Who's affected most by a flat salary cap?

Kevin Shattenkirk will be able to afford many hockey pucks after signing a lucrative deal as a free agent next summer. But a flat salary cap may reduce that number. Dilip Vishwanat/NHLI via Getty Images

PALM BEACH, Florida -- This is the time of year when the cap projections usually are optimistic. It’s the time when the commissioner emerges from the NHL's Board of Governors meeting and gives a number for next season that ends up being just a little too high.

So when Bettman’s initial projection for the 2017-18 salary cap on Thursday was somewhere between its current spot and a $2 million increase, you couldn’t help but hear only the part where he suggests it could be a bit flat. There was a pessimism that usually isn’t present this time of year.

“There’s always a range, but it’s something we’re going to have to look at very carefully in terms of how best to approach it,” Bettman said. “The cap could range from where it is now to a couple or so million up. We’re going to all have to focus on what makes most sense going forward.”

That was enough of an indication that the NHL isn’t going to see a big jump in the salary cap. But Bettman dropped a couple other hints.