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NHL salary cap projected to increase to $75.5-76 million next season

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This appears to be good news for cap-strapped teams like the Blackhawks.

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at Nashville Predators Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL salary cap is projected to rise $2.5-3 million for the 2017-18 season, reports Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston. That comes straight from NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly, who said that the final number will depend on negotiations with the NHLPA over the inflator clause.

With a current salary cap of $73 million, the new number for next season should fall around $75.5-76 million.

For teams like the Blackhawks that are regularly right up against the upper limit, this is fantastic news. There were reports in December and February indicating the salary cap increase for 2017-18 would be extremely small, or potentially not happen at all. A flat cap for next season would’ve been disastrous for teams that already have commitments well over $60 million like Chicago.

The big remaining variable for the NHL, it appears, will be the escalator clause, which designates a year-to-year increase of five percent for the salary cap, contingent upon approval from the NHLPA. The situation gets complicated here with revenue split and escrow, but last year, the NHLPA didn’t use the full five percent, which is why the cap fell $1 million short of some initial projections.

That could happen again this time around, which is presumably part of why Daly gave a range for the upcoming increase instead of a firm number. A full five percent increase from $73 million would be $76.65 million, so even now, it appears the NHL is not planning for that.

Still, given the possibility of a cap that could stay near $73 million, this has to be welcomed news for Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. The team already has over $70 million committed to 18 players (including several entry-level deals), and that number will be even higher if Artemi Panarin hits his $1.725 million Schedule B bonus this year, which is still possible.

Having an extra $2-3 million to operate this offseason would be huge, so hopefully this latest projection from the NHL isn’t overly optimistic.