Post-GM Meetings updates: Salary cap, expansion

Several General Managers Meeting bits that I had been meaning to share this week:

-An early salary cap ceiling projection of $74-million was shared with the league’s general managers. As noted, that’s still on the higher end of potential caps and is based on the NHLPA agreeing to opt for the annual inflator. There are often stories late in the season over whether or not the players will vote to implement the 5% escalator clause, though as Pierre LeBrun noted, only once since the salary cap was implemented in 2005 has the escalator not been added. Last year, the salary cap rose from $69M to $71.4M, so a rise to $74-million is slightly above (but completely in line with) recent raises.

“You’re looking, probably, at the high-end, approximately a $74-million cap with a basic inflator and without you’re looking at a flat cap,” Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said, as reported by Frank Seravalli of TSN. “Our practice with Players’ Association really has been over the last couple years to try to sit down and talk about a reasonable projection for revenue growth and build in that inflator. So that’s what I’d say: It’s somewhere probably between the current cap and $74 million.”

Amidst a bottomed-out-and-perhaps-rebounding Canadian dollar, a $74M cap would be on the most positive end of the spectrum for the Kings, who are among the teams that spend directly up to the cap and will be dinged $10M for Anze Kopitar’s services next season. According to figures available at General Fanager, Los Angeles has allocated $63.48M to 17 players for the 2016-17 season, dollar figures that include Mike Richards’ cap recapture and settlement but not the retention-affected $2.25M cap hit for Vincent Lecavalier, who has indicated his intention to retire. Milan Lucic, Trevor Lewis, Luke Schenn, Jamie McBain and Jhonas Enroth will become unrestricted free agents if they do not sign a new contract with the club in advance of July 1, while Brayden McNabb, Derek Forbort and Nic Dowd are due to become restricted free agents. Preliminary contract discussions have already begun with Lucic and Schenn, amongst others.

Were the Kings to reach an agreement with Lucic on a new contract, they would need to shed salary currently on their books to remain cap compliant and competitive next season.

-Because much of the discussions on potential expansion were speculative – there is no, clear and present indication that the league will expand imminently, though there should be an update by the NHL Draft in June – the salary cap update was the most concrete development to come out of the meetings. Still, general managers received an update on expansion progress and the parameters from which an expansion club (or clubs) would be able to populate their rosters.

From Jonas Siegel of The Globe and Mail:

“If there’s going to be an expansion you want the teams to be a little more competitive than perhaps they’ve been out of the box,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “The notion has been that perhaps in the past if the team isn’t competitive enough out of the box there’s an initial enthusiasm and then it kind of wanes until the team re-establishes itself.”

The basic premise for an expansion draft would see teams risk losing one player under a one-team expansion and two players under a two-team scenario. The rules for protection of players, however, would be tighter than the last round of expansion in 2000.

Teams under the current framework could protect seven forwards, three defencemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and a goaltender. First and second year pros in any league are automatically exempt as are unsigned draft picks.

Again, don’t panic on who the Kings may or may not lose, because expansion is not definite. Should it become a reality, the earliest a new team could join the league would be in the 2017-18 season. Prospective ownership groups from Las Vegas and Quebec City have submitted expansion bids; the potential Las Vegas owner has already pinpointed a parcel of land in suburban Summerlin on which a practice facility would be constructed.

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