Florida Panthers Salary Cap Troubles May Be Short Lived
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The Florida Panthers are among a handful of team who are struggling under a stagnant salary cap — but relief may be on the way.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told ESPN on Tuesday that the league’s $82.5 million salary cap could rise by over $4 million depending on the league’s revenue for the 2022-23 season.
The league’s salary cap has only gone up $1 million since the 2020-21 season due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Players owed the league an estimated $1 billion in revenue lost during the pandemic and the NHL would remain with a “flat cap” until the debt was paid off.
After the league made an estimated $5.4 billion in hockey-related revenue following a new TV deal with ESPN and TNT, Bettman believes that there is a “good probability” that the players’ debt will be paid off by the end of the season.
If it is not paid off, the salary cap will only increase by $1 million to an upper limit of $83.5 million.
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So, the league making enough revenue to pay off the escrow owed by the players means the Panthers could get themselves out of a pretty big jam.
As it stands right now, Florida are at the cap limit and cannot add any more roster players aside for the 20 they dress on gameday — without adding any more players to long-term injury reserve, that is.
With $5.3 million in buyout money and six NHL regulars’ contracts coming off the books in the offseason, Florida would stand with $11.4 million if the league’s salary cap was to go up to the projected $83.5 million upper limit.
If the league makes enough revenue to pay off the debt, the Panthers could have over $15.4 million to work with to patch some of the holes created by the 2022 offseason.
The biggest of those holes is its defense following the departure of MacKenzie Weegar.
That extra $4 million opens Florida up to numerous free agents who could be on the market next July, including John Klingberg, Matt Dumba, Dmitry Orlov and South Florida native Shayne Gostisbehere.
If the Panthers are looking to reload up front following the departures of Claude Giroux and Mason Marchment, there could be plenty of potential free agents including Patrick Kane, David Pastrnak, Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly.
A raise in the league’s salary cap would give the Panthers a lot more flexibility in reloading its roster than it had this past offseason when it brought in Colin White, Marc Staal, Rudolfs Balcers and Nick Cousins on cheap, short-term deals.
All of them, save for Cousins, are on one-year deals that will expire in the offseason. If the Panthers decide they are not a good fit, they will have more than enough flexibility to pursue more lucrative options to fill their roles next season.
Patric Hornqvist and Radko Gudas will be the only players returning from Florida’s 2021-22 Presidents’ Trophy-winning campaign who will be free agents in July.
While it is likely that one or both of them could be brought back on a cheaper deal than their current cap hits, the door is wide open for Panthers general manager Bill Zito to bring in a younger replacement for the two veterans.
No matter what direction Zito chooses to go in, the Panthers could very well be a much deeper team if the NHL’s salary cap makes this proposed $4 million jump.
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Fantastic read Colby. Let’s hope the players pay off their debt (bunch of dead beats 😂😂)by the end of the year, that would be awesome! I would hope both Zito and Hornquist’s representation can come to a mutually beneficial deal, I think Patrick knows he’s not a 5 million a year player anymore, he’s made statements to that effect, but I can see us bringing him back on a two-year deal maybe 3 a year, what do you think Colby? I don’t think that’s out of the question, he’s a heart and soul kind of guy, the way I see… Read more »
Appreciate the feedback, as always, Jay! I definitely think Zito would like to bring Hornqvist back on a cheaper deal after this season and it seems like everyone in the room loves him. He is a big part of the culture that was built since Zito got here, so bringing him back is important.
But yeah… that Ekblad news definitely overshadowed this when it was already scheduled in the queue, eh?
Btw, I missed this article when you originally posted it a few days ago I guess cuz of the Ekblad injury and all that. You and george put out so many articles, sometimes one may slip through the cracks. Lol. Anyway, good read….as always.