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The NHL could be looking at a $2 million rise in the salary cap for next season, but early projections should be taken with a grain of salt. In December 2015, a potential rise of $3 million was projected. The upper limit increased by only $1.6 million.
It’s still far too soon to tell, but early estimations have it looking like the salary cap could jump up as much as $2 million ahead of the 2017-18 campaign.
Following the NHL’s Board of Governors meetings on Thursday, commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about what the league sees as a potential cap for the upcoming campaign, which, among other things, will see the introduction of the league’s 31st franchise in the Vegas Golden Knights.
Bettman didn’t give an exact figure as to what the cap will look like, but he said there’s the potential for the upper limit to move by roughly $2 million.
"There's always a range, but it's something we're going to have to look at very carefully in terms of how may be best to approach it," Bettman said, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen. "The cap could range from where it is now to a couple or so million up, but we're going to all have to focus on what makes most sense going forward.”
Any increase in the cap would be good news for the players, especially pending unrestricted free agents looking to land long-term, big-money deals. St. Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Ben Bishop are two of the biggest names currently slated to hit the open market come July 2017.
Of course, there’s a chance the cap stays flat, which Bettman also indicated, but said he’d prefer to speak with the NHLPA about a possible flat cap before answering questions about it.
Before any GMs with tight cap situations or fans who’re praying their respective teams get some cap breathing room go celebrating, it’s worth noting that early projections for the 2016-17 salary cap saw the upper limit increasing by close to $3 million. That would have seen the cap rise from $71.4 million to $74.5 million, and anyone paying close attention to the financials of the league’s teams is aware that rise in the upper limit didn’t quite come to fruition.
Instead, the cap for the current campaign is $71.4 million, and the rise is mostly thanks to the NHLPA using their five-percent “escalator clause.” Had the players not used the clause, there was some concern the cap could have actually dipped from the past season to the current campaign. Some projections had the cap possibly falling below $70 million for 2016-17.
A rise of $2 million would be only slightly more than the $1.6 million increase from 2015-16 to 2016-17, and it would be one of the smallest increases since the salary cap was introduced in 2005-06. From 2008-09 to 2009-10, the cap rose by only $100,000 and there was no rise in the cap from 2011-12 to 2013-14, with teams allowed to spend to a $60-million limit during the 2012-13 lockout-shortened campaign.
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Faced with the prospect of not being able to fly to a game this weekend, Jerry York wasn't about to let that stop him from coaching Boston College.
Back in the late 1970s, Jerry York was the youngest coach in the nation. Now he’s the second oldest, behind Red Berenson, who turned 77 yesterday. York is in his 45th season behind the bench of a Division I team and he’s coached a mind-boggling 1,740 games. He’s won 1,025 of them, which is exactly 100 ahead of Ron Mason, who’s No. 2 on the all-time wins list. He’s guided five national championship teams and put countless players in the NHL, from Hall of Famer Rob Blake to current NHLers such as Johnny Gaudreau, Cory Schneider, Brian Boyle and Patrick Eaves.
In other words, he had perhaps earned the right to sit this one out. The 71-year-old dean of Division I hockey could have told associate coach Greg Brown to take the bench for one night. But faced with the prospect of not being able to fly to South Bend, Ind., to coach his Boston College Eagles against Notre Dame Saturday night because he’s recovering from surgery to repair a detached retina, York instead went old school for the 900-mile, 18-hour journey.
While the rest of the team chartered out of Boston Friday afternoon for a 90-minute flight, York had his director of hockey operations, John Hegarty, drive him to Albany Thursday afternoon. From there, York hopped an Amtrak train bound for South Bend that got in at about 8:30 Friday morning. And the most stunning thing about all of this is that York did this coach one game, not a weekend series. In fact, he figures Saturday night’s game will go until about 10 p.m., which means he’ll be able to take an Uber from the Compton Family Ice Arena to catch the midnight train that will let him retrace his steps, meaning he should get back to Boston sometime Sunday evening.
York missed six games early in the season while he was recovering from the surgery, but wasn’t about to sit any more out. So there he’ll be Saturday night, behind the Eagles bench, sporting an eye-patch and trying to help his team improve on its 8-0-1 record in Hockey East. It’s already the best start of any team in league history, but that’s not what is motivating him. It’s the passion for coaching that still drives him.
“All I need is a parrot on my right shoulder and I’ll be a buccaneer,” York said. “I think for me, this was a telltale sign that I still want to do this, that I have the passion to do it. This was a key indicator, if I didn’t want to do it I think that would be telling me something. I see Red Berenson at coaching conferences and we both like golf and other things, but I’d still rather be coaching than doing anything else. I love being behind the bench and I love tying up my skates at 2:30 every day.”
And York has a lot to be excited about this season. Despite losing seven players to the NHL from last year’s team, the Eagles have been a Hockey East juggernaut this season. Despite losing seven underclassmen to the NHL, the Eagles are the top team in their league and with an overall record of 13-5-1 has them the No. 4-ranked team in the nation. They’re second in the NCAA in goals scored with 71 and their goal differential of plus-30 is No. 1 in the nation.
This is despite losing Miles Wood and Steven Santini to the New Jersey Devils, Alex Tuch and Adam Gilmour to the Minnesota Wild, Zach Sanford to the Washington Capitals, Ian McCoshen to the Florida Panthers and goalie Thatcher Demko to the Vancouver Canucks. And Jeremy Bracco, who sits third in the Ontario League scoring race with 50 points already this season, left the Eagles early last season to jump to major junior hockey.
“We have 13 freshmen this year,” York said. “That’s a lot of new guys. We were prepared to lose maybe three guys (to the NHL), but we got surprised and we had to scramble. We had to almost rebuild the whole program.”
It has helped that freshman Joe Woll, a third-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, has more than filled the void left by Demko. The 6-foot-4, 202-pound native of St. Louis has been the team’s backbone and a large reason why the Eagles have given up only nine first-period goals in 19 games this season. They’re also outscoring their opponents 28-12 in the second period. The Eagles are led offensively by a small, skilled kid by the name of Gaudreau from New Jersey, just as they were two years ago. Matthew Gaudreau, whose brother Johnny won the Hobey Baker Award with the Eagles three years ago and turned pro with the Calgary Flames, leads the team with 6-16-22 totals in 19 games.
“This isn’t the most talented team I’ve ever had,” York said, “but it’s the most enjoyable for me to coach in a long time.”
The game against Notre Dame will be the last before the holidays. That means York won’t have to get on a plane until a trip to Pittsburgh after Christmas. He sees his doctor Dec. 23 and hopes to be cleared to fly after that. If not, he’ll likely be on the train to Pittsburgh because he’s not about to let a long travel day keep him from behind the bench.
“It’s not in my fabric,” he said of the prospect of missing games. “I feel just like Punch Imlach.”
There’s still no word as to what exactly caused Coyotes AHL captain Craig Cunningham to collapse on ice, but the 26-year-old was in contact with teammates and cracking jokes earlier this week.
More than two weeks after collapsing on the ice ahead of an AHL game between the Coyotes and Jets AHL affiliates, news has come that Craig Cunningham is starting to get back to his old self.
According to Tucson’s KVOA, Cunningham spoke with two teammates, Brandon Burlon and Christian Fisher, via FaceTime earlier this week, and both said that things are starting to look up for the 26-year-old Cunningham.
“He's awake, he's alert, had a good little chat with him and tried to boost his spirits a little bit.” Burlon told KVOA of speaking with Cunningham.
Fisher added that it was nice to see Cunningham, the captain of the Coyotes’ AHL affiliate Tucson Roadrunners, smiling again. But he wasn’t just smiling, he was also trying to have a good time with his teammates while hinting that he wants to get back on the ice.
“He was cracking jokes just as if he were here the next day," Fisher told KVOA. "It was pretty funny. He said he wanted us to come pick him up and take him to the rink. He was joking around. Stuff like that.”
The mystery still remains as to what caused Cunningham’s collapse, however. It came just moments before the game was set to start and resulted in medical staff in the building cutting away his equipment in order to attend to him. Cunningham ended up leaving the ice on a stretcher, was transported to hospital and he remained in critical but stable condition for much of the past two weeks.
Still, though, Burlon and Fisher said that there’s no “definitive answer” as to what caused Cunningham’s medical emergency. That’s more than all right with both players, too, so long as Cunningham’s health is starting to look up.
"What we do know is that he is doing well and we are moving forward here," Fisher told KVOA. "Hopefully, he will start the road to recovery now.”
Cunningham has suited up for 319 AHL games over the course of his career, netting 101 goals and 203 points, as well as scoring an additional three goals and eight points in 63 NHL games. He was drafted 97th overall by the Bruins in 2010, but was picked up by Arizona off waivers from Boston during the 2014-15 season.
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Daniel and Henrik Sedin
Daniel and Henrik Sedin
At least two teams are reportedly interested in acquiring the Sedins for their full cap hit and Canucks veterans could draw interest at the trade deadline. The Kings are looking to clear cap space by moving out Teddy Purcell.
The ongoing struggles of the Vancouver Canucks this season generated some speculation over possible roster moves.
In early November, it was reported GM Jim Benning was in the market for a 20-goal winger. At one point, the Canucks were linked to Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane, but Benning reportedly ended that inquiry.
By late-November, The Province's Jason Botchford suggested the Canucks could get an early start on deciding which players to move by the March 1 trade deadline. He felt veterans such as Ryan Miller, Alex Edler, Alexandre Burrows and perhaps even Daniel and Henrik Sedin could be on the move.
Unless those players want out of Vancouver, however, that's not going to happen. All carry some form of a no-trade clause in their respective contracts. Benning tells Botchford he won't move them unless they ask to be dealt.
Botchford said he knows of two teams that would be willing to acquire the Sedins for their full combined salary-cap hit of $14 million. If the Canucks were to pick up part of that cap hit (which runs through 2017-18), he thinks more clubs would be interested.
The sticking point, of course, is the Sedins' willingness to be traded. So far, they've given no indication that they want out of Vancouver. As Botchford points out, such a move would likely have to take place in the off-season.
Even if the Canucks put the Sedins on the block, they're unlikely to fetch a significant return. While they're still putting up solid numbers (17 points in 26 games), the 36-year-old twins are well past their prime. Teams aren't going to give up a lot for a couple of fading stars. Picks and prospects, sure, but nothing that would immediately reverse the Canucks' fortunes.
As for Miller, he and Canucks management could be willing to work out a contract extension. Botchford's collegue Ben Kuzma doubts the Canucks place the 36-year-old goalie on the block by the trade deadline.
Kuzma notes Miller's stats aren't great this season. However, he feels he'll still be a good fit with Jacob Markstrom, buying some time until promising goalie prospect Thatcher Demko is ready to move up. He wonders if Miller might be agreeable to a two- or three-year deal worth between $4-$4.5 million per season. That's a significant pay cut from Miller's current $6-million annual salary.
Considering Miller's no longer an elite goaltender, he probably won't get much better than that on the open market. He could test next summer's free-agent market, but will likely find few decent offers. He could prefer to avoid uncertainty over his future by staying in Vancouver for a reasonable contract.
KINGS TRYING TO FREE SPACE WITH PURCELL MOVE
Los Angeles Kings left wing Teddy Purcell cleared waivers over the weekend. Signed as a free agent last summer to a one-year, $1.6-million contract, the 31-year-old managed only two points in 12 games this season. Illness and a lower-body injury sidelined him in October, and he was a healthy scratch in the Kings' last four games.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggests contract and budget issues explain why Purcell, who exceeded 40 points three times in his career, went unclaimed. LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen reports of some trade talk with another club prior to Purcell hitting the waiver wire.
With 21 of 30 NHL teams carrying $2 million or less in cap space, moving Purcell's cap hit is difficult right now. The Kings obviously want to shed his salary without taking any back in a deal. They could be waiting until later in the season to find the right deal.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.