As recently as late this past winter, NHL teams had visions of an $85.5 million cap dancing in their heads. Then COVID-19 hit, and league revenues took a major hit. As a result, the salary cap projections given to teams were thrown out the window. There were rumors about a cap decrease, but in the end status quo will rule the day. The NHL’s salary cap will remain at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season. It could remain that way in 2021-22 as well.
For Oilers GM Ken Holland, that means considerably less cap space than he planned on. The veteran GM will need to be smart to navigate the choppy waters that will be the 2020 offseason.
“That’s a good question,” Holland said when asked about what the extended CBA means for free agents and teams moving forward. “Certainly, I know the cap is going to be $81.5 (million) next year and possibly the year after. I try to take a two-year look when you start to do contracts. I know it’s $81.5, they were projecting 84-88 million dollars at our general managers’ meetings in early March. An $85.5 million-dollar cap versus an $81.5 million-dollar cap – four million dollars – is a fairly significant amount of cap space for everybody.”
It’s significant to the point that Oilers fans hoping for a return from Taylor Hall or a goalscorer like Mike Hoffman probably shouldn’t hold their breath. The situation is likely to force the Oilers to go shopping in the bargain bin areas, much like last summer.
The good news? The club found valuable pieces like Riley Sheahan and Josh Archibald.
“It’s going to be tight and we’re going to try to find players that can play,” Holland continued. “You need cheaper players on your roster, you always do. You’re probably going to need a little bit more in order to build a team.”
That could be good news for players like Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody and William Lagesson. All have played key roles in AHL Bakersfield over the last two seasons, and will be on cheap value contracts next season.
Of course, a lot depends on the guys that Holland elects to bring back following the playoffs.
“Obviously, we’ve got some players that I have to sign here between now and November or December, whenever we start up again,” Holland added. “I have time. I’m looking forward to evaluating our team during this tournament. And then sitting down at the end and talking to my people, my pro scouts, the coaching staff, Tipp (Dave Tippett) and seeing what we thought.”