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Salary cap officially set at $64.3 million for 2011-12 season

Jun 23, 2011, 7:24 PM EDT

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For weeks we’ve known the salary cap was going to go up for the 2011-12 season—the only question was “how much?” Today the league answered the question by announcing the NHL cap will be raised to $64.3 million. Additionally, the cap floor was set at $48.3 million.

In the sixth season since the lockout, the salary cap has exploded from the original $39 million to today’s $64.3. To put the figure in proper perspective, the minimum each NHL team must spend is $9.3 million more than the original maximum for each team. After minimal increases over the last two seasons, the $4.9 increase is huge news for some of the richer teams around the league.

After the back-to-back blockbuster trades from Philadelphia this afternoon, it’s clear they can use every single salary cap dollar they can find. Vancouver will be happy to hear they have more wiggle room when trying to re-sign Kevin Bieksa and/or Christian Ehrhoff. Every team that has significant contracts on the books like the Calgary Flames can take the extra money and hopefully re-sign Alex Tanguay or Brendan Morrison.

The news is certainly welcomed by both players and general managers alike. While it’s obvious that players want to get as much of the pie as possible, general managers around the league will welcome the extra cap space provided to piece together their teams for next season. The owners—well, they might not be as happy.

On the flip side, there are teams that are much more concerned with the cap floor than the cap ceiling. For teams much more concerned with the bottom line than winning games, $48.3 million will be the number they keep their eye on. Without a big splash within free agency, teams like the New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes could have problems making it to the floor. Dale Tallon has a daunting task ahead of him as the Florida Panthers only have $18.3 million committed to 11 players next season. He’ll have about $30 million to spend—now he’ll just have to pick and choose who he wants (and who he can convince) for the rebuilding project in South Beach.

According to Capgeek.com, here are the Top 5 teams in terms of payroll today (these figures include the Jeff Carter and Mike Richards trades, as well as Ilya Bryzgalov’s new $51 million contract):

  • Calgary Flames: $57.3 million
  • Philadelphia Flyers: $56.7 million
  • Pittsburgh Penguins: $56.4 million
  • Chicago Blackhawks: $54.3 million
  • Los Angeles Kings: $53.6 million

Both the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks will also be forced to watch their spending habits as they both have holes to fill on their rosters and have significant contracts on the books.

Next, let’s take a look at the five teams that have the lowest payrolls:

  • Winnipeg: $35.9 million
  • Colorado Avalanche: $32.1 million
  • Phoenix Coyotes: $31.6 million
  • Carolina Hurricanes: $31.1 million
  • Florida Panthers: $18.3 million

Again, the cap figures can be a little misleading. Even though the Islanders aren’t in the bottom five in payroll, they already have 17 players under contract. When the dust settles and all of the rosters have been filled, the Islanders will be one of the lowest spending teams in the league (yet again). The Dallas Stars also have 17 players under contract and are in the bottom third in spending—if they don’t make a few big signings, they’ll be near the bottom in payroll as well. Considering the ownership situation, it’s doubtful they’ll be adding significant salary to the books anytime soon (unless the contract reads: Richards, Brad).

It’s always interesting to see how each team will spend their money in the offseason. Some teams like the Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars are operating with internal budgets, while other teams are willing to spend to the cap limit every season. With the announcement today, everyone knows exactly how much money they have to spend for the silly season.

Now we get to see what they’ll do with their money.

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