The salary cap could be going up by $3-4 million for 2023-24 season

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Ryan Pike
11 months ago
Since the advent of the National Hockey League’s salary cap following the 2004-05 lockout, the salary cap for every season has been tied directly to revenues – with the players being allocated 50% of each season’s projected revenues. But that whole linkage was blown to bits during the COVID-19 pandemic, which obliterated basically every aspect of human routine and led to the NHL’s players owing about $1.25 billion to the owners as part of that 50/50 balance.
Coming out of the pandemic, the growth of the NHL’s cap ceiling has been super slow: after sitting at $81.5 million for three seasons (2019-20 through 2021-22), the cap leapt up by $1 million to $82.5 million for 2022-23. Until the players’ debt is paid off, the cap is expected to keep nudging up $1 million per season.
In December, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman pegged the remaining escrow debt to be “approximately $70 million” and reports were that unless the NHL significantly exceeded their projected revenues, the cap likely wasn’t going up significantly for 2023-24. After the NHLPA hired new executive director Marty Walsh in February, and Walsh indicated that the players really didn’t want to alter the escrow caps they negotiated in the 2020 CBA extension, it seemed like the cap was going to only go up to $83.5 million for 2023-24.
Well, here’s what Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli noted on BarnBurner last Tuesday in terms of mechanisms:
“The players have a series of outstanding HRR claims going back, I think, three seasons, which I believe results in more than $100 million in claims. I think that Gary Bettman wants them to walk from those claims in exchange for the cap going up by a certain threshold next season, which they can do without increasing the escrow cap. It will be a negotiation, and this will be the first test for Marty Walsh, the new NHLPA executive director.”
Given the relatively small value of the outstanding claims compared to the amount of extra money a cap increase would inject into the landscape, this certainly sounds like a potential win-win.
On Monday’s edition of OilersNation Everyday, Tyler Yaremchuk asked Seravalli about the potential extent of a cap increase for 2023-24:
Tyler: “There is a real chance this thing goes up three or four million, right?”
Frank: “Yeah, 100%. And I think it’s in fact the most likely avenue given where we are with revenues, given where we are with the amount of money that’s been paid back. Probably 95 or 97 percent of the debt that was owed from players to owners. No stakeholder that’s involved in this process wants to see the cap frozen for another year.”
A $3-4 million salary cap bump would put the cap ceiling somewhere between $85.5-86.5 million for 2023-24. And that would be followed by another bump for the 2024-25 season, assuming that year-to-year revenue growth continues.
Is it a done deal? No. Heck, Seravalli followed up his comment to Yaremchuk by noting that no substantive negotiations have taken place yet. But this certainly seems to be the most likely path for the salary cap to nudge up by a decent amount without causing a whole lot of hassles for the teams or players.
We’ll have more on this story as it continues to unfold.

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