Getting to the Salary Cap Floor.

Find out what those clubs still below next season’s “cap floor” could do to become cap compliant.


The NHL salary cap ceiling for 2011-12 is $64.3 million, with the cap floor – the mandated minimum payroll – is $48.3 million.

Much of the focus tends to be upon teams which need to get under the cap ceiling before the start of next season.

Currently the Washington Capitals sit roughly $890K over the ceiling, while the Buffalo Sabres recent re-signing of defenseman Andrej Sekera to a four year deal worth $2.75 million per season pushed them over the cap by roughly $2.395 million, plus they still have two key RFAs to re-sign in backup goalie Jhonas Enroth and promising blueliner Marc-Andre Gragnani.

This summer, however, the focus is upon teams which need to reach the $48.3 million cap floor. recently listed five clubs – NY Islanders, Nashville Predators, Colorado Avalanche, Phoenix Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets – which were still under the cap floor.

The Jets however came off that list on July 18 by re-signing winger Blake Wheeler to a two-year deal worth $2.55 million per season, giving them a payroll of just over $49.6 million, with defenseman Zach Bogosian still to be re-signed.

It also shouldn’t take the Coyotes (just over $45.5 million committed to 21 players) long to find themselves over the cap floor.

With RFA forwards Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and Lauri Korpikoski (slated for arbitration on July 20th) to re-sign, the Coyotes won’t have any difficult using up the $2.78 million required to reach the cap floor.

The Avalanche (over $45.4 million invested in 23 players) still have to re-sign RFA defenseman Kyle Cumiskey, but he’s unlikely to use up the roughly $2.841 million needed for the club to reach the floor. It’ll take another free agent signing, or perhaps swinging a trade with a club seeking to shed salary, to become cap compliant.

They could also wait until training camp/pre-season before making such a move, as it’s possible one or two prospects might crack the lineup, which could push their payroll over $48.3 million.

At first glance, the Nashville Predators ($41.2 million committed to 20 players) appear to have a lot of ground to cover, but a new contract for team captain Shea Weber – via negotiation or arbitration – could push them very close to the floor, possibly even over it.

If Weber’s new salary doesn’t put them above the floor, they’ll be so close that a prospect making the lineup would be all they’d need to become compliant. They’ll need to add some depth to their blueline, so it won’t take much, either a prospect or an affordable UFA signing, to fill the bill.

Finally, there’s the Islanders, who must spend over $9.8 million to reach the floor, and have 19 players signed for next season.

Forward Blake Comeau, who earned $650K last season, is slated for arbitration on August 4th. Having made steady improvement since joining the Isles four years ago, including career-bests last season in goals, assists and points (24-22-46), he could be in line for a raise perhaps as high as $2 million per season.

That would still leave the Isles needing to spend nearly another $7.8 million. Re-signing RFA forwards Josh Bailey, Jesse Joensuu, Michael Haley and defenseman Ty Wishart probably won’t be enough to push them over.

Even the possible addition of veteran goalie Evgeni Nabokov, whose $570K contract has been “tolled” forward to next season by the Islanders after he refused to report to the club when they claimed him off waivers from the Detroit Red Wings, might not be enough.

A promising prospect like Nino Niederreitter, however, could help them accomplish that goal if he makes the lineup next season.

Though they could also possibly address that need via the unrestricted free agent market, speculation has the Islanders possibly targeting teams seeking to dump salary for players whose contracts could put them above the floor.

The Capitals and Sabres could be possible trade partners, though the former could get cap compliant if defenseman Tom Poti begins the season on long-term injury reserve, while the latter could get under the cap ceiling by demoting Ales Kotalik and/or Shaone Morrisonn.

Other possible trade partners for the Isles could include the Calgary Flames and New Jersey Devils.


  1. As you point out, the Islanders will have some work to do just to get to the floor. So it brings up the question, (especially since we are talking Islanders), what if they don’t make the floor, what are the ramifications or punishments.

    Being a fan of this team leads to so many unique issues!!!!
    Thanks Lyle keep up the great work.

  2. Hi, Gary. The ramifications of not making the floor are the same as not making the ceiling. Fines, forfeiture of draft picks, depending on how far below they are when the season begins.

  3. When teams are doing contracts, the incentives in the contracts are used for the cap hit, If this is the case couldn’t the Islander’s sign a player for 2 min dollars and put an incentive in the contract that if he wins the scoring race he gets another 6 min, and that would be used as a cap hit and get the Islanders over the Cap floor when there is no chance this palyers ever gets close to the scoring title, hince saving the Islanders 6 min dollars. Can this be done

  4. If it’s a player who doesn’t have a legitimate chance at leading his team, let alone the league, shouldn’t it be considered cap circumvention?

  5. I’m an Avalanche fan wondering here in Colorado whether Peter Mueller is going to play this year. Have you heard anything about him? The media is still going on about the free agent signings and the two draft picks in Landeskog and Siemens, but Mueller had concussion issues while noone is discussing it. Does he still have those issues or will he play next year? He is scheduled to make 2.5 million against the cap, if he unable to play this coming year or for the rest of his career will that affect the Avalanche salary cap budget for the 2011-12 season?

  6. Ron: No word on Mueller, other than he’s still attempting to return next season from post-concussion symptoms.