NHL Salary Cap Topics > 1. What is the Salary Cap?

1. What is the Salary Cap?

The NHL salary cap is the total amount that NHL teams may pay for players. The amount set as the salary cap each year depends on the league’s revenue for the previous season. As it is a 'hard cap,' there are no exemptions. However, if a player is injured and it's thought that they will miss at least 10 NHL games and 24 days in the season, their team can put them on long-term injured reserve (LTIR). By doing so, they can surpass the salary cap.

The Salary Cap was first introduced in 2005-2006, stemming from the 2004-05 CBA negotiations, during which the entire season was cancelled — the first time a labor dispute has ever caused a cancellation in a major sports league in North America. At the time of the negotiations, teams were spending around 75 percent of their revenues on salaries — much higher than any other North American sports league. Eventually, they agreed to the general structure that remain today, including the mandatory payment to players in US dollars.

The concept of a salary cap is not new to the NHL. One was first introduced during the Great Depression, at which time the salary cap per team was $62,500 and $7,000 per player.

Salary Cap History

Since its reintroduction in the 2005-06 season, the NHL salary cap has risen every year:

2005-2006  $39.0 million

2006-2007  $44.0 million

2007-2008  $50.3 million

2008-2009  $56.7 million

2009-2010  $56.8 million

2010-2011  $59.4 million

2011-2012  $64.3 million

2012-2013  $60.0 million *

2013-2014  $64.3 million

2014-2015  $69.0 million

2015-2016  $71.4 million

2016-2017  $73.0 million

2017-2018  $75.0 million

2018-2019 $79.5 million

2019-2020 $81.5 million

2020-2021 $81.5 million

*During the 2012-13 season, there was a lockout. The salary cap was set to $60 million, but NHL hockey teams were allowed to spend a pro-rated $70.2 million for the shortened season.


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