- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Big-spending clubs got the news they wanted to hear here Monday evening, the NHL delivering a salary cap projection for next season that goes up a healthy $6 million or so.
"These are preliminary estimates, it's in that range,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said after the first day of meetings with owners. "And I said to the board there shouldn't be any issue or consternation, if that's the cap level, it's because the revenues have gone up. And that's a good thing."
The cap will rise from the current $64.3 million maximum to around $71 million, Bettman told owners. Essentially the cap is back up to where it was last year when teams were allowed to spend up to $70.2 million in the lockout-shortened season.
"I think $71 million is an indication that the NHL is healthy and that's good for everybody," St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said.
"The business is certainly healthy and it’s recovered quite well, and that gets reflected in an equal partnership with us and that was nice to see," said Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli.
The drop to $64.3 million last summer was a tough pill to swallow for top-spending teams, who struggled to get under the maximum entering this season; it also left a number of free-agent players without a job or with low-paying offers come August because teams simply ran out of cap space.
For big-market teams, a push up to $71 million is a help.
"Yes ... but there’s spending money and spending it wisely," Chiarelli said. "We’ll keep trying to spend it wisely, for the most part, and try to ice a winner."
That was a comment echoed by Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis, another team that stands to benefit form a higher cap.
"None of us know what the actual number will be at the end of the day, but a projected number in that range just adds flexibility for us and adds the opportunity for us to spend that money wisely," Gillis said. "And if we can do it wisely, then we look at it as opportunity."
For the smaller-market clubs, it’s a tougher adjustment, the cap floor is expected to rise to around $52 million. And a cap at $71 million will be daunting for some.
"I think the way to look at it is it’s just that hockey’s doing so well that revenues are going up," said Nashville Predators GM David Poile, his team among the smaller-market clubs in the league. "I think that’s all good news. We’ve got to move with everybody else. There’s a lot of components in the way this whole thing’s been put together. There’s revenue sharing for teams like ourselves that it always works out. I think the main thing you’ve got to focus on is how good the business is doing. This is fabulous just the way the game has been growing. The fact that we’re playing these outdoor games is going to create a lot more interest than we’ve ever had before. As far as I can see it, there’s just a lot of good things happening."
Indeed, the higher the cap goes, the more teams like Nashville and Carolina get to pocket from revenue sharing. So there’s that.
The salary cap projection, meanwhile, is one of the more important nuggets governors pick up here every year at their December meeting. It allows them to budget/plan accordingly, especially when it comes to some of the bigger contract extensions that are in the works. Whether it’s Montreal with P.K. Subban, Toronto with Dion Phaneuf or San Jose with the troika UFAs-to-be in Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and Joe Thornton, knowing a more precise cap number for next season should clarify things to a degree moving forward in those respective contract negotiations.
CANADIAN TV DEAL
The 12-year Canadian TV deal was explained and then ratified by the oard as well on Monday evening. Who’s going to say, "No," to $5.2 billion CDN ($4.9 billion U.S.).
Brendan Shanahan cancelled his flight to Pebble Beach on Monday so he could deal with discipline matters, namely suspending James Neal for five games. But Shanahan is expected to be here Tuesday to address owners on Day 2 of the board of governors meeting.
Shawn Thornton's hearing still hasn’t been officially set, but it’s expected to be either Thursday or Friday, given that Shanahan will be at Pebble Beach, as will the Bruins general manager.
The fallout from Saturday’s mayhem between the Penguins and Bruins continued to generate buzz at the owners’ meeting.
"We’re a physical team and we usually have incidents that involve physicality," said Chiarelli on Monday night. "With that comes these types of things. It’s something you deal with. I respect Shawn as a player, he’s come over to us and done very well for where his career had been. There’s no fallout other than we’re going to have a player that contributes to our team who will be suspended. He usually handles his business in a respectful way. This time he lost control a little bit."
COYOTES’ OUTDOOR GAME?
Well if they can hold an outdoor game in Los Angeles, why not Phoenix, right?
A source confirmed Monday before the meeting that the Coyotes have pitched to the NHL the idea of hosting an outdoor game next season in conjunction with the Arizona Cardinals hosting the Super Bowl. It's a similar idea to the two New York outdoor games around the Super Bowl this season.
A league source said it was still premature at this point to confirm any potential cities for outdoor games next season.
FLAMES’ ROSTER FREEZE
The NHL’s roster freeze goes into effect Dec. 19 at 11:59 p.m. ET, but for the Calgary Flames, it went into effect Monday night (10 days prior) as per Brian Burke’s longtime custom wherever he’s worked. Burke, president of hockey operations in Calgary, said Flames GM Jay Feaster agreed to pick up his tradition.
"It was to up to him and we’re doing it," Burke told ESPN.com Monday before the meeting. "I’ve always felt the league’s freeze is inadequate for players to arrange travel for their families, especially the Europeans. I don’t think players should get traded at Christmas time. So I put this in many years ago on my teams, I think it’s fair to the players. If you’re from the Czech Republic, it’s pretty hard to make flights on Dec. 19 if you think you might get traded. This just gives players piece of mind and I think they’re entitled to it."
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