By JD Lagrange – The NHL has confirmed that the salary cap ceiling is going up to $82.5 million for the 2022-23 season. This is $1 million more than it was this past season. For teams interested, the cap floor is also going up as it will be set for $61 million, up from $60.2 million. The minimum players’ salary remains at $750,000 but will go up to $775,000 starting the following season.
Going up one million, or just over one percent, after being frozen for a couple of years due to lack of revenue because of COVID, is not going to help teams much. Players’ salaries won’t stop going up, rest assured. Which means that teams will have to shed some of their bad contracts somehow, in order to pay the players that they already have. Whether it is by trade, whenever feasible, or buyout, teams will be searching for ways to get cap flexibility. And you will have teams taking advantage of the Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) loophole, as recently did the Vegas Golden Knights when acquiring Shea Weber’s contract.
But who are those players with bad contracts, and which ones are the most likely to be bought out? I have dressed a list for you.
- SJS – Erik Karlsson ($11.5M, 5 yrs)
- FLA – Sergei Bobrovsky ($10M, 4 yrs)
- BUF – Jeff Skinner ($9M, 5 yrs)
- CBJ – Jakub Voracek ($8.25M, 2 yrs)
- SJS – Marc-Édouard Vlasic ($7M, 4 yrs)
- BOS – Hampus Lindholm ($6.5M, 8 yrs)
- MTL – Brendan Gallagher ($6.5M, 5 yrs)
- ANA – John Gibson (6.4M, 5 yrs)
- CGY – Sean Monahan ($6.375M, 1 yr)
- PHI – Ryan Ellis ($6.25M, 5 yrs)
- OTT – Matt Murray ($6.25M, 2 yrs)
- VAN – Tyler Myers ($6M, 2 yrs)
- COL – Erik Johnson ($6M, 1 yr)
- VEG – William Karlsson ($5.9M, 5 yrs)
- EDM – Duncan Keith ($5.54M, 1 yr)
- PHI – Travis Konecny ($5.5M, 3 yrs)
- ARI – Andrew Ladd ($5.5M, 1 yr)
- BOS – Charlie Coyle ($5.25M, 4 yrs)
- ANA – Jakob Silfverberg ($5.25M, 2 yrs)
- CGY – Milan Lucic ($5.25M, 1 yr)
- CHI – Tyler Johnson ($5M, 2 yrs)
The above-mentioned contracts are unlikely candidates to be bought out for multiple reasons. Some are still productive players, although not up to the amount of money that they make. Others have too much term left and buying them out would handcuff the teams for too long. Then you have some that could be traded, more likely with salary retained.
Canadiens’ fans will notice that I have placed Brendan Gallagher on that list. Due to his poor season, he deserves to be on there but he could easily be removed off that list depending if he returns to form next season. With a long off-season ahead of him to heal and recharge, with his regular training, there is hope that he returns to his old self.
- PIT – Jason Zucker ($5.5M, 1 yr)
- TOR – Petr Mrazek ($3.8M, 2 yrs)
- BOS – Nick Foligno ($3.8M, 1 yr)
- CHI – Brett Connolly ($3.5M, 1 yr)
- MTL – Paul Byron ($3.4M, 1 yr)
- DAL – Anton Khudobin ($3.33M, 1 yr)
- STL – Marco Scandella ($3.275M, 2 yrs)
- EDM – Zack Kassian ($3.2M, 2 yrs)
- WIN – Dylan DeMelo ($3M, 2 yrs)
- ANA – John Moore ($2.75M, 1 yr)
- VAN – Jason Dickinson ($2.65M, 2 yrs)
- NAS – Philippe Myers ($2.55M, 1 yr)
- NYR – Patrick Nemeth ($2.5M, 2 yrs)
- SEA – Joonas Donskoi ($3.9M, 1 yr)
Under normal circumstances, some of them would not be candidates for a buyout but there are only because their team is tight against the cap. Take Paul Byron as an example. He’s a leader, a hard worker, a great example for the Canadiens’ young players. But as a cap saving option, buying him out would make sense for GM Kent Hughes.
- MTL – Shea Weber ($7.857M, 4 yrs)
- TBL – Brent Seabrook ($6.875M, 2 yrs)
- ARI – Bryan Little ($5.29M, 2 yrs)
- BUF – Ben Bishop ($4.9M, 1 yr)
- VAN – Michael Ferland ($3.5M, 1 yr)
Vegas did well by not only adding a substantial amount of LITR dollars (like Tampa Bay has with Seabrook), but they have also shedded Evgenii Dadonov’s $5 million contract in that deal, giving them a potential maximum of over $12 million in cap space. Other teams could do something similar.
So yes, keep an eye on “hockey trades”, where both teams get player-value in deals to be made, and on trades for draft picks. But also keep your eyes on cap dumping trades, where a player is traded for basically nothing. Most of this should happen between now and the NHL Draft, held on July 7th and 8th in Montreal.