There have been reports and rumors over the past few months that the NHL’s salary cap isn’t going to climb as quickly as fans would hope in the coming seasons as players pay back their escrow debt from the pandemic. During the NHL Draft, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman spoke with the NHL’s Sirius/XM Radio Network and confirmed it would be two or three more years until the cap could resume climbing at a more aggressive pace.
Bettman told “The Power Play” that the cap would increase by $1 million for the 2023-24 season and likely by another $1 million the following year. That’s consistent with what we’ve been hearing over the past months.
In December, Bettman was hopeful that the debt may be repaid sooner than some early projections; there were estimates that the cap wouldn’t open up again until 2025. In April, NHL Players’ Association Executive Director Donald Fehr spoke with Elliotte Friedman and was willing to place his bet on 2025 for a jump.
From that article:
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has predicted the players could fully repay their escrow debt to owners by the end of the 2024-25 season. “If you made me bet,” Fehr said, “I would say that’s a reasonable bet.” It would create a salary cap jump for 2025-26.
From a Blackhawks’ fan perspective, this reality provides some context to the pushback general manager Kyle Davidson received when shopping Alex DeBrincat over the past week. With DeBrincat ready for at least a $9 million cap hit next year with an $83.5 million cap ceiling, that complicates teams looking to add him for at least the two years of remaining control.
The cap staying at $84.5 million for the 2024-25 season would add pressure to an acquiring organization in the event they want to sign him to a long-term extension.
That is obviously the problem Ottawa will now have to deal with after trading for DeBrincat just before the first round of the draft began on Thursday.
This also explains why Davidson is intentionally working to maintain cap flexibility moving forward. Teams with cap space can be attractive trade partners for teams desperately looking to make something happen, and Chicago will now be in position to take advantage of cap space in the coming seasons.
Obviously in the coming season, Chicago’s cap space won’t be as big in the wake of Duncan Keith retiring. But they still have some space to work with in free agency as they look to put together a roster that has enough players to skate an 82-game NHL season.