Bettman: Salary cap will rise next season

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The salary cap for NHL teams will rise
next season, from the current $39 million to between $40 million
and $45 million, commissioner Gary Bettman said on Thursday.

Bettman presented the news to owners at the end of a two-day
meeting at a north Scottsdale resort. Bettman projected overall
revenues of just over $2 billion.

"Clearly the cap is going up and that's good for everybody,"
Bettman said when the session ended.

The salary cap based on league revenue was established after a
bitter player lockout that wiped out an entire season.

"It does provide a different landscape," said John Ferguson
Jr., general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. "We negotiated
some deals last summer and stayed out of some, frankly, because of
that uncertainty."

If the cap goes to $45 million, the maximum salary for a player
would rise from the current $7.8 million to $9 million.

A salary cap increase, even if it's slight, was a pleasant
surprise to most of the team officials.

"I think everybody in this business was probably looking at
next year the cap possibly coming down or staying the same," St. Louis Blues general manager Larry Pleau said. "Now all of our
thought processes looking forward is definitely going to be

If revenues top $2.05 billion, the players will get back the 12
percent escrow payments they have made under the new collective
bargaining agreement.

"I know historically the projections we get at this point in
the season, they could still be two, three, four percent off,"
Bettman said. "And so what we did is, with some degree of comfort
and intuitiveness, said this is where we think we're going to be."

In other business, the owners heard a report from the
Pittsburgh Penguins on the possibility the franchise could move, most likely
to Kansas City. The ownership is pushing for a gaming license to
operate slot machines that would be used to fund a new arena to
keep the team in Pittsburgh.

"We've been saying that for a long time and we have a plan
that's tied to gaming," Penguins president Ken Sawyer said. "But
it will be an unbelievable plan, the best in the history of
Pennsylvania for the public sector. So we think it's a no-brainer.
But it will take at least a year to find out if our gaming partner
wins the license. We're not leaving Pittsburgh until June 2007 at
the earliest."