The mixture of a new U.S. television deal and the Seattle Kraken joining the league could lead to the NHL salary cap ceiling rising for the first time since 2019.
According to Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli, the league has projected a $1 million rise in the cap ceiling for the 2022-23 season. If that becomes a reality, it would be the first increase since the upper limit rose from $79.5 million in 2018-19 to $81.5 million for 2019-20.
Due to the hit the COVID-19 pandemic put on hockey-related revenues (HRR), the cap ceiling has stayed at $81.5 million for the pst two seasons and will remain there for 2021-22. This has also led to NHL players owing owners approximately $1 billion in escrow, which means the cap crunch is likely to continues a few more years.
A rise to $82.5 million in 2022-23 would likely trigger the start of a ‘lag formula,’ as agreed upon in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations between the NHL and NHL Players’ Association in 2020, that could see the salary cap climb $1 million each offseason until the escrow balance owed to owners is paid off.
Provided that revenue bounces back strongly in 2022-23, starting at $5.4 billion and reasonably increases year-over-year from there, NHL players can hope to pay off their billion dollar debt some time during the 2025-26 season. Because of that, the Collective Bargaining Agreement is likely to automatically extend through 2026-27, which would also mark the first season that players and teams could reasonably expect to realize a significant increase in the salary cap, with the cap linked back to actual revenue projections again for the first time since 2019-20.
The NHL and NHLPA agreed to a new CBA through the 2025-26 season last summer before they finalized the Return to Play plan.
While a $1 million rise wouldn’t be monumental, the inclusion of multiple outdoor games, the return of the All-Star Game, and the potential for more arenas to welcome back full crowds next season could help ease such a cap crunch as time goes on.