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Report: NHL salary cap expected to increase sharply in next few years

After years of stability, it’s may be headed back up.

NHL: APR 07 Kraken at Blackhawks Photo by Chris Kohley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Chicago Blackhawks could be in a fortuitous financial situation in just a few years.

According to a joint report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and Rory Boylen, NHL teams have received guidance on the expected salary cap for the next few hockey seasons — and the arrow is pointing up.

The article reiterates that these are just projections and nothing has been confirmed — nor will be anytime soon — but it’s the first sign of optimism regarding increases in the salary cap that have been seen in years.

Here’s what the article suggests:

  • For the 2022-23 NHL season, the salary cap is at $82.5 million
  • For 2023-24, the “possible salary cap” is $83.5 million
  • For 2024-25, it’s a range of $87.5-$88 million
  • For 2025-26, it’s “approximately $92 million

Again, these are only projections. But any increases would provide welcome breathing room for the NHL. Last season’s salary cap of $81.5 million was the third consecutive season at that ceiling, with circumstances related to the pandemic a significant factor.

These projections could put a little more firepower in the Blackhawks’ rebuild for two reasons. First, the Seth Jones contract will be less and less of a millstone as the salary cap increases, with every increase making the contract more palatable — and, perhaps, movable. Second, it means that GM Kyle Davidson will have even more financial wiggle room to nab a big-name free agent or two in future offseasons, should the Blackhawks be ready for that step in the rebuild process.

And it just so happens that some big names could be on the market:

  • In the summer of 2024, unrestricted free agents could include Toronto’s Auston Matthews and William Nylander, Carolina’s Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho, Calgary’s Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm, Florida’s Sam Reinhart and Pittsburgh’s Jake Guentzel — all under the age of 30, too.
  • In the summer of 2025, unrestricted free agents could include Toronto’s Mitch Marner, Colordao’s Mikko Rantanen, Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl, Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Vancouver’s Brock Boeser and Vegas’ Shea Theodore — again, all under 30 at the time of their potential free agency.

Some of those players could re-sign well before hitting free agency, of course, although that salary cap situation in Toronto seems to be the most unwieldy of the bunch.

Either way, it looks like the Blackhawks would be in position to cash in with a few massive free-agent signings in upcoming years, should this whole rebuild trend in the right direction for the next few seasons.