The NHL increasing the salary cap by just $1 million next season is comical

Photo credit:Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
Noah Strang
1 year ago
Gary Bettman held his annual press conference yesterday and fielded questions from the media. The NHL’s commissioner spoke on a variety of topics, the most interesting of which had to do with the league’s salary cap and the current situation with the Arizona Coyotes.
For the Canucks, the recent discussion around the salary cap is very important. A few extra million in cap space could help the team alleviate some of the financial pressure it feels at the moment as they’re pushed up against the limit. A few million would give the organization something to work with to acquire players, and it would lessen the pain of the bloated contracts already on the roster.
While it seemed like at one point that the NHL’s salary cap would jump by $3-4 million for next season, Bettman shot down that idea and gave the impression that the jump will be just $1 million. That would move the league-wide salary cap from $82.5 million to $83.5 million.
This is disappointing news not just for Canucks fans, but for hockey fans everywhere. More salary cap space across the league would make it easier for teams to add players, no matter whether that be through trades or free agency. With the cap raising just $1 million, it will be more difficult for teams around the league to improve their rosters.

Why Bettman is keeping the salary cap lower 

The reason why the salary cap will be taking such a small jump next season is that the players are still working to pay off a large debt accumulated during the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, the players owed owners $1.1 billion but that money has almost been completely paid off as the current balance is around $70 million.
Despite the balance being almost completely paid back, Bettman has decided to still take a conservative approach and wait for the total to reach zero before moving ahead with a cap increase. What makes this news even more difficult to accept is that the league is doing well financially and hockey-related revenue continues to grow.
“We believe that there is a good probability that the escrow will be paid off this season,” Bettman said. “It may not be, but it’s going to be close we think, which means the flat cap will be replaced by a bigger increase. Revenue is pretty vibrant. We probably did $5.4 billion in [hockey-related revenues] this past season, which is actually about half a billion more than we projected a year ago when we were starting things up. Things are good.”
Bettman refusing to raise the salary cap despite the league beating projects financially because the players have about 7% of a massive debt incurred during COVID is frustrating, but what hockey fans have come to accept from a commissioner that has always made sure to serve the owners of the league well.

What this means for the Canucks

While the cap jumping $3-4 million for next season would have been great for the Canucks, it’s the 2024-25 season that is of the highest concern. That’s because there are some key players with expiring contracts that will need to be re-signed by that date. As it stands right now, it’s expected that a large cap increase — perhaps around $5 million — will happen at that point after the players pay off the last bit of their escrow debt.
This is good news for the Canucks as that summer is going to be crucial for team building. Elias Pettersson will be due for an extension and that contract won’t be cheap. If Pettersson continues to play at the level he’s shown he’s capable of, he’ll likely get the largest contract in franchise history. The Canucks will be thankful for a salary cap increase when that day comes.
Pettersson is not the only big-name player that will need an extension at that point. Filip Hronek and Vasili Podkolzin will also be restricted free agents. While they’re not going to command nearly as much as the superstar Swedish centreman, the Canucks will need to make a sizeable financial commitment to keep both those players.
Barring any disaster, it seems like the salary cap will be making a larger jump after next season. The players should have paid off their entire escrow debt and the league will be ready to bump the cap ceiling. That will come at the perfect time for the Canucks, who will be handing out some large contracts.

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