Following news of a tentative agreement between the NHL and NHLPA on a CBA extension and return to play plan, we’re just awaiting the results of a ratification vote from both the players and Board of Governors. It’s expected both will pass, putting us on track for Phase 3 training camps to open on Monday, and for games to resume in August.
It’s the kind of labour peace we’re unaccustomed to in the NHL, which has seen multiple work stoppages in the past 30 years over CBA talks. This agreement will run another six seasons and charts a course for how the league will recover financially from a COVID-19 interrupted season that is expected to have consequences for at least the next few seasons.
As a result, we know the cap will remain flat at $81.5 million next season and probably the one after. From there, it could gradually rise, though that will depend on how revenues recover.
It’s necessary to keep player escrow payments down, but this new deal is going to put some teams in an especially tight bind. Remember, prior to the pandemic, next season’s cap was expected to rise to at least $84 million.
The fact is this will pinch everyone’s purse strings to some degree, and change previously laid plans. However, some teams will immediately be in a tougher situation than others and faced with hard questions. Using CapFriendly as a guide, here are three teams that will feel it the most:
1) Toronto Maple Leafs
Even if this season hadn’t been interrupted and the cap rose a couple of million dollars this off-season, the Leafs still would have faced some tough decisions. Now things could get really interesting.
Toronto currently has $76.908 million committed to next year’s roster, and that’s without extensions for notable players such as Jason Spezza, Kyle Clifford, Travis Dermott and Ilya Mikheyev. Tyson Barrie and Cody Ceci, long shots to sign new deals before, are now all but certain to leave.
But as tough as this off-season will be for the Leafs, it sets up a potentially difficult conversation after 2020–21, too. That’s when Frederik Andersen will become a free agent. As reliable as he’s been, he’ll be 31 by then and you have to wonder how those negotiations will go considering these new factors.