Some teams could ffail if the cap is not lowered
Actually, with the new proposed rules pertaining to the cap floor some lower spending teams could end up spending more
While on face value it seems like a lowered cap would help lower spending teams because, "Calculated by the annual rate of inflation, that $10.3 million drop equates to the 2005 value of the current salary cap." (Source
) However, under the last CBA lower spending teams were able to sign players to contracts with bonuses they knew weren't likely to get paid, allowing them to take credit for money they never had to actually spend to reach the cap floor. Under the new rules (which may have originally been proposed by the PA, but has been included in both NHL and PA proposals for months now, so it's likely a done deal without any fight from the NHL), teams will now have to reach the salary cap floor without
bonuses, paid or not.
Under the old agreement, a club such as the Islanders routinely made sure there were several entry-level players on its roster whose cap hit was much larger than their actual salary thanks to several bonuses. For example, in the 2011-12 season, rookie Nino Niederreiter’s entry-level contract paid him $900,000 in actual salary but nearly $2-million in bonuses brought his cap hit to just under $2.8-million. The 20-year-old was on the NHL roster for 55 games and scored exactly one goal, which meant almost all of that bonus money was never paid, a huge saving for the cash-strapped Islanders.
But under Bettman’s proposal, that would no longer be allowed. Instead of declaring $2-million they wouldn’t spend, the Islanders and other teams would have to cough up that cash in player salaries.
I couldn't find any information about whether or not the NHL's latest proposal included any amendment to the way the cap is currently calculated (like the PA's proposal of a 20%+/- mid aimed at actually helping lower spending teams long term), so here's a simple projection on what it might look like with either set up:
Existing $8M +/- Cap: $60M upper, $52M mid, $44M lower
PA proposed 20% +/- Cap: $60M upper, $50M mid, $40M lower
So, for the next/first full season teams will have to spend $44M under the existing formula, or $40M under the PA proposal, to reach the floor. Since the cap floor last season was $48.3M, that means teams could be saving as little as $4M. But, unlike the old CBA, under the new rules bonuses will not be used to reach the floor and, as the quote above showed, some teams were getting credit for money they didn't actually spend to reach the floor. So, that means as soon as next season
low spending teams could be spending as much, if not more, than they were last season in actual dollars.
For example, last season the New York Islanders were given credit for spending $49,107,418, but $10,022,500 of that was in performance bonuses (paid or not). That means, under the new rules they would only have gotten credit for spending $39,084,918 last season and would actually have to spend more
than last season just to reach the floor. Under the PA's more generous cap formula, they'll still be spending almost $1M more. Under the existing cap formula, they'll have to spend around $5M more.
Likewise, Colorado was given cap credit last season for $49,401,072 but $6,507,500 was bonuses. So, under the new CBA, they would have only gotten credit for $42,893,572, meaning under the existing cap formula they will actually have to spend over $1M more next season just to reach the floor. In fairness, only a few teams relied so heavily on bonuses to reach the cap floor, but removing the option of doing just that will hurt lower spending teams and force them to actually spend more.
Now, I know someone is going to mention the fact that under the NHL's proposal some NHL contracts in the minors are going to be counted against the cap and that's a fair point. However, those contracts are not
counted against the players' share. So, while it may help teams reach the salary cap floor (if they're counted in it which I don't know if we know for sure yet), it may not end up helping teams all that much as owners still have to pay the players their full 50% (even if that means sending every player a pro-rated check at the end of the season to make up for a shortfall). And, those contracts will only help owners in terms of what they have to spend for the salary cap if
they were already paying those salaries and are able to get credit for money they were already spending. Trading to get players with heavy minor contracts won't help as they still represent additional actual money paid.