It was expected that the NHL salary cap would be on the rise next season with the additional revenue flowing in from the Vegas Golden Knights’ arrival in the league, and last week an estimate of that increase was given at the Board of Governors meetings.
The upper limit that teams can spend to is currently projected between $78 and $82 million. That number can rise or fall depending on the actual revenue brought in between now and the end of the season, and will also be effected by whether the players decide to artificially inflate it a maximum of 5% in hopes of better-than-expected growth in 2018-19. Regardless, it seems general managers around the league can begin planning for next season with about $80 million in available funds to play with.
The announcement of an increase of approximately $5 million from this season does throw a wrench into the Montreal Canadiens’ strategy of saving cap space. Teams that would have been up against the cap ceiling and therefore forced into a situation where they needed to offload an expensive asset or two will gain a bit of breathing room to work on their rosters.
Still, with the extra space the Habs have held through the 2017-18 season, their flexibility will be that much greater for the new campaign.
Some of that extra money is set aside for the pricier contract for the starting goaltender next season. Carey Price gets a raise from $6.5 to $10.5 million, though that still only eats up about an eighth of the available pie.
There are currently six defencemen already under contract on the roster, and the majority of them are still signed for multiple years. It’s entirely possible that this isn’t the starting six come October, but a full defence corps is currently in place, with the potential addition of Noah Juulsen allowing for a regular complement of seven blue-liners without needing to make a transaction.
That means most of the $21 million in space can be used on the forward corps.
The above graphic only includes eight players, but there are some pending free agents who could fill slots. Tomas Plekanec is in the final season of a two-year contract, but it remains to be seen what the team’s plan is for the Czech centreman. Phillip Danault is also due for a new deal, and he (along with Daniel Carr, Michael McCarron, and Jacob de la Rose) are headed toward restricted free agency this summer.
There’s also the possibility of a Nicolas Deslauriers extension to fill a fourth-line role, the addition of what will be a recently graduated Jake Evans to the starting lineup, and/or Nikita Scherbak, who is already signed for next season, claiming a spot.
The large amount of cap space affords the best opportunity to add a proper number-one centre, and you have to figure that is Plan A moving forward. There’s been some speculation about adding John Tavares, even from the Canadiens’ owner himself, so that is one possibility, and the Canadiens have the manoeuvrability to pull it off. The question is whether they can concoct a proposal enticing enough to attract such a star to the team to fill that role.
If not, perhaps they can find their man on this list.
Cap and contract data via CapFriendly.