At this week’s NHL Board of Governors meetings in San Francisoco, Commissioner Gary Bettman was guarded when asked about salary cap projections for next season. He refused to give an estimate. Instead, he recognized that the final number will come as part of a negotiation with the players, who have the right to “inflate” the ceiling by up to five per cent.
You may recall that at last year’s December Board of Governors’ meeting, Bettman publicly predicted an $83 million cap, but the final valuation end up at $81.5 million. Because that number wasn’t finalized until late June, the unanticipated deficit pinched both teams and players, including the Capitals.
A $1.5 million shortfall in final salary cap numbers may not seam like a lot, but it means the difference between being able to keep Chandler Stephenson, and calling up defenseman Martin Fehervary, and the lineup the Capitals have today.
According to Elliotte Friedman, while some clubs will be careful because of what happened a year ago, others have the impression it could be $84-$85 million. Why? Because of lockout/strike fears, many players structured their contracts with lower cash payouts in 2020-21. That means lower escrow, which allows the possibility the NHLPA would be willing to raise the ceiling by more than, say, the 1.15 per cent of 2018-19.
The challenge now for Brian MacLellan and the rest of the League’s General Managers will be deciding how best to proceed with plan based on these early projections, considering last years misleading projections from the league in January, and the difficult salary cap issues that continue to this date.
With Braden Holtby and Nicklas Backstrom the two key contracts expiring this summer, MacLellan will need to keep on his toes with regards to a final cap number. Any “early projections” currently circulating have to be considered, but any formal contractual planning based on these early numbers might be a risky endeavor.