Salary cap projections for next season look to be the most encouraging in six years for the Oilers and the NHL, although it’s still early days.
Year after year, commissioner Gary Bettman talks about how strong the NHL is, but this isn’t always reflected in the salary cap projections. Finally though, there seems to be genuinely good news for the Oilers and the rest of the league, albeit with a note of caution.
As per Dan Rosen of NHL.com, the salary cap is set to be close to $90 million next season. Speaking after the NHL Board of Governors meeting on Wednesday in New York, Bettman said:
"“Very preliminary projection, but we believe the escrow will be paid off in full and the cap will be somewhere between $87 (million) and $88 million for the following year.”"
Assuming this is indeed the case, it would mean an increase of up to $4.5 million on this season’s salary cap of $83.5 million. For some context, consider that the increase for the previous five years was $4 million combined. (This includes two years when there was no increase at all.)
Even allowing for the impact of COVID-19 (or maybe because of it), the latest projection is extremely encouraging for the NHL. As Bettman said:
"“The game is in great shape. Our franchises have never been better owned or stronger, and we’re excited to have the start of another season upon us.”"
The impact on the Oilers
Of course, none of this helps the Oilers as of right now. According to Cap Friendly, at the time of writing they are $390,792 over this season’s salary cap.
However, if we use a projection of $87.5 million for next season’s salary cap, the Oilers will have $12,308,333 available. However, there is the not so small issue of having a number of pending unrestricted and restricted free agents on the current roster.
The unrestricted free agents include Warren Foegele, Mattias Janmark, Connor Brown and Vincent Desharnais. The upcoming restricted free agents are Dylan Holloway, Raphael Lavoie and Markus Niemeläinen.
As per Cap Friendly, keep in mind there are also players in the AHL who have NHL contracts due to conclude after this season. This includes four unrestricted and seven restricted contracts.
In other words, the Oilers could have tight financial restrictions similar to this season, regardless of the generous salary cap increase for next year. Further, we don’t even know who will be in charge of dealing with this task in 2023-24, with speculation indicating Ken Holland will not be back as general manger and president of hockey operations.
NB – Even earlier projections have the 2024-25 salary cap as being $92 million, which would be the biggest percentage increase since 2018-19. When the salary cap was originally implemented ahead of the 2005-06 season, it was set at $39 million.