This year’s NHL free agent class is filled with talent. Among the bigger names are John Tavares, James van Riemsdyk, James Neal, Rick Nash, and Joe Thornton. However, there’s more to the group besides the talent on the surface. Players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Mike Green, Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, and Thomas Vanek are also up for grabs if they remain unsigned by July first. Most of these players, if not all of them, will sign new contracts and get new, large salaries for the coming years.

In this new “salary cap era” that began in the 2005-2006 season, the amount of money that each team can spend on paying players raises every year. The “cap” started at 39 million dollars per team in its inaugural season, with individual player salaries limited to 7.8 million dollars, which is 20% of the cap. Next season, it will be raised up to 79.5 million dollars, 40.5 million more than it was in its first season of existence. This past season, the highest paid player in the league was Jonathan Toews, earning 16 million dollars on the year. That’s about 13% of the current cap. However, with Connor McDavid getting a raise this season, and the previously-mentioned talented free agent class this summer, players will be getting paid more.

Take John Tavares, for example. When the 2018-2019 season begins, he will be 28 years old. The New York Islanders captain will be just approaching his prime, coming into the best years of his career. Shouldn’t he get paid more for that? Especially if he stays loyal to his team and re-signs with New York? Tavares had been earning 5.5 million dollars for the past six seasons and has obviously grown as a player since he first signed that contract. If he decides to re-sign with the Islanders, who are probably ready to give him the world at this point, the forward will most likely get a raise. He’ll probably get a raise no matter where he lands.

The same goes for other big-name free agents inking new deals this year. After a phenomenal year, winning the Stanley Cup and receiving Norris Trophy votes, John Carlson is ready for a new contract. For the past six seasons, he had been earning just under four million dollars. Following the explosive year that he had, a raise is well deserved, regardless of what team gives it to him.

So what does a salary cap increase mean for the NHL? Players are going to begin to get bigger contracts, in general. The talented players? They’re going to get huge contracts. And it’s not even July first yet. Buckle up, it’s going to be a crazy offseason.

Who do you think the best “big fish” free agent is this year? How much do you think he will or should get paid on his new contract? Let us know by tweeting us: @PuckItUpBlog.

Want to read more about the trades occurring this offseason? Click here!

Twitter: @nhljennifer

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