Could a Lower Salary Cap Spark Player Movement?

A look at several NHL teams which would be affected by a reduced salary cap under a new NHL CBA.

ESPN.COM: Craig Custance recently reported on the effect a lower salary cap could have this season under a new NHL CBA.

“The NHL’s last proposal cut the players’ share from 57 percent to 49 percent for the coming season. Based on revenues of $3.3 billion, that would put the salary cap at roughly $62 million this season.

According to, that would immediately put 14 teams over the salary cap.”

Custance cited an NHL GM saying there would be “six, seven, eight teams that are going to have to lose a real player if the cap is $60 million.” Custance went on to examine the impact that would have upon the Boston Bruins, Minnesota Wild, Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames, which would be among those teams needing to become cap compliant under the aforementioned scenario.

A lower salary cap could force Flames to trade Bouwmeester.

For the Bruins, one option would be trading Tim Thomas and his $5 million cap hit, as well as placing Marc Savard (over $4 million cap hit) on LTIR (post-concussion symptoms). Custance suggested forwards Devin Setoguchi and Pierre-Marc Bouchard might become trade candidates for the Wild. The Canucks would, of course, trade goalie Roberto Luongo ($5.33 per season cap hit, no-trade clause), while the Flames might have to consider moving Jay Bouwmeester and his $6.68 million per season cap hit, though like Luongo his no-trade clause could make it difficult.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I examined this in greater detail on August 31 in my column. A lower salary cap in the next CBA will result in considerable player movement prior to the start of the season, of the type we haven’t seen since the summer of 2005 and the implementation of the previous CBA.



  1. Lyle,

    First off, I think i speak on behalf of many of your followers when I say thanks for trying to keep things going, and throwing interesting posts and questions out there when there is very little substance to work with.

    On the one hand, I would have to assume that a lower cap would also mean a lower floor. This obviously helps the bottom teams in the league. It may not help them to break even, but they would lose a few million less.

    Under that scenario, Yes there are teams that would have to lose some big contract players, but I think the bigger issue for the NHLPA is that while the total number of players will remain the same based on roster size, many current players will lose their jobs. Teams will still need (and need to pay) the big guns, but in order to do so, many of the mid range salary players (usually your grit, secondary scoring, checking and veteran type guys) will have to be dumped. In their place will be guys willing to take a major haircut, or entry level players who are in the $500K to $1million dollar range to fill roster spots. While that can inject some newer skill and flash into the game, it does not bode well for the development of star players who need more seasoning, as they will be rushed. I cannot see the PA allowing this to happen.

  2. I think this also explains why the NHL is pushing for a salary rollback at the same time– if all player’s salaries drop an average of let’s say, 15% to 20%, then some teams will be fine because their overall payroll will shrink proportionally to below the new projected cap. If there’s no salary roll back, then yes, teams will have to make some huge adjustments to their current rosters.

  3. I seriously doubt that there will be roll backs, as it would look too much like every new CBA will have to have it and doubt that either the owners or the NHLPA will put it on the table. I also do not believe there will be a salary cap floor or one that will be a hard $16mil less than the ceiling (maybe a % – like 2/3 – that would be easily attainable) so that teams wouldn’t have to take on bad contracts just to reach the floor.
    I do wonder if there is a shorten season if the cap will be prorated (I myself don’t think it will be, which would allow teams not to worry about the cap #’s until next season, if they play < 72 games).
    Maybe buy outs shouldn't be included in the cap or in escrow (amnesty buy outs every year and the subsequent rules that go along with them).

  4. if the entire season is lost then there will be lot of ufa’s next year as there are a number of players with expiring contracts (it’s my understanding that contract lengths will count even though players might not get paid this year). under this scenario the current top 14 teams (in payroll) will have enough expiring contracts to get them under the $60 million upper Cap limit, keep in mind though this will be without a full roster so there will be some wheeling and dealing but i don’t think there will be as much as predicted. one other thing to keep in mind is prospects will have another year of development under their belt and will provide serious competition for jobs driving player salaries down even further (basic supply and demand economics).
    i think the most likely premise is that any new Cap won’t start until next season preventing a purge of contracts from teams near the top (which would add chaos to a likely already shortened season). that all the teams seem to be positioned for this can’t be a coincidence.

  5. There will not be any roll backs in salaries. these greedy bastards want money money and mo money. poor liitle boys working as hard as they do.
    Off topic but I just finished watching game 7 from Canada vs CCCP from 1972. A ticket for that game was $7, that being &38 ish compared to todays numbers. any idea how much a ticket is for a leafs game???? $300 plus, and what do u get, a team that hasn’t done anything since the early 90’s. Why so much money in hockey as in all other sports? who pays? the fans!
    These guys live way to lucurious life styles compared to that of high paid professionals such as doctors etc. Sure they will always get paid more but deals of 6 yr 30 mil. come on when does it end?
    I only wish there was a clause that if NHL players can take jobs from other guys in other leagues, why can’t those same guys then take jobs from guys in the NHl? To bad u couldn’t break the union! NHLers are scabs for taking someone elses jobs, talk about greed, can’t they just work out at local arenas or in a gym. Oh yea, game time is different????
    I love sports, hockey, football etc but I’m totally sick watching these guys making all this money and not appreciate a fucking thing especially the people who pay there substantial salaries. I know how most of us work so hard for the little we make and we appreciate it so much more. We are happy when a co-worker brings us a coffee for a treat.
    The sports world is living in a shell, I wish they would as Metallica sings (I’m of to never never land)


  6. I agree teams would be looking to shed contracts, but I am fairly certain that each team would get one bad contract exemption…

  7. @ Dion,

    Agreed on the NHL players taking European and KHL League jobs- do not agree with this mindset whatsoever.

    First, millionaires ( its only the star or potential star players getting signed to play overseas) taking bread off the table for guys trying to make a living overseas disgusts me.

    Second, what does it say to the NHL about player solidarity. If they went overseas to play for nothing, on the basis of loving the game and wanting to stay in shape that would be one thing. But as soon as they receive any money , their credibility is lost.

    Both scenarios just play into the hands of the NHL and the Owners.

    After the last lockout 230 of the 750 players in the league never played again. I do not agree with the owners or the NHL’s position or demands, but are the Nash’s, Crosby’s, Ovechkins etc,going to suffer when all off this is over?

    No, it will be the middle guys, who would be willing to play for 2 million as opposed to 2.25 million, or the bottom guys making 800K instead of 900K. Ultimately that is who will suffer, but when all is said and done, no one will never hear about it, because this lockout will effectively end their careers.

    Bobby Ryan, while clearly in the minority, is correct.


  8. we can say what we think but i really feel that the season is lost. we lost a bunch of fans last time. this time we will lose more. the fan base was low. now it is lower and so will the reaction after it is over. sorry but when you do this it hurts both parties. i sure hope but doubt it will happen. no hockey this year will be a disaster.

  9. Revenue sharing just blows me away in general. Not one currentNHL player has put up one dollar to buy into any team and therefore take on the huge risk that goes along with being an owner. I mean come on, how often do you see a company give their employees revenue sharing without making the employee
    1. buy shares in the company,
    2. share in the losses, or
    3. Accept a lower base salary and allow them minor profit sharing
    When the employees are paid in the mulimillions annually and then they demand massive profit sharing on top fo these massive salaries the model doesn’t work. Our free economy just does not work this way unless the fans are willing to pick up the bill. If fans want to see a change then they need to stop watching games. When revenues dry up salaries with shrink and profits will sink, even in the big market towns. We all know this but it takes a concerted effort from the NHL fan base to accomplish this. All sports leagues around the world have done a great job marketing to the average fan convincing him he should spend his hard earned money on his favorite team year after year and that his favorite players deserve to make 100 times what he makes no matter who works harder on a daily basis.