The National Hockey League is holding its Board of Governors meetings in scenic Palm Beach, Florida this week, and Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli is down there covering all the action.
A big news item emerged on Tuesday, with pretty significant implications for the Calgary Flames: it looks like the salary cap may only inch up by $1 million for the 2023-24 season.
The players currently own an escrow debt to the NHL owners as a result of the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, which they’re gradually paying back. While the escrow debt exists, the salary cap is only moving up by $1 million per season – the current cap ceiling is $82.5 million.
A few months back, the hope was that the NHL’s strong revenue growth would continue and erase the escrow debt after this season. But a few factors, including a slumping Canadian dollar, have the league projecting that the debt will remain past this season… and so the cap may only go up $1 million for 2023-24, for a new cap ceiling of $83.5 million.
Per Seravalli: “Bettman said in his media availability that the league is currently projecting approximately $70 million to be remaining on the escrow debt to be repaid by players to owners after this season.”
This will probably be a challenge for the Flames. They have the following players signed to one-way contracts for 2023-24:
- Goaltenders (2): Jacob Markstrom ($6 million) & Dan Vladar ($2.2 million)
- Defencemen (7): MacKenzie Weegar ($6.25 million), Noah Hanifin ($4.95 million), Rasmus Andersson ($4.55 million), Chris Tanev ($4.5 million), Nikita Zadorov ($3.75 million), Oliver Kylington ($2.5 million) and Dennis Gilbert ($762,500)
- Forwards (10): Jonathan Huberdeau ($10.5 million), Nazem Kadri ($7 million), Andrew Mangiapane ($5.8 million), Mikael Backlund ($5.35 million), Blake Coleman ($4.9 million), Elias Lindholm ($4.85 million), Tyler Toffoli ($4.25 million), Dillon Dube ($2.3 million), Kevin Rooney ($1.3 million) and Adam Ruzicka ($762,500)
Combined, that’s $82.475 million committed to 19 players, with $1.025 million of cap space remaining. Milan Lucic ($5.25 million) is the only major deal coming off the books, with Dan Vladar, MacKenzie Weegar and Jonathan Huberdeau getting a combined $9.05 million raise from their 2021-22 cap hits.
Typically, NHL teams carry 22 or 23 players, so the Flames would need to cover three or four roster spots with their remaining cap space… with the league’s minimum salary going to $775,000. In other words: they don’t have enough cap space to fill out a full roster. Heck, they barely have enough cap space to fill out a minimal 20 player roster.
Long story short: a minimal salary cap bump for 2023-24 will create big challenges for the Flames, which will need to be solved via some tough decisions over the off-season. These are obviously future hockey operations problems, but future problems have a way of becoming current problems given enough time.