NEW YORK — After a year of record revenues, the NHL salary cap is going up again.
The exact figure for the 2014-15 hasn’t been set yet, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Thursday following a meeting of the league’s board of governors, but he hoped it would be worked out with the players’ association in time for the start of the two-day entry draft Friday in Philadelphia.
The final number is expected to be in the high $60 millions or low $70 millions. That gives general managers a guideline as they head into the draft and the free-agent shopping season that begins on Tuesday.
“We hope to have a mutual understanding as to what the cap will be within the next day, hopefully at the latest,” Bettman said. “It’s something that obviously we do in conjunction with the players’ association.
“There have been ongoing meetings, but our goal would be to move this as quickly as possible. But we have a dance partner and we want to make sure the music is playing appropriately and we’re both hearing the same things.”
Many team officials rushed out of the midtown Manhattan hotel where Thursday’s meeting took place and headed to Philadelphia for the draft, which will open with the first round Friday night and conclude with rounds 2-7 on Saturday.
Teams that have large amounts of cap space can already make their off-season plans, whether it be trades or free-agent signings, without knowing the final cap number.
“I expect to see a lot more trades than we normally see,” Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said. “We’ll see a lot more trades, in my opinion, that don’t even involve draft picks. Hockey trades. There’s so much parity in the league, everyone is trying to get ahead. I think some teams look at free agency as not an ideal route. I think there will be a lot of movement.”
Last season’s salary cap sat at $64.3 million, quite a jump from the original cap number of $39 million, established after the lockout-cancelled season of 2004-05. The only time the cap number dropped from the previous season was in 2012-13 following another lockout when the figure was set at $60 million after being $64.3 in 2011-12.
Bettman said number-crunching was still being done to determine what the league’s revenues were last season, but he declared they were at an all-time high.
“It is a record number, which is a testament to the strength of the game and our fans, and how competitive things are,” he said.
Also discussed Thursday were a host of potential rules changes that have already passed through the league’s competition committee and the general managers, who met earlier this month in New York during the Stanley Cup finals.
There were no hurdles involved in those proposed adjustments, and the new rules are on track to be approved by the players’ association.
“There are things that we need to consult with the players’ association on,” Bettman said “I would prefer to do that before we make any formal announcements. I think it’s better for the process that way.”
The biggest possible changes revolve around the 5-minute overtime period in the regular season. The league would like to create more overtime goals and have fewer shootouts. The proposal includes doing a scrape of the ice before overtime instead of before the shootout to give a cleaner surface to play on, and having teams change direction after the third period to create a longer change to the benches.
“In our game now, the way it’s played, teams play so hard,” said Hockey Hall of Famer Luc Robitaille, now the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings’ president of business operations. “Players are so good, and when there’s not a lot of room, suddenly one bad change and it ends up on a 2-on-1 or a 3-on-2.
“It does make a difference. This certainly will open up a few plays here and there. That long change is always a hard thing for most teams.”
Also subject to change are penalties for faceoff infractions after icings, which could result in a delay-of-game penalty, the configuration of faceoff circles, increasing the size of the trapezoid behind the net, and tougher penalties for embellishment.
“Very consistent with the discussions with the competition committee and with the general managers,” Bettman said of Thursday’s talks. “When everything is neatly bundled up, we’ll issue a formal release giving you the details on all of that.”