The NHL's salary cap will increase by $2 million next season to $75 million with a floor of $55.4 million, the NHL and NHLPA announced Sunday.
The Players' Association has the option each season of increasing the cap with a 5-percent escalator clause. If they use it, however, it means a higher escrow payment from the players to the league. Had the NHLPA used its full escalator clause, it would have raised the cap to over $77 million. They instead elected to use a smaller percentage, thus the smaller increase to only $75 million.
An increase is good news for the cash-strapped Capitals who need all the money they can get to re-sign their restricted free agents. The biggest question on fans' minds, however, will be whether it is enough of an increase for the team to re-sign forward T.J. Oshie.
Oshie was tied for the team lead in goals last season with 33. As an unrestricted free agent, he is expected to be one of the most highly sought after forwards this summer which means he will command a significant raise, somewhere in the range of $6 to 7 million per year. For a Washington team that still needs to re-sign restricted free agents Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky and Dmitry Orlov, that just may be too much money.
Had the salary cap increased to $77 million, there was a realistic chance the team could have re-signed Oshie. At $75 million, that may not be enough.
Plus, time is not on Washington's side. Kuznetsov is expected to get a sizable contract and how high his cap hit is will likely determine what moves the Caps' can make. That means that once the expansion draft is over, general manager Brian MacLellan will need to re-sign Kuznetsov and then re-sign Oshie all before July 1 when free agency opens. And that's only if they have enough money to re-sign their other RFAs, which they may not anyway.
The reality the Caps find themselves in is that their young free agents are their top priority. That means they just may not have enough money left for a 30-year-old winger even with the $2 million salary cap increase.
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