currently second in the Pacific Division, took down the division-leading Kings, 4-2, thanks to a pair of goals from Karlsson in the first period.

Just a hunch, but Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is probably going to want this one back:

Highlights of the night: 

The Hurricanes may have come up with the victory, but it was Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy that scored the most impressive goal of the game, as he split two players before beating Cam Ward.

Nathan MacKinnon was up to his old tricks, as he helped the Avs come back to beat the Red Wings. MacKinnon registered the primary assist on Carl Soderberg‘s game-tying goal with under a minute remaining in regulation. He also added this incredible goal in overtime:

Who knew that Ducks defenseman Josh Manson had these kind of moves?

Factoids of the Night:

King Henrik is moving up the all-time list:

Hey, shutouts are never easy, so the fact that King Henrik has 63 of them is pretty impressive. He had to make a key save on Mike Hoffman in the first period:

Ducks goalie John Gibson faced a lot of rubber. He turned away 50 of 52 shots in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers.

Suspensions of the Night: 

Sunday was a big night for the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, as they handed out two suspensions.

The first one was given to Flyers defenseman Radko Gudas for his slash to the back of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault’s head. Gudas will sit for 10 games. He’ll also forfeit over $408,000 in salary. 

Predators forward Austin Watson was also disciplined for boarding Avalanche rookie Dominic Toninato. Watson, who isn’t a repeat offender, was suspended for two games. 

Hall of Fame Tribute of the Night: 

The Ducks players wore Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne’s jerseys during the pre-game warmup. As you probably remember, both players entered the Hockey Hall of Fame last week.

I prefer the white “Kariya” jersey, but that’s just me.


Hurricanes 4, Islanders 2

Avalanche 4, Red Wings 3 (OT)

Rangers 3, Senators 0

Golden Knights 4, Kings 2

Ducks 3, Panthers 2

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Austin Watson suspended two games for boarding Dominic Toninato

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety is working overtime on Sunday night, as they’ve handed out a pair of suspensions.

Moments after announcing Radko Gudas’ 10-game suspension, the league handed a two-game ban to Predators forward Austin Watson for boarding Avs rookie Dominic Toninato.

Unlike Gudas, Watson has no history of being fined or suspended during his NHL career.

Here’s the league’s full explanation of their decision to suspend Watson:

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Radko Gudas suspended 10 games for slashing Mathieu Perreault over the head


We all knew that Radko Gudas would receive a suspension for his slash to the back of Jets forward Mathieu Perreault‘s head, but we didn’t know how long he’d be forced to sit out.

On Sunday, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced that Gudas has been suspended for 10 games for the incident.

The league confirmed that the fact that the Flyers defenseman is a repeat offender played against him in this case.

Check out the Department of Player Safety’s full explanation of the suspension:

The suspension will also cost him just over $408,000 in salary, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. Ouch!

“He got the meaty part of the neck,” Perreault said after the game, per TSN.ca  “It could have been worse, I guess.

“He apologized in the penalty box, but when you look at the replay, it looks like he did it on purpose. It wasn’t an accident. He’s been known for doing stuff like that, so I certainly don’t appreciate it. I’m sure the league will take care of it.”

Gudas served the first game of the suspension on Saturday. He’ll be eligible to return to the Flyers lineup on on Dec. 12 against Toronto.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Flyers will host Penguins in outdoor game at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019

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The battle of Pennsylvania will take a new twist, as the NHL announced that the Philadelphia Flyers will be hosting the Pittsburgh Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field (home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles) on Feb. 23, 2019.

This will be the second time that these two teams play each other in an outdoor game. Last season, the Penguins beat the Flyers, 4-2, at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

“It’s always a special opportunity to take the game back to its roots and have NHL players skate outdoors,” Penguins president and CEO David Morehouse said in a release. “We competed against the Flyers outdoors at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh 2017 and look forward to completing the in-state ‘home-and-home’ series at Lincoln Financial Field in 2019. It should be a great atmosphere.”

This will be the fifth time that the Penguins are involved in an outdoor door since 2008. They won a shootout decision against Buffalo (2008), they lost a home game to Washington (2011), they lost in Chicago (2014) and they beat the Flyers earlier this year.

It’s the second time the Flyers host an outdoor game (the first one was at Citizens Bank Park baseball stadium). The game at Lincoln Financial Field will be the fourth outdoor game for the Flyers. They lost in Boston in overtime (2010), they dropped home decision to the Rangers (2012), and they had the loss to Pittsburgh last year.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.