Speculating on next year’s potential salary cap

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There’s been some debate on what the salary cap ceiling would be in the somewhat unlikely scenario that the new CBA won’t change the financial structure of the NHL. Bob McKenzie reports that the max would technically be $70.3 million based on league revenue if things went unchanged.

I used italics in the previous paragraph for a simple reason: whether it takes mere weeks or agonizing months, there will be a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The salary cap is just about certainly here to stay, yet the specifics could be quite different.

Free agent head-scratching

Either way, it sets up an interesting series of questions for general managers. James Mirtle points out the fact that an ambitious GM could exceed that situational cap by as much as 10 percent this summer, yet that would make things awfully complicated if the cap ceiling drops.

(Hopefully the NHL wouldn’t hand some shocking penalty to that hypothetical team like the NFL did to the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys in that league’s bizarre “uncapped” year.)

Perhaps the most important takeaway is that increased revenues mean that the salary cap is as high as the NHL and its players association will allow. How high exactly it will go obviously remains to be seen – hopefully in time for the 2012-13 season to being.

Hypothetical fun

Throwing out those fun-killing “it could all change completely” for a second, Cap Geek breaks down how much cap space each team would have at this moment if the ceiling indeed goes to $70.3 million.

For the fun of it, here are the five teams with the lowest amounts of would-be space:

5. Buffalo Sabres: $11.76 million in cap space (based on 19-player roster)
4. Boston Bruins: $11.27M (18)
3. Pittsburgh Penguins: $10.73M (18)
2. Philadelphia Flyers: $9.08M (20)
1. Chicago Blackhawks: $8.81M (22)

Conversely, here are the five teams that would have the most space remaining:

1. Colorado Avalanche: $46.84M (9)
2. Nashville Predators:: $38.15M (12)
3. Phoenix Coyotes: $35.44M (17)
4. St. Louis Blues: $34.04M (16)
5. Winnipeg Jets: $33.43M (14)

Interesting stuff, eh? If the Blues’ budget inflated – it’s not expected to, from most indications – they could take an even bigger leap forward. Feel free to imagine all kinds of outrageous free agent spending sprees in the comments, even if the new CBA would likely make many of those scenarios largely imaginary.