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Free agents rejoice: Salary cap could rise to $74.5 million in 2016-17

Jared Clinton
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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

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Free agents rejoice: Salary cap could rise to $74.5 million in 2016-17

Jared Clinton
By:

It’s still early, but initial salary cap projections for the 2016-17 season could see the upper limit increase as much as $3.1 million. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said it’s too early to give a firm estimate. The increase would see the cap increase to $74.5 million from its current $71.4 million ceiling.

A number of GMs are going to be sleeping much easier if early projections are any indication of what’s to come for the salary cap.

News out of the board of governors meeting Monday was that the NHL could see the salary cap shoot up as much as $3 million for the 2016-17 season, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. The initial “ball park projection,” LeBrun reported, is that the cap could increase to $74.5 million in time for next season, which will have a number of GMs breathing a sigh of relief.

"We gave them a very, very, very rough projection on what the cap could conceivably be next season, which will be somewhere between where it is now and up $3 million, in that range," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. "That will depend on a variety of factors."

However, as some were quick to point out, the actual figure could be much, much different. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the $74.5 million figure is the best-case scenario, and “most GMs will tell you they are budgeting less than that” out of caution.

It’s wise to exercise that caution, too, because the projected upper limit of the cap can shift in a big way over the course of a season. For example, Bettman announced a $73 million projection at this time in 2014, citing the Canadian dollar as one factor that could change the outlook of the upper-limit. Bettman acknowledged that he couldn’t actually pinpoint a salary cap figure for next season because it was still too early in the season.

"When I give a number, they're all soft at this time of the year so I don't want to pinpoint any number," Bettman told Rosen. "It's only December. We still have a lot more of the season to play and a lot more revenues to collect.”

There are currently 11 teams within $2 million of the salary cap, including five teams — the Canucks, Capitals, Blackhawks, Rangers and Penguins — that have less than $500,000 remaining below the cap. The $3 million increase would give a number of teams breathing room.

If the cap rose to $74.5 million, the lower limit, reported Friedman, would be $55.1 million. There are currently no teams with a cap hit below that number, with the Winnipeg Jets having the lowest total cap hit at $59.9 million. The Arizona Coyotes pay the least in total salary, however, at $55.9 million.

When the cap was first introduced post-lockout in 2005-06, it was $39 million. In the years that followed, the cap increased by $5 million, $6.3 million and $6.4 million, resulting in a salary cap of $56.7 million by 2008-09. By 2010-11, within five years of its introduction, the cap was $59.4 million and had increased by $20.4 million. In the five years since, it has only gone up by $12 million to today’s figure of $71.4 million.

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Free agents rejoice: Salary cap could rise to $74.5 million in 2016-17