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The 2019-2020 salary cap has been set

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With just over a week to go to free agency, all the teams know exactly how little room they have.

Boston Bruins v Columbus Blue Jackets - Game Six Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Today, the NHL has announced that the salary cap for next season will be $81.5 million.

Earlier projections had the cap at $83 million, and that’s the figure most people have been using for projections for next season. This slight decrease in that upper limit won’t affect very many teams, but the ones who care, might care a lot.

Chart of salary cap progression using earlier projected amount.
Wikipedia

The bigger issue around the salary cap is the question of the so-called inflator. That figure is the amount the NHLPA must vote on and agree to. The purpose of the inflator is to pump up the salary cap over and above the 50% of Hockey Related Revenue projections, in a way that assumes the coming season’s actual revenues will outstrip projections.

The inflator has had the effect in the past of inflating UFA salaries, and also inflating the amount of escrow that is held back from all NHL salaries, and ultimately might never be repaid.

If you’re now totally, lost, you might need to go read this:

The players don’t like escrow, and they want to be paid their entire salary. It seems that the idea has finally taken hold that resisting the temptation to go for a big inflator and gamble on future revenues rising faster than projected is a way to ensure they get paid more.

The history of escrow amounts withheld, and then ultimately repaid years later when the final numbers are crunched shows why they don’t like it.

History of NHL Escrow

Season Withheld Refunded Salary Lost
Season Withheld Refunded Salary Lost
2009-10 4.10% 3% 1.10%
2010-11 12.40% 10% 2.40%
2011-12 8.50% 8% 0.50%
2012-13 16.30% 1.60% 14.70%
2013-14 14% 3.80% 10.20%
2014-15 15% 2.05% 12.95%
2015-16 17% 3.20% 13.80%
2016-17 15.50% TBD ???
2017-18 11.50% TBD ???
2018-19 13.50% TBD ???

The inflator isn’t the reason for escrow, but it is part of the reason it’s grown so big, and the amount refunded has not.

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, how does the affect the Leafs?

The Leafs are very much one of the few teams for whom a difference of a few hundred thousand matters. The difference between the projected amount and the actual amount of the cap is a little more than one player in a not very significant role or on an ELC. So, it’s not ideal, but it’s not a big deal either, and this change had to come, and now is when it arrived.

The expectation is that the cap will rise in the future as US television contracts drive revenue up. When that happens, the Leafs can start spending like drunken Islanders on their fourth line again. Until then, I’m trusting to Brandon Pridham’s spreadsheets but since the Leafs made a cap-clearing deal today, have a look at it as it is right now:

Maple Leafs Salary Cap calculation as of June 22

Name Cap Hit (or Qualifying Offer) Days in NHL If 2-way Prorated Cap Hit Regular Season Cap Hit
Name Cap Hit (or Qualifying Offer) Days in NHL If 2-way Prorated Cap Hit Regular Season Cap Hit
One-Way Contracts
Auston Matthews 11,634,000 11,634,000 11,634,000
John Tavares 11,000,000 11,000,000 11,000,000
William Nylander 6,962,366 6,962,366 6,962,366
Nazem Kadri 4,500,000 4,500,000 4,500,000
Zach Hyman 2,250,000 2,250,000 2,250,000
Connor Brown 2,100,000 2,100,000 2,100,000
Trevor Moore 775,000 775,000 775,000
Nic Petan 775,000 775,000 775,000
Morgan Rielly 5,000,000 5,000,000 5,000,000
Nikita Zaitsev 4,500,000 4,500,000 4,500,000
Jake Muzzin 4,000,000 4,000,000 4,000,000
Justin Holl 675,000 675,000 675,000
Calle Rosen 750,000 750,000 750,000
Frederik Andersen 5,000,000 5,000,000 5,000,000
Garrett Sparks 750,000 750,000 750,000
Nathan Horton 5,300,000 5,300,000 5,300,000
Two-Way Contracts
Frederik Gauthier 675,000 180 675,000 675,000
Travis Dermott 863,333 180 863,333 863,333
Ilya Mikheyev 925,000 0 0 925,000
Egor Korshkov 925,000 0 0
Pierre Engvall 925,000 0 0
Jeremy Bracco 842,500 0 0
Semyon Der Arguchintsev 783,333 0 0
Mason Marchment 767,500 0 0
Adam Brooks 759,167 0 0
Dmytro Timashov 694,444 0 0
Rasmus Sandin 894,167 0 0
Timothy Liljegren 863,333 0 0
Joe Duszak 800,000 0 0
Mac Hollowell 799,766 0 0
Teemu Kivihalme 792,500 0 0
Jesper Lindgren 775,833 0 0
Andreas Borgman 700,000 0 0
Ian Scott 805,833 0 0
Joseph Woll 800,000 0 0
Kasimir Kaskisuo 675,000 6 22,500
Qualifying Offers
Andreas Johnsson 862,875 180 862,875
Kasperi Kapanen 874,125 180 874,125
Mitch Marner 874,125 874,125
Michael Carcone 735,000 0 0
Gabriel Gagne 735,000 0 0
Nicholas Baptiste 826,875 0 0
Jordan Subban 715,000 0 0
Eamon McAdam 874,125 1 4,856
Retained 1,200,000
Total: 71,348,180 68,434,699
Salary Cap 81,500,000 81,500,000
10% overage 8,150,000
Total: 89,650,000
Cap Space 18,301,820 13,065,301

I’m leaving out the rumoured deals for Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen until they are final, and this isn’t a complete roster, of course. If you thought trading Patrick Marleau solved everything, well, it’s still a squeeze in many ways.