Three of the four major professional sports in North America have a salary cap. The reason the salary cap is used in leagues like the NHL is to keep parity as high as possible. It makes it challenging to keep all of the best players while helping to distribute them to the weaker teams in the process.
This may be hard to believe, but even with the superb talent the Golden Knights have put on the ice in 2017-18, with the three 1st round picks, and with the contract extensions for Jonathan Marchessault, Jon Merrill, and Deryk Engelland, George McPhee’s biggest asset from the Expansion Draft is still the salary cap.
When all is said and done with this season, the Golden Knights will end the season among the bottom 10 teams in money spent against the cap. This includes the contracts of David Clarkson, Mikhail Grabovski, and Clayton Stoner, none of which will play a game for the Golden Knights. It also includes the retained salary of Alexei Emelin and Derick Brassard. Things can change slightly down the stretch, but as it stands, the Golden Knights will be the cheapest team to make the playoffs.
Projected Salary Cap Usage In 2017-18 ($75m Salary Cap)
Vegas Golden Knights – $68,950,653
Buffalo Sabres – $68,698,464
Florida Panthers – $68,068,090
Montreal Canadiens – $67,761,117
New Jersey Devils – $67,421,712
Colorado Avalanche – $66,931,457
Edmonton Oilers – $66,249,688
Carolina Hurricanes – $59,183,386
Arizona Coyotes – $58,768,559
*All other teams are higherBut the fun doesn’t stop there. It gets even better when we project forward into 2018-19 and even onward to 2020 and beyond. The Golden Knights are set to enter the offseason among the five teams with the most salary cap space available. Vegas is likely to win the division, and could easily win a playoff series or two putting them among the top five or ten teams in the NHL, yet the teams in their company when it comes to cap space next year are the Arizona Coyotes, New York Islanders, and Carolina Hurricanes, all teams expected to miss the postseason.
Estimated Cap Space Available For 2018-19 Season (using $75m cap)
New York Islanders – $26,839,167
Arizona Coyotes – $26,577,225
Carolina Hurricanes – $26,539,168
Vegas Golden Knights – $26,475,000
Colorado Avalance – $25,981,905
The massive amount of cap space allows George McPhee and Co. easier decisions on James Neal, David Perron, and Luca Sbisa, opens the door to hand out big bucks to William Karlsson, Alex Tuch, and Shea Theodore before their demands get out of control, and possibly enter back into the Erik Karlsson sweepstakes.
This season has been awesome, and hopefully, it’s not even close to coming to a close. All the while, the cupboard is full of young talent after the 2017 Entry Draft. But the best part of the Golden Knights future is freedom. They can do whatever they would like, whenever they would like moving forward due to their wide open cap.
We’re not even through with year one in franchise history, but the Erik Karlsson rumors had to have opened the eyes of the other 30 GM’s that the Golden Knights may be good now, but they should be even better for a long while in the future.