It’s coming to that time when we need to think about the long term ramifications of this season ”pause”. As the situation continues and leagues are canceling their remaining seasons the NHL may be forced to do the same. With teams already laying off large amounts of employees or reducing salaries across the board it doesn’t look good. What does all of this mean for the salary cap moving forward?
For this season the salary cap is at $81.5 Million. There was talk before all of this that the cap could increase all the way to $88.2 Million, with conservative estimates landing around $84 Million. If the remainder of the season and playoffs are canceled those numbers become something less than a pipe dream. The best we could hope for is the league just has a cap freeze and it’s still $81.5 Million going into next season. Any sort of cap reduction could have drastic consequences across the league. Teams were already operating under the impression of a cap increase coming next season. Having any reduction in the salary cap would result in top contending teams needing to ship out assets for pennies on the dollar. Now let’s take a look at how just a cap freeze would affect the Bruins.
The Bruins have several players who are on expiring contracts. Krug, Nordstrom, Chara, Debrusk, Bjork, Halak, and Grzelcyk are all in need of new deals this offseason. As it stands now the Bruins have $5.31 Million in cap room. Once all those contracts come off the books, along with a few AHL deals plus any raises already on the books, the Bruins finish with just over $21 Million in space. While that might seem like a large amount it simply isn’t the case.
Who Comes Back
A new deal for Krug alone could cost the Bruins $7 Million per year. That’s one-third of the team’s cap space gone on one deal. Debrusk will likely cost around $3 to $4 Million a year, leaving the team with about $10 Million in space to add the rest of its depth pieces. Bjork will likely be signed around the $2 Million, with Chara coming in around the same if he comes back for one more year. So that’s another $4 Million used, leaving the team at around $6 Million left. With some key positions still needing to be filled that limited amount of space could result in some tough decisions.
Who is Out and Replacements
That leaves Nordstrom, Halak, and Grzelcyk without contracts heading into next season. While it might be difficult I don’t see any of them returning with only $6 Million in cap space remaining. Nordstrom will likely be replaced by Karson Kuhlman for around the same price of about a million per year. Halak will be looking for his last contract most likely, so replacing him with Daniel Vladar is a must. Vladar has dominated in the AHL, and signing him to a deal around $1.5 Million should slot him into the backup goalie role. Could the Bruins bring Grzelcyk back with the remaining $3.5 Million remaining? Probably, even if he signed for $3 Million it would double his current deal. That would leave the Bruins with under a million left in cap space. It is likely Grzelcyk will be given a qualifying offer and allowed to leave if he signs and offer sheet, bringing back a much needed draft pick in the process. That leaves his spot open to players like Clifton, who has missed significant time this year, or Urho Vaakanainen, who has done well in the AHL this season. Both are players already under contract, meaning we can carry that $3.5 Million in space to start the year. That space allows for much needed flexibility if a trade is needed to improve the roster, or if the cap does decrease for next season.
Looking to the Future
The cancelation of the season could result in a drop in the cap. The two previous lockouts resulted in a drop in team spending, with the following season returning to pre-lockout numbers. That means next season could see a dip in the cap with the following 21-22 season returning to the $81.5 Million cap we have this year. With Krejci, Kase, Ritchie, Kuraly, Lindholm, Carlo, and Rask all finishing their contracts after next year, any cap flexibility created this offseason will go a long way to keeping some of those players. Carlo will be due a large raise, along with Kase and Ritchie if they can click with the team next season. The possibility of Rask retiring could provide some much-needed cap relief depending on who is brought in to replace him. Especially if they are cheaper than his current $7 Million cap hit. Even Krejci could be a cap casualty, depending on what some other players sign for and if he is willing to take a significant pay cut.
This is an unprecedented situation that could have ramifications years down the line. A cancelation of the playoffs would be a huge blow to league revenue, resulting in what could be a large reduction in the salary cap. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that and only the rest of the regular season is called off at worst, which would alleviate some concerns. However, with the ever-changing nature of this crisis it is difficult to say what the exact outcome will be. As always keep checking back with us as this all unfolds for any news and updates. Feel free to check out all of our team pages to fill that sports void in your life with some great content covering all your favorite teams.