It’s looking like the 2017-18 NHL salary cap will be only slightly increased, or perhaps even flat, as compared to last season’s cap of $73 million.
“Projections really haven’t changed,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said on Monday night. “You’re looking at a flatter or slightly upped cap with no inflator. Then you can run it out to 77 [million dollars] and change if you apply the 5 percent inflator. That’s a discussion we have to have with the Players’ Association. We’re actually scheduled to talk about it for the first time this coming week. We’ll see where they are.”
The NHLPA typically has the option to inflate the cap by that five percent number, which they opted to do last year in raising the cap to $73 million from the previous number of $71.4 million in 2015-16.
A five percent increase on last year’s $73 million cap would be a $3.65 million increase, pulling the cap up to or around $76.65 million. That’s where Daly gets the $77 million number from.
“I’ll add that one of the issues that we hear from the Players’ Association that causes concern to the players is the escrow,” Daly continued. “Obviously the higher the cap goes, the more exacerbated the escrow problem becomes. Certainly our position with the Players’ Association has been that we’ll manage the cap tighter and keep it lower to try to address the escrow situation, if that’s your preference.”
Let’s quickly explain whatever the hell Daly is saying there. Under the collective bargaining agreement, players are entitled each season to a 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue. If the players elect to use the escalator, a higher percentage of their salary will be set aside from each pay check — in escrow — until the end of next season, only to come back to their pockets once the 50-50 calculation is made based on the year’s revenue. In most cases, players do not receive the full percentage of their paychecks in return, and therefore players hate it.
Here’s how TSN’s Frank Seravalli described this in practice:
[In the fall of 2015], the NHL’s players received a refund of just a 2.05 per cent on the 15 per cent that was withheld bi-weekly during the 2014-15 season. In other words, players were paid 87.05 per cent of the salaries listed on their contract. Federal, state and local taxes, as well as agent’s fees, are then taken from that 87.05 per cent of their published salaries.
We’ll see what the players decide. The cap announcement will likely be made at some point between the end of the Stanley Cup Final and the Expansion Draft, given that important decisions will need to be made with regards to rosters in 2017-18 during that event.
From a Philadelphia Flyers perspective, we obviously want the cap to be as high as possible. With 16 players under contract for 2017-18 -- four defensemen, one goalie and 11 forwards -- the Flyers have committed $59.85 million in cap costs. There are uncertainties with regards to next year’s roster thanks to the expansion draft, but at the very least, they’ll need to sign a goaltender, defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and several forwards. There are no huge named unrestricted free agents with the need to be signed, though, which helps mitigate the pain of a flat cap.
Still, any increase in the cap would help them out, as they are a team that is obviously never afraid to spend to the cap. On the bright side, a number of young players on entry-level contracts will also help keep cap costs down, depending on what happens with the final roster in training camp this fall. We’re certainly not stressing as much as, say, the Chicago Blackhawks might be right now.