In the 2016-2017 NHL season, the salary cap ceiling was set at $73 million. This included the player’s approval to apply a 5% inflator to the salary cap range. It’s a part of the CBA that was one of the more contentious points during the last CBA negotiations causing the shortening of the 2012-2013 NHL season (and will likely continue to be a big part of the upcoming CBA negotiations for fans to look forward to, so we all have that going for us.)
According to the CBA’s language on the inflator, the salary cap range "shall be adjusted upward by a factor of five (5) percent in each league year (yielding the adjusted midpoint, which shall then become the midpoint of the payroll range) unless or until either party to this agreement proposes a different growth factor based on actual revenue experience and/or projections, in which case the parties shall discuss and agree upon a new factor."
Chris Johnston reported today that the salary cap ceiling is projected to be somewhere around $76 million next season according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly. This is subject to change if the NHLPA agrees to apply the 5% inflator. It’s been applied at a 5% rate every season since 2005, with the lone exception the 2006-2007 season, when they didn’t apply an inflator at all.
How much space would a $76 million salary cap ceiling give the Dallas Stars next season?
According to CapFriendly, the Dallas Stars as currently constructed have $50.14 million in contracts committed to next season. That leaves the Stars with over $25 million to use to sign free agents, apply to buyouts, or give their RFAs raises.
Dallas has seven forwards signed to contracts next season (they’ll need at least 12). They’ll need to sign RFAs Brett Ritchie, Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, and Curtis McKenzie to new deals, which will fill in a few of those forward openings and take up some of that available cap space. Faksa is likely headed for a decent raise, and I would expect Dallas will look to sign some bridge deals for Ritchie, Janmark and McKenzie.
On defense, the Stars have four blueliners signed to contracts next year with three RFAs: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, and Esa Lindell. None of those guys will likely see massive contracts, allowing Dallas more than enough flexibility in terms of available cap space to try to make some deals to improve the defense next season.
Then there is the goaltending, in which they’ve committed nearly 20% of their committed contract money next season. Will the Stars find a trade partner for one of their goaltenders? Can they lure a young UFA goaltender like Scott Darling or Philipp Grubauer with the opportunity to be a starter in Dallas and the money to entice them?
It’s going to be an interesting offseason, and likely a pivotal moment that will define general manager Jim Nill’s legacy in Dallas.