Last week, Gary Bettman spoke to the media and gave a brief update on his league’s revenue projections for the year. In a brief statement, the commissioner mentioned that he expects revenues from the 2017-18 season to reach “between $4.5-billion and $5-billion” - a big jump from the estimated $4.1 billion from last season. This means a lot of things for the league, but the main interest to the fans would lie in the impact it will have on the salary cap for next season. A salary cap that the Colorado Avalanche have done a great job of managing this season.
Over the past 10 months, the Avalanche have done a particularly good job of creating salary cap space that can be used as an asset in both the short and long term. The Avs are currently 26th in the league in terms of dollars allocated to the cap - giving them a ton of space to work with.
What’s more impressive is the way the Avalanche have set themselves up for the next two offseasons.
In the summer of 2018, the Avs are projected to have $26 million to work with under - without having any significant players needing a new contract.
That $26 million the cap space the Avs have under the current $75m salary cap used by the NHL. That figure is set to increase - possibly significantly - if Bettman's revenue projections are accurate.
Jame Mirtle of The Athletic did a great job of breaking down the numbers behind Bettman’s projection.
If the league actually grows enough to get to the $4.5-5 billion Bettman mentioned - something that we should be sceptical about - we are going to be looking at a 2018-19 salary cap of anywhere from $79.9 million to as much as $92.5 million.
While a jump in the cap is great news for a number of teams, it’s probably a detriment to the Avalanche and what they had been planning for the short-term future.
With high-impact players like John Tavares, Mikael Backlund and John Carlson set to become unrestricted free agents, a things stand now, Colorado is set to have some of the most money to spend this coming offseason. As pie-in-the-sky as it might seem that these star players would choose to come to the Avalanche, the money was the one huge advantage this team had.
The Avalanche have a very good young core that they have control of for a long time. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility to think a big-time player like John Carlson would choose to come to Denver - especially if the Avs were able to offer a little more money than other teams.
It’s clear this is a tactic Joe Sakic isn’t afraid to employ. Last summer, reports surfaced on July 1 that the Avs were making one last pitch to bring Kevin Shattenkirk back. They threw a big contract at him, only to have the defenseman take less money to sign with the New York Rangers.
They ultimately missed out, but the attempt showed a willingness by management and ownership to spend a lot of money if it means they can bring in an impact players. Why not do the same thing this coming offseason?
Unfortunately, a significant bump in the salary cap creates a lot more competition for these expensive players. Teams that would have been out from the beginning of the bidding process, will now have a lot more room to work.
If the projections hold and the cap is set to jump, Colorado’s ability to outbid other teams has now vanished. They’re going to have to come up with another selling point if they hope to land an impact player in the free agent market.