This week the NHL board of governors will be meeting, which means a lot of talk about potential expansion, possible, ahem relocations and future salary cap possibilities. Pierre LeBrun already has some information on the latter:
The salary cap: This is the annual meeting during which the league gives clubs their first projected number for next season's salary cap. It's a projection, not an exact number, but normally it gives teams enough direction in order to plan ahead for next season. There has been much hand-wringing among some of the bigger-market, high-spending clubs that the salary cap isn't quite going up as much as they thought it was going to, which is leaving them pressed up against the ceiling trying to juggle how to re-sign and keep their core together.
Montreal Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin pointed to the uncertainty of the cap when he talked about dealing away Travis Moen and later Rene Bourque, both of whom carry contracts that go beyond this season.
Still, what governors will be told by the league leadership this week is that despite all the concern, as long as there isn't any significant change (downward) in the Canadian dollar between now and June 30, the salary cap next season is projected to be somewhere between $72 million and $74 million, up from the current $69 million. The governors will actually get a more precise figure though a source told ESPN.com it should be in that range.
So what does that mean for the Pittsburgh Penguins?
According to capgeek, the Pens have $53.7 million already booked for next season for 12 players currently on the NHL roster*. That's a lot of money for not a lot of players, but the good news is that the team of course has almost all of their good players under contract for 2015-16 (and beyond) and those players are good enough to carry the team usually to first place in the division every season. Under contract for next season are 7 forwards (Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patric Hornqvist, Pascal Dupuis, Brandon Sutter Chris Kunitz, and Nick Spaling). 4 defensemen (Kris Letang, Rob Scuderi, Olli Maatta and Simon Despres) and 1 goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury).
*We omitted call-up Scott Wilson, who may be in the running for a job next season, but we're not going to pencil him in for it just yet.
There are also several young players that may or may not be ready for the NHL and would take jobs at less than $1 million apiece, depending on how guys like WIlson, Scott Harrington, Derrick Pouliot, Kasperi Kapanen, Oskar Sundqvist and Bryan Rust develop, most of whom at least have legitimate chances to make the jump to the NHL.
So for $72-74 million minus the $54 million means the Pens would have about $18-20 million to sign 7 skaters and a backup goalie, and that's assuming they don't even trade away a guy like Spaling or Scuderi that is over-paid. Pittsburgh won't be major players in free agency, but thanks to Jim Rutherford's wise spending on one-year deals for vets like Blake Comeau, Steve Downie and Thomas Greiss who have been solid players so far, the Pens are in pretty good shape moving forward with the salary cap, considering all the top dollar deals for Crosby-Malkin-Letang that they have.
The data above, of course, isn't set in stone. Projections can change especially with fluctuations in the Canadian dollar- which might get weaker as the price of oil continues to drop. However, with television revenues and a lot of season ticket purchases already in the book, they have a pretty good idea about where the cap will be for next season. If it does go up, that should only be a good thing for a team like Pittsburgh that already has their core players locked up and could use the extra room to try and retain a veteran like Paul Martin or Christian Ehrhoff.