The NHL, and the St. Louis Blues, still has plenty of kinks to work out regarding their financial future following the pandemic shutdown. They’re at least trying to smooth those out.
The St. Louis Blues are currently doing what they can, within the structure of reopening sports, to prepare for a playoff run in 2020. Whether that happens or not will be determined by the covid virus and also player association approval of a return to play agreement.
On top of that, Doug Armstrong and the Blues ownership group are forced to figure out financial questions regarding the team with no clear indication of what their constraints will be. Players and owners are bracing for a potentially thin margin of a vote on player escrow in regards to extending the current collective bargaining agreement.
General managers, such as Armstrong, are trying to tinker with their rosters without knowing how much they will have to spend too. That might be close to changing.
The SportsNet article, linked above, suggests that the NHL is moving closer to locking in the current salary cap of $81.5 million for the next three years, or at least something close to that number. Elliotte Friedman says the cap could get a $1 million bump in 2022-23.
This news is both good and bad for a team like the Blues. On the good side, it limits the amount of money other teams have to spend, such as Toronto, who would have made a hard push for Alex Pietrangelo in free agency. The other good part is it allows Armstrong to have a clearer idea of what space he has and what moves would be necessary to afford to keep his captain or pursue any other free agents.
On the bad side, the Blues already have just shy of $79.5 million spent on their 2020-21 roster already. A stagnant cap means they have to move a lot of money off the roster if they intend to keep Pietrangelo and Vince Dunn, the team’s only other remaining free agent.
Circling back to the good side of this potential news, at least it locks the teams into a certain amount of financial freedom. The worry when this all started, sparked by an increasingly insane proclamation by Pierre McGuire, was the salary cap could actually be slashed by a double-digit percentage.
If that was the case, even if you say it’s only 10% off the current cap, that’s a high-level salary that has to come off your roster. At the very least, you’re forced to jettison two mid-level players to free up space.
That would have been disastrous for many teams across the league, including the Blues. We can argue over whether Armstrong’s contract extensions have been overvalued or on par, but St. Louis has regularly spent up to the cap.
They won a Stanley Cup, in no small part, because of their roster depth. Much of that was because they made smart moves and were willing to pay players up and down the roster enough to get the best out of them.
If the Blues lost $8 million off their roster in one move, it would be a gigantic shakeup. Thankfully, unless something falls apart in negotiations, the league will be stable at the very least.
It is very disappointing, from a fan standpoint, because the hope was the cap was going to increase by a significant amount. That would have been great for players, but also fans because their teams would have much more freedom to make additions without subtractions.
It would have been much easier to afford Pietrangelo if the cap was going up. Now, it is that much more difficult.
However, the silver lining is it not being impossible. If the cap was slashed, there was likely no way the Blues keep Petro around.
Now, at least there can be talks and the people in charge can make plans. We will see where it goes.