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Detroit Red Wings: Does Their Cap Space Foreshadow a Coming Problem in the NHL?

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 26:  Jiri Hudler #26, Valtteri Filppula #51, and Nicklas Lidstrom #5 of the Detroit Red Wings celebrate a goal against the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena on December 26, 2011 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images
Jordan MatthewsAnalyst IIIDecember 27, 2011

If you've been paying attention to the NHL's salary cap over the last seven years, it has been no secret that they love to jack it up at the end of each season.

A great part of this reason is because the NHL's financial growth has been outstanding, making the cap hike since 2005 understandable.

When you go from a league generating $2 billion in revenue to a league generating $3 billion in revenue, allowing each team to spend $25 million more on players makes sense.

That's how much the cap has gone up. In the 2005-2006 NHL season, teams were only allowed to spend $39 million on players. Now, they're allowed to spend $64.3 million on players.

The NHL's CBA is set to expire on September 15, 2012, and while there are no signs of a lockout currently, there are certainly some changes that could be coming.

Obviously on tap for the meetings will be the revenue sharing between the owners and the players.

Also addressed will be the ever-popular Kovalchuk contract, which is a front-loaded contract where the player gets a ton of money in the first years, and pennies in the final years that they probably have no intention of playing.

Of course, there are multiple solutions to this, one of which could be forcing the teams to take the cap hit whether the player plays or not. The other more logical rout is to put a duration limit, say, five years, on any player contract.

COLUMBUS, OH - JUNE 23:  Assistant General Manager Jim Nill and General Manager Ken Holland attend the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 23, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The salary cap itself may be questioned, but the likelihood of the NHLPA trying to remove it is very slim considering the success the NHL has found since adopting the cap.

The biggest effect right now, pending any possible talk of a lockout, would be on the salary cap. There has been some speculation that the salary cap could be decreased for the first time since its establishment in 2005.

The reason for the decrease, among other reasons, would be that small-market teams simply cant afford to spend the same amount of money as the big-market teams. Some can barely even make it to the salary cap floor.

The Detroit Red Wings are one of a few big-market teams who have been sitting on a lot of cap room. The Red Wings in particular have about $6 million unspent dollars.

Wings General Manager Ken Holland has never really been one to leave Mike Ilitch's wallet with money left in it, which makes this year a bit unusual for Detroit.

While the major speculation is that Detroit will go for somebody at the trade deadline, the real question here is, what if that's not Holland's intention at all?

What if Holland has foreseen a possible cap reduction, and is leaving money open for next season?

Certainly, he'll already have his share with multiple contracts coming off the books, but with the need to sign a defender, whether it be a returning Nicklas Lidstrom or somebody else, Holland may be looking ahead so that he doesn't have to dump cap space.

While a cap reduction may seem like a long shot, NHL CBA talks are something fans need to pay attention to when they start sometime in April.

These discussions are going to be vital to the future of the NHL, and if a cap reduction does take place, you can expect to see a lot of blockbuster trades coming in the future.

Jordan Matthews writes for the NHL and the Detroit Red Wings. You can view some of his recent work here:

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