The NHL's general managers held their annual meetings in Palm Beach, Florida, over Monday and Tuesday, convening in person for the first time since 2020.
The agenda was filled with hot topics affecting the league now and over the next calendar year. Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly both spoke with the media on Tuesday to flesh out the NHL's path ahead, from downplaying the league's appetite for a postseason salary cap to creating another World Cup of Hockey.
We sifted through the new information to break down burning questions about what's happening around the NHL.
Long-term injured reserve salary cap rules will stay the same
Why was this being discussed in the first place?
The LTIR rules were brought onto the agenda after some GMs became concerned that Vegas was trying to do with Mark Stone this season what Tampa Bay did with Nikita Kucherov last season -- hold him on LTIR in order to grossly exceed the salary cap (and activate players like Jack Eichel, for instance), and then reactivate Stone for the playoffs when the salary cap rules don't apply.
The fact that Kucherov proceeded to mock the LTIR proceedings with his infamous "$18 million over the cap" T-shirt following the Lightning's Stanley Cup run last spring also certainly rubbed some GMs the wrong way; Edmonton's Ken Holland was a particular champion of a new discourse on the subject. -- Kristen Shilton
How many teams are using this "loophole" this season?
Currently there are 16 teams in the NHL with at least one player on LTIR. -- Shilton
What does it mean moving forward, and could this rule be brought up for discussion again?
The NHL and NHLPA have had discussions about LTIR, but those haven't produced any sort of results that suggest immediate change is forthcoming. The topic will be part of the agenda again when GMs convene at the draft in Montreal this July.
In order to actually adjust the LTIR rules, there would have to be an overhaul of the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA. As Gary Bettman has repeatedly pointed out, there were no issues with LTIR procedures for over 17 years, and it doesn't appear the league has an appetite to dig into its bag of bargaining chips to try to adjust something that it doesn't really see as an overarching problem affecting the entire league.
Bill Daly said at the meetings that the league is always monitoring LTIR cases where the projected return time is near the beginning of playoffs: "We look into it, we deal with the clubs, we get their medical records, we employ an independent medical expert and we make sure of the bona fides of the injury. We've never had issues that stem from that. It's a thorough process." -- Shilton
World Cup of Hockey returning!
When will the event take place?
Gary Bettman said the NHL and NHLPA have been targeting 2024, and sources say they've narrowed in on February 2024 as the specific window, in what would look similar to an Olympic break. -- Emily Kaplan
Which countries will be competing?
That hasn't been decided yet. The biggest question is whether Russia will be invited to participate. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the NHL has been supportive of its Russian players -- clearly distinguishing them from the actions of the Russian government. Bettman also said he doesn't expect the league to place restrictions on Russian players in the 2022 draft.
But inviting Russia as a federation to an event is a different topic entirely. The IIHF recently banned Russia and Belarus from competing at international events at all stages. Seeing that the IIHF would be involved in this event, too, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Russia excluded from the World Cup of Hockey if the climate doesn't change. -- Kaplan
Will there be another "Team North America"?
R.I.P. Team North America, it was a good run. Bettman confirmed on Tuesday that the league is returning to a more typical format of countries versus countries. -- Kaplan
Salary cap increasing by $1 million next season
What does this mean?
It means the NHL is slowly tracking back toward the normalcy of a pre-pandemic world.
The league is tracking to hit over $5 billion in revenue this season, which is positive news considering attendance restrictions in several Canadian venues. Based off calculations, that means the NHL can keep inching the salary cap higher. Bettman also said that the $1 billion in debt the players owe the owners -- from revenue lost during the pandemic -- is expected to be repaid by the 2024-25 season. If all goes according to plan, the salary cap will then take a decent jump the following season. -- Kaplan
Which teams are most happy about this?
Right now, there are nine clubs with $0 projected cap space, per CapFriendly. Getting $1 million more in every GM's proverbial pocket is pretty significant for all.
Vegas, Toronto, Tampa Bay and San Jose are likely the most ecstatic. Each team has extended big-money, long-term deals to key players, and having even another $1 million to play with next season means the ability to add a veteran depth player or the ability to recall more players when needed -- without the requisite gymnastics to make it work under the cap.
Edmonton also admitted to being stymied by salary-cap issues at the trade deadline, and the Oilers weren't the only ones. As we move closer to summertime and teams want to lock up pending RFAs and UFAs, knowing a bit more room can be extended next season should spice up the proceedings.
Bottom line: Even a small bump is better than no bump for most of the NHL. -- Shilton
My other takeaway from the meetings: Don't expect too many brutally honest comments about officiating this spring. It remains a sensitive topic for the league.
The NHL warned its GMs at the meetings to be careful with public comments about officiating, and also asked for a little empathy. Officiating isn't an easy job, and with shortages of officials all across North America, the message from Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom was essentially thus: We're doing the best we can and we're trying to hold everyone accountable. -- Kaplan