Recent news regarding the projected rise of the salary cap could coincide perfectly with the Montreal Canadiens’ return to competitiveness.
Based on information that had been divulged earlier in the year, the expectation was that the salary cap would be increasing in the summer of 2025, the first substantial increase to the cap since the summer of 2018. However, new financial figures and surprisingly positive projections now have the NHL estimating that the increase in the salary cap could realistically come on year sooner. NHL deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, spoke to fiscal projections making the league more and more confident that a return to normalcy will likely occur in the summer of 2024, assuming all goes smoothly over the next 20 months.
“I’ve seen some preliminary estimates recently which would make me more optimistic on the cap going up sooner whether that’s in two seasons or three seasons; I think it’s more likely than not two seasons rather than three,” Daly said in an interview with Sportsnet.
If the cap were indeed to increase in the summer of 2024 rather than 2025, it would line up perfectly with the perceived timeline of Montreal’s roster transformation, as some of the club’s top young pieces will be looking for new deals, while other larger contracts will be expiring as well. With Kent Hughes assuring the Canadiens faithful that he will not be looking for shortcuts in his quest to make the Montreal Canadiens perennial Stanley Cup contenders, the summer of 2024 could be the right time for the Canadiens to start making big moves toward that goal.
Perfect Timing For Montreal Canadiens To Take The Next Step
Barring some more wheeling and dealing from general manager Kent Hughes, the Canadiens would be shedding almost 10M in contracts after the 2023-2024 season is complete, after having cleared over $20M the year prior. The young core of the Montreal Canadiens, headed by Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Juraj Slafkovsky, will have had two more years to continue their growth and development under Martin St. Louis, while the Canadiens continued to acquire picks and prospects between 2022 and 2024. By this point in time, the Canadiens will have secured their prospect pool and have the cap space to not only sign their restricted free agents, but also begin to add to their roster in a real way with the cap increase.
The increase to the cap would likely line up with Montreal’s resurgence from the bottom of the standings, as their youngsters begin to hit maturity. By having a boost in potential expenditure, the Canadiens would have more flexibility not only in the summer of 2024, but also in the summer of 2023. Knowing the cap will increase, that kind of foresight could make them more inclined to sign a player like Cole Caufield to a long-term extension right out of his entry-level contract. The same could also be said of Juraj Slafkovsky, who will have one year remaining on his deal by July 1, 2024; which means the Canadiens could extend him immediately in the summer of 2024, with the contract kicking in on July 1, 2025.
It’s not just that this increase will help the Canadiens to retain their top youngsters on long-term deals, but it enables them to add key veterans to their core for the first time since 2020. Whether these acquisitions come from the free agent market or via trade, the Canadiens will have the flexibility and the right timing to make such moves. With the club seemingly destined for another difficult year during the 2022-2023 season, it would make sense to start seeing an uptick in competitiveness by 2023-2024. This would allow the Canadiens to continue to pick up elite talent from early selections in the draft and continue to add to their already crowded prospect pool, while grooming their future stars in the NHL at the same time. Thus by the summer of 2024, it would be around the right time when the Canadiens will be looking to take that next step into playoff contention, and with the cap increasing right at that point, it’ll make that process that much easier for Hughes and co.