Caps and a possible NHL salary cap increase
The most interesting news to come out of Gary Bettman’s press conference on Friday afternoon in Chicago – other than that second Winter Classic headed the Caps way – was that the NHL salary cap could rise as much as $2 million or more next season. The final numbers won’t be calculated until all revenue for the 2009-10 season is accounted for after the Stanley Cup finals end. And Bettman admitted the rise is due in part to the strength of the Canadian dollar. But whatever the cause, the Caps would have a little bit of breathing room in their quest to sign their four remaining restricted free agents, two centers and a sixth defenseman. The salary cap was $56.8 million in 2009-10.
To me, that’s the best of all possible worlds for Washington. Because too big a rise would have given desperate teams all over the league – cough-Rangers-cough – a chance to wildly overpay on the free-agent market. This is a small enough bump that players like Eric Belanger , a free-agent after Washington traded for the center in March, shouldn’t be pulling down $3 million offers. That’s just my initial reaction. If the Caps have closer to $13.2 million in cap room that’s a nice cushion and gives them just enough flexibility. They can target a second-line center and then go cheap on the sixth defenseman and third-line center. They can go nuts on a defenseman and go cheap on two centers – one a free agent and the other an in-house promotion. Restricted free agents Eric Fehr , Tomas Fleischmann , Jeff Schultz and Boyd Gordon would have closer to $7 million to split among them, if the Caps choose to bring everyone back, instead of around $5.5