Unless you’re lucky enough to be a fan of one of the three NHL teams that are still playing hockey right now, at least some of your hockey thoughts are now focused on the offseason and what it will mean for your team. The free agency period is just over a month away (thanks NHL scheduling) and soon the hockey world will be focused on signings and dealings once again.
Of course, who your team can sign depends greatly on the team’s salary cap situation. According to an article by Mike Colligan at Forbes.com, “NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly told the Sports Lawyers Association that he expects next year’s salary cap to rise to between $60.5m and $63.5m. The latter figure would represent a $4.1m bump from this season’s cap of $59.4m and a 63% rise since the cap was first initiated in 2005.”
That’s great news for a lot of teams, but the cap may not actually rise by that much.
The amount that the salary cap rises will ultimately depend on the players’ association.
Once the hockey-related revenue (HRR) for the year is calculated and the salary cap is determined, the players are able to increase the cap by five percent in order to account for expected growth. The NHLPA has always voted to increase the cap, but they may not do so this year.
Colligan explains why:
A higher salary cap means teams with full pockets can spend more and drive up the market price of this summer’s free agents. But if HRR doesn’t increase 5-percent next year to match the escalator, players with existing contracts are forced to surrender even more money to the league in escrow.
As we’ve seen in the past, NHL players don’t exactly like the idea of higher escrow payments. Remember, escrow payments are possibly the biggest of the #DanEllisProblems and Ellis talking about escrow on Twitter is what started that conflict and the meme that went with it.
The difference between the amount teams are actually paying players and their cap hits (see Kovalchuk, Ilya) already means that the players are paying more into escrow right now. They may not want to pay anything else.
There’s no doubt that many league general managers would love to have some extra money to spend, but will the players agree? Remember, the league collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of next season and the owners may not want to push the players around due to the fear of another work stoppage. Especially with Donald Fehr now heading up the NHLPA.