NHL salary cap expected to rise to $71 million

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PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) -- The NHL salary cap is expected to rise to about $71 million next season, an increase of more than 10 percent.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made the optimistic announcement Monday at the league's board of governors meeting. The ceiling of the salary cap is determined by hockey-related revenue generated this season, so the new figure is merely an estimate, Bettman said.

"I said to the board there shouldn't be any issue or consternation," Bettman said. "If that's the cap level, it's because the revenues have gone up. We try to give people a sense of where we think it'll come out.

"It's subject to a whole host of issues, ultimately how much revenue is generated, where the Canadian dollar is, because we convert to U.S. dollars. If you want a rough, rough, rough ballpark, OK, but it could change."

The minimum amount for teams to spend is expected to be about $52 million, an increase from this season's $44 million. The NHL has had a major recovery one season after the lockout-shortened campaign.

The upper cap for this season is $64.3 million.

Teams were allowed to spend up to $70.2 million during the lockout-shortened 2013 season as part of a transition year before the cap went down in accordance with the 50-50 split of hockey-related revenue that was agreed to as part of the new collective bargaining agreement.

"When you look at the league and where it's going as a whole, it doesn't surprise me because I think the league is doing and excellent job of building revenues," Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said. "If it resembles ($71 million), if it's close to that, it's an indication the league is very healthy and clearly building in the right direction."

That direction was hard to predict last year during the long lockout that cut the season nearly in half. There was no way to predict how well the NHL would bounce back.

A 48-game sprint of a season and a full playoff tournament washed away a lot of the negativity.

"Everything that's happened is a testament to the enduring strength of our game and the passion of our fans," Bettman said. "Things build on each other. When you put the right foundations in place, when you have the right system, you bring in good owners, good things happen."

By no surprise, the board on Monday unanimously approved the $5.2-billion, 12-year Canadian television rights deal with Rogers Communications Inc., which begins next season and runs through the 2025-26 season.

The lucrative deal is expected to boost the salary cap even further beginning in the 2015-16 season. The money from that agreement will start coming into the NHL beginning next year.

Also Monday, the first day of the meetings, a business update was given by NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins.

Player safety is expected to be discussed on Tuesday.