Heading into this off-season, there are a number of NHL teams in a salary cap crunch. The cap ceiling currently stands at $71.4 million, and many teams need the salary cap to increase next season. While nothing is final yet, that remains very much in doubt. In fact, many NHL insiders are predicting the best case scenario for the salary cap next season is that it remains flat.
@TheNLKing No. Have to keep in mind, there is an up to 5% growth factor that can be used. Has been used every year. Flat cap most likely.
— Craig Button (@CraigJButton) March 14, 2016
NHL Teams in a Salary Cap Crunch
The Chicago Blackhawks have $65.3 million committed against next year’s cap, with 16 players signed for the 2016-17 season. Chicago has six unrestricted free agents and three restricted free agents at season’s end. The Blackhawks top UFAs, Andrew Ladd and Dale Weise in all likelihood will be playing elsewhere next season. It would be shocking if either one was playing for Chicago in 2017.
Chicago’s focus will be signing RFA Andrew Shaw this summer. The Hawks do not have a lot of wiggle room to round out it’s roster. Locking up the soon to be 25-year-old Shaw would be a wise move. Even though the Blackhawks have had cap issues the last number of years, as long as their big players stay healthy, the Hawks take a back seat to no one.
St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues have $56.5 million committed against next year’s cap, with 15 players signed for the 2016-17 season. While it appears the Blues have more flexibility than most of the clubs on this list, they really don’t.
This off-season, St. Louis has four UFA’s and five RFA’s. Both David Backes and Troy Brouwer hit unrestricted free agency come July 1st. It will be a challenge for the Blues to re-sign one of them. The number one priority this off-season for the Blues is locking up Jaden Schwartz. In order to lock up the dynamic young scorer, who turns 24 in June, it’s going to take a very lucrative contract.
Also keep in mind after next season Brian Elliott, Kevin Schattenkirk and Alexander Steen all are UFAs. Not to mention Jake Allen is a RFA after next season as well. The salary cap is giving St. Louis fans the blues.
Los Angeles Kings
The L.A. Kings have $64.6 million committed against next year’s cap, with 18 players signed for the 2016-17 season. This off-season for the Kings is all about finding a way to sign pending UFA Milan Lucic, while at the same time putting themselves in good position to sign next year’s RFAs Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.
Lucic should command at least $7 million annually on the open free agent market. If the cap remains flat, it’s going to be very difficult for Kings general manager Dean Lombardi to make the numbers work. Having said that, Lombardi is one of the best GMs in the game, and he always seems to find a way to get what needs to be done for his hockey club.
— Spector's Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) March 12, 2016
The Tampa Bay Lightning have $52.2 million committed against next year’s cap, with 15 players signed for the 2016-17 season. The Lightning cap issues go way beyond re-signing their franchise player, Steven Stamkos, who is a UFA this summer.
In addition to getting Stamkos signed, the Lightning have six RFAs to sign this summer. They include J.T. Brown, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov. If Tampa can sign Stamkos to the deal Anze Kopitar agreed to with the Kings (8 years $80 million) it’s impossible for the Lightning to keep their current roster. Players will have to be moved if Stamkos re-signs with Tampa.
Also very important to note is both Ben Bishop and Victor Hedman are UFAs after next season. Hedman will see a monster raise from his current $4 million cap number. The math does not add up in Tampa.
— Charlie (@hockeybias) March 14, 2016
The Pittsburgh Penguins have $68.3 million committed against next year’s cap, with 18 players signed for the 2016-17 season and with Pascal Dupuis on LTIR. The good news for the Penguins is that all of their core players are signed for next season. The bad news is Pittsburgh has so little cap room, and unless they can move a major salary, it’s hard to see the Penguins improving their club this off-season.
New York Rangers
The New York Rangers have $54.2 million committed against next year’s cap, with only 12 players signed for next season. The Blue Shirts have six UFAs and four RFAs at the end of this season.
The good news is that New York has Dan Boyle and his $4.5 million cap number coming off the books after this season. However, all of that cap savings, and a bit more, will go to increases due to RFAs Chris Kreider, J.T. Miller, Kevin Hayes and Dylan Mcllrath. After New York signs it’s RFAs, it’s impossible to see how they can sign either Keith Yandle or Eric Staal and get under the cap, unless they move a major salary.
All six of these teams are contenders, but the salary cap is not their friend, and will strip these squads of very talented players.