Bettman projects 2015-16 cap will be $71.5 million

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Throughout the regular season, the salary cap for 2015-16 has been a subject of speculation due to the decline in the Canadian dollar. We’ve become used to dramatic annual jumps in the ceiling, with the obvious exception of the new CBA resulting in a rollback. From 2013-14 to 2014-15 for example, the cap went from $64.3 million to $69 million.

Those climbs have been important for teams that spend to the ceiling as it gives them critical maneuvering room. For those squads, the good news is it is expected to go up again — but not by as much as originally hoped.

With the season and most of the first round done, Gary Bettman is projecting that the salary cap will end up being around $71.5 million, per Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. That’s in contrast to the December estimate of about $73 million.

The modest increase is particularly problematic for the Chicago Blackhawks as Patrick Kane’s and Jonathan Toews’ matching eight-year, $84 million contracts are set to kick in next season. Although they aren’t the only squad that will have some difficulty finding a way to stay under the ceiling.

This could lead to more trades like the New York Islanders’ acquisition of defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk from Chicago and Boston respectively prior to the start of the campaign. Those trades gave the Islanders a significant boost and likely only happened because the Bruins and Blackhawks were in a tough cap position.