How Connor Bedard to Chicago will Raise the Hard Cap for the NHL
By Kyle Graden
While "Connor Bedard entering the NHL is good for business" is not news, perhaps what's being overlooked here is that Chicago plays a factor in increasing that payout even more than if he was going to a different market.
Per many reports over the last few months it appears that the hard cap of the NHL will only rise a million or so next season and then incrementally after that. After reading through a multitude of reports, I now believe that ultimately it could go up by quite a bit and for one reason: Connor Bedard is going to Chicago.
Argue all you want that Columbus, Arizona, Anaheim, San Jose, or St. Louis would have had the same effect. We'll certainly never know, but it would likely not have the same appeal on a global interest level.
Rewind, from a Hawks perspective, to when Chicago selected Lukas Reichel. They interviewed him live from Germany in the middle of the night. With tired eyes and an excited response you'd be remissed if you didn't notice a Blackhawks' jersey hanging behind him already. He was already a fan as he had just grown up cheering on a dynasty team that won 3 Stanley Cups in 6 seasons. It was an international team with it's best players from all over the world (Slovakia, USA, Canada, Sweden, Czechia).
Now while it's nothing new for an NHL team to have a diversified roster geographically speaking, it is new that a team won as much as Chicago did and with young and exciting stars. Chicago is a big city with a huge reach from the midwest of the United States. It has reach all over the world for it's culture, architecture, and history. Combine that with recent dominance and a new superstar phenom implemented and that is a recipe for expansion in terms of revenue and the growth of hockey on a global platform.
None of the above teams can claim this. It is certainly not a statement that I say lightly and mean no disrespect, I simply feel it is not debatable. Would Bedard in "Disneyland" with Trevor Zegras and Mason McTavish be an easy sell? Yes, absolutely. However there is not the reach there for say the east coast cities as it's on the other side of the United States, or maybe to Europe as they don't have the recent Cup runs as Chicago has.
I read an article today on Connor Bedard trading cards that says how his upcoming NHL career is a boon to the industry that hasn't been seen in a long time. You can read the story at https://www.baytoday.ca/local-news by reporter Chris Dawson. In the article a local card shop owner (Rob Collins) discusses how the fact that Connor Bedard going to an orginal six team like Chicago definitely puts a "boom" into the industry.
Being a "hard capped" league has been difficult at times. Competitive balance? Sure. Teams circumnavigation of the rules at times: frustrating. It has hampered teams that want to spend and create the best possible team. It has hindered teams that draft the best as well. If, say in 3-5 straight drafts, they do their jobs to the best of their ability and draft 5-6 star players then they are all due pay raises at the same time and thusly the franchise has to move 1 or 2 of them to stay under the hard cap. So if Connor Bedard to Chicago (to the groans of many) means a higher cap, then this is the best thing that has happened for the NHL in quite some time.
Imagine Connor McDavid in a Leafs, Bruins, or Rangers jersey for a moment... Would that be good for the league? That's the type of early impact excitement I'm seeing from a monetary angle on Connor Bedard going to Chicago. I even see the "hatred" as a positive. The "they don't deserve it" crowd will tune in to Hawks games, even it's to be against them.
We are entering exciting times in our sport. With a bevy of new elite talent, competitive balance (as evidence by the Panthers as an 8 seed reaching the ECF), TV deals, and Connor Bedard in a market like Chicago.... The NHL should see an increase in the hard cap thanks to Connor Bedard in Chicago.
If you didn't watch the lottery live, here it is below.