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Sunday, July 14, 2024

The NHL’s Salary Cap Boost Kicks Off a Chaotic Offseason

  • Teams are seeing the first major cap increase since 2019, up $4.5 million.
  • The free agency window opens Monday, with a stacked group of names who may benefit.
Apr 6, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos (91) celebrates his goal with the Lightning bench against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at PPG Paints Arena. The Penguins won 5-4. Mandatory
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s free agency window opens Monday, exactly one week after the Panthers hoisted the Stanley Cup, and one day after the team’s championship parade in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The short period between the season’s end and offseason’s beginning always forces a quick focus shift for players, front offices, and fans—but new changes are teeing up a particularly hectic few months. The league is seeing the first big increase to its salary cap in five years, jumping up $4.5 million to a cap of $88 million, which will give teams more space to make big moves.

“It’s going to be unpredictable, really,” Mike Grier, the general manager of San Jose, told NHL Network. “It’ll be interesting. Every team’s trying to get better, and there’s only so many seats at the table.”

Last weekend’s draft—though flashier than ever at the Las Vegas Sphere—yielded what many considered a weaker class of prospects. Without as much immediately impactful talent joining the league (like the phenom first pick of the 2023 draft, Connor Bedard, who won this season’s Calder Trophy), offseason moves may be shaped by swapping veterans and locking key players into extended contracts. And there are many high-profile names exploring big payouts through free agency, including Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay’s captain since 2014, and Jonathan Marchessault, MVP of the 2023 playoffs for Las Vegas.

Combined, these circumstances are leading some vets to ask for major pay bumps. New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin, eligible for an extension starting Monday, reportedly wanted $12 million annually, which would take up 13% of the team’s cap space. In the past few years, Shesterkin has averaged about 10 fewer games per season than other goalies who got deals of that size, according to The Athletic. New York, who made it to Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final this season thanks in large part to Shesterkin at goal, faces a big decision. 

In this new era, they won’t be the only ones.

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