Does the NHL Salary Cap Hurt Teams?

Melissa Bauer-Herzog@mbauerherzogCorrespondent IMay 23, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 07:  Conference rooms attendees prep for the 2008 NHL Draft Drawing on April 7, 2008 at the National Hockey League headquarters in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images for the NHL)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

In the coming months, players will be moved around to different teams as they accept the best deals possible.  But how much does the salary cap dictate where these free agents will go?

In theory, the salary cap is a great idea.  It keeps one team from signing a lot of good players and prevents them from being the NHL’s version of the New York Yankees.  With the cap in place, if a team wants a great player, it has to be willing to sacrifice the opportunity of signing other good players.   As of the '09-'10 season, the cap was at $56.8 million with any one player’s salary capped at $11.36 million.

Some teams have been known to sign young players to extensions early in their careers before they price themselves out of the team’s budget so the team can play around a bit more with signing other players later on while still keeping the first talent.  This is a good option if the youngster has potential because it saves the team money in the long run and secures the player for more years.

The other side of the cap coin is that the cap also keeps a team with one or two star players who take up fourteen million or more from their budget from signing other stars that may help them turn their season around (and bring in new local fans) if it’s on a downward slide. 

Spreading $56.8 million (or less) around to players may not seem like a lot but when you have twenty two players to pay, it can extremely limit the quality of the team.

There are many pros and cons to the salary cap in this era.  While it obviously keeps one team from signing all the top players and dominating the league, it also keeps teams from getting a lot of talent on their team if they do not sign them young. 

The salary cap causes teams to look closer at young players, which is good for bringing in new talent.  But it also keeps the older, more experienced players out of the reach of teams that may need but can’t afford them.

The salary cap seems to be rising a bit every few years and may one day see the nearly non-existent “cap” of the NHL.  Although, that would still be better than having it totally removed and bringing a Yankees like domination to the game.