Last week, we were talking about how much trouble the Chicago Blackhawks would be in thanks to a flat salary cap for 2017-18. But now, we appear to be talking about an NHL salary cap on the rise.
Chicago Blackhawks fans cringed last week when TSN announced the NHL’s salary cap would not be on the rise for the 2017-18 season. It was believed the cap would remain flat at $73 million, as the NHL Players Association was opting not to use the escalator clause.
Fast forward to today, and things have changed in a positive way for cap-strapped teams like the Blackhawks. The Athletic’s James Mirtle is reporting the cap may rise to $75 million for next season, and perhaps climb even higher than that.
Mirtle reports the issue of how high the cap will rise for next season ought to be decided by week’s end. This would give teams time to prepare for the Vegas Golden Knights expansion draft, which is set for a week from today.
The NHL changing course like this is not surprising, really. Regardless of the topic, it comes as no shock that the league and its players association would not be on the same page.
However, the cap actually going up next season does come as a pleasant surprise. It was assumed there would be little reason for the cap to go up next season, with issues like NHL players not being allowed to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics and lack of payment for 2017 World Cup of Hockey participants still on the table.
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What it means for the Chicago Blackhawks
Well, this can only be good news for the Blackhawks. As of right now, Cap Friendly has them at $4,520,628 over a salary cap of $73 million for next season. If that latter number jumps to $75 million, we’re still looking at a team in excess of $2.5 million over the cap.
The assumption is that Marcus Kruger is on his way out via trade with the Vegas Golden Knights, and a second assumption is that Trevor van Riemsdyk will join Kruger out West by way of the expansion draft. That’d take about $3.9 million off the books for next season, suddenly putting Chicago under a $75 million cap.
Still, the Blackhawks would be just $1,387,705 below the cap should it rise to $75 million and should Kruger and van Riemsdyk both depart. And there are five free agents this team needs to look at this offseason — Andrew Desjardins, Dennis Rasmussen, Tomas Jurco, Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya.
What about a big trade?
Combine that with two holes to fill for Kruger and van Riemsdyk, and it’s clear the Blackhawks are still in a spot of trouble. So the million dollar question: Would a $75 million cap mean the Blackhawks wouldn’t have to move a big name like Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Artemi Panarin or Artem Anisimov, at least not right now?
I’d say a big move is still necessary. While a rising cap would be good news for the Blackhawks in that they’d be able to more comfortably sign guys in the offseason, should they free up appropriate space, it’s not enough of a kick in the cap to say all the big contracts can stay on the books.
It may be just enough, though, that the Blackhawks can actually look to make a small move to bolster their defense or forwards, instead of just trying out in-house guys and seeing what sticks. This would only come after a bigger contract is moved, but it’s a possibility.
Regardless, a rising salary cap is good news for the Blackhawks in 2017-18. The team will still have a much different feel to it than in previous years, but there may be just enough room for the Blackhawks to actually improve themselves ever so slightly from the outside heading into a new season.