5 teams that most benefit from a NHL salary cap increase

Today’s NHL News follows up on the comments made by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about a potential salary cap increase to $88 million for the 2024-25 season.

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On Wednesday, Bettman discussed the state of the game after a recent Board of Governors meeting. Initially, there were rumors throughout the summer that the 2024-25 season salary cap would go up just a little from $83.5 million to $85 million. However, those projections changed during his most recent press conference. 

Ultimately, since the NHL continues to grow its brand, the commissioner believes the cap limit could increase by $4.5 million, with the upper limit reaching close to $88 million. Considering there are currently ten teams over the limit of $83.5 million heading into next week’s season openers, this potential increase will be a blessing for those cash-strapped teams heading into next summer. 

With this new information, we look at the top five teams that most benefit from a significant salary cap increase. 

Boston Bruins will benefit from NHL Salary Cap increase

nhl recaps boston bruins
Feb 14, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) and left wing Nick Foligno (17) celebrate after right wing David Pastrnak (88) scores the game winning goal against the Dallas Stars during the overtime period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Many people will be intrigued to see the Boston Bruins on this list, but a salary cap increase may save this franchise from taking a deep nose dive in the coming years. Right now, the Bruins have their core players David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Hampus Lindholm, Charlie McAvoy, and Linus Ullmark locked up, so there are no concerns with them. However, Jeremy Swayman and Jake DeBrusk are about to become free agents and will command a significant salary increase over their current deals. 

If Boston lost those two players through free agency or the trade market, they wouldn’t immediately fall out of contention. But since both skaters are in their mid-20s and are fan favorites with the skills to be impact players for the next half-decade, getting them under contract will help stabilize the Bruins’ attack.

Additionally, the team will see the following defensive players: Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbert, Jakub Zboril, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Ian Mitchell all become free agents, while forwards Milan Lucic, James van Riemsdyk, Jesper Boqvist, and AJ Greer all needing new deals too. Of course, the team will lose a handful of these skaters for various reasons, but with extra cash, they could become buyers in free agency and remain a threat to win the Stanley Cup.  

Calgary Flames

A salary cap increase could also be a blessing for the Calgary Flames, as they need to retain the services of Elias Lindholm while preparing to restock their defensive players in the summer of 2024. Heading into next season, the Flames only have two defensemen on payroll, MacKenzie Weegar and Rasmus Andersson, with Noah Hanifin, Chris Tanev, Nikita Zadorov, Jordan Oesterle, and Dennis Gilbert all set to become unrestricted free agents. 

Additionally, the Flames will also gain some space with Oliver Kylington and Kevin Rooney’s contracts coming off the books, even though both are currently on injured reserve. Considering the Flames are under new leadership, they want to be Stanley Cup contenders to usher in their new building by the decade’s end. Ideally, if the club rebounds this year and goes on a lengthy postseason run, there’s a good chance they become a preferred destination for free agents.

Edmonton Oilers

Although two teams are ahead of them regarding a desperate need for a salary cap increase, realistically, the Oilers may be the most beneficial with some extra cash. As the current deals of Leon Draisaitl (2025) and Connor McDavid (2026) wind down, these generational talents will secure a hefty raise over their respective $8.5 million and $12.5 million deals. 

Ultimately, the fanbase will hope each player would be willing to take a “hometown” discount to stay in Edmonton and pursue a Stanley Cup. However, despite what many locals tell you, the team is not at that stage as a legitimate contender. Even though they are high-scoring and rely too much on their special teams to win contests, their goaltending is questionable, and their defense is known for their miscues. 

Considering how many players are locked into long-term deals already, a salary cap increase would benefit the Oilers. Under the right circumstances, management can focus on keeping Draisaitl and McDavid and, with the leftover money, try to build a contender through free agency or the trade market. 

Tampa Bay Lightning

Unfortunately, anytime the words salary cap and the Tampa Bay Lightning appear in the same sentence together, it brings back bad memories from playoffs past. However, the former back-to-back Stanley Cup champions love to play dangerously close to the limit, sitting over $6 million by the cutoff to begin the 2023-24 season. 

Surprisingly, longtime captain Steven Stamkos is set to become an unrestricted free agent and recently made $8.5 million a year. As the franchise’s statistical leader in almost every category imaginable, he’d love to stay with them, but the two sides have yet to begin contract talks

Although the team will have a few other players needing new deals, management said they are in a wait-and-see mode, unwilling to commit to long-term plans. Ultimately, a salary cap increase would help them retain Stamkos and remain contenders.  

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a win-now mode with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, William Nylander, John Tavares, and Ilya Samsonov all under contract for 2023-24. But, the team is already $13 million over the salary cap limit for this season, so getting some extra space would go a long way towards solving their problems today and in the future. 

Although there would be no relief for this year, Toronto’s future is uncertain, with Nylander set to become a free agent next summer. Besides demanding a salary increase over the $6.9 million he’s currently making, he’s not the only one who will need a new deal next summer. Heading into next summer, the Maple Leafs must sign two goalies and replace four defensemen and four forwards, not including Nylander.

Furthermore, in the summer of 2025, Toronto will need to hand out new contracts for Marner and Tavares, who combine for $21.9 million of the team’s salary cap. As one of the most profitable franchises in the league, with an estimated worth of $2 billion, a salary cap increase could keep this particular group together or allow the club to retool and finally challenge for the Stanley Cup.