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NHL announces salary cap boost to US$88M, 4 Nations Face-Off hosts and schedule

SUNRISE — NHL general managers will have more cash to play with next season.
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Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the NHL speaks to the media ahead of game one of the Stanley Cup finals in Sunrise, Fla., on Saturday, June 8, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

SUNRISE — NHL general managers will have more cash to play with next season.

The league and NHL Players' Association announced Saturday ahead of the Stanley Cup final opener between the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers that the salary cap in 2024-25 is getting a significant boost to US$88 million, up from $83.5 million.

The jump represents the first significant increase in years, following modest $1-million raises the last two seasons, which reflected the COVID-19 pandemic's financial impact.

"I know the general managers and the teams are excited to have more flexibility," NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said at his annual press conference in the hours before Game 1. "It means that the revenues are as robust as we've been telling you all."

The cap floor will be $65 million.

"It's been a good year for hockey," NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh said. "Double-digit viewership increases for the most part across the league, revenue's coming in. It puts us in a strong position as a PA just to advocate on behalf of our players."

The league also unveiled the schedule and locations for hockey's newest international event.

Montreal and Boston will host the inaugural NHL 4 Nations Face-Off tournament from Feb. 12 through 20.

Canada, the United States, Sweden and Finland were previously announced as the participating countries. The showcase will feature six round-robin contests followed by a championship game.

"Two iconic cities," NHL deputy commission Bill Daly said. "We have 32 franchises, so we could have put it anywhere. But those two rose to the top.

"Both very excited about hosting. We're looking forward to being there."

Canada and the U.S. will play Feb. 16 at the Bell Centre in the last of four games in Montreal. Boston's TD Garden gets three games, including the final on Feb. 20.

"The good is that I'm excited about it (and) the bad is every single person in Boston is gonna call me looking for tickets," joked Walsh, a Boston native.

The NHL announced at February's all-star game players would participate at the next two Olympics after skipping 2018 for business reasons and missing out in 2022 due to COVID-19.

The 2026 Winter Games are set for Milan and Cortina, Italy, while the host city in 2030 has yet to be announced.

NHLers went to five Olympics between 1998 and 2014 — the last best-on-best men's tournament.

The NHL 4 Nations Face-Off won't quite be that with teams like Czechia and Russia not involved, but it will be a chance for the likes of Connor McDavid, Auston Matthews and a host of other stars to pull on international jerseys a year out from the 2026 Games.

The league last held a World Cup in 2016. That event featured an under-23 Team North America and Team Europe made up of smaller hockey powers.

GETTING ALONG

The league and players have had a fractured relationship at times, but Walsh — on the job 15 months following Don Fehr's long tenure — has ushered in a new era.

"It's very open, candid, good dialogue," Bettman said. "We have a good relationship that may be the best that's been in the history of labour relations between the NHL and the NHL Players' Association.

"We're collaborating on lots of important initiatives. And I think that bodes well for the future growth of the game and of the league."

BLACKHAWKS SCANDAL

Bettman said former Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman and head coach Joel Quenneville remain ineligible to be hired by teams in the wake of the Kyle Beech sexual assault scandal.

"They have both reached out seeking an opportunity to come back," said the commissioner. "That's something that I have to consider."

BALLPARK TALK

Bettman was asked about the Panthers getting a game at LoanDepot Park, home of Major League Baseball's Miami Marlins.

"I haven't been there, but I understand it's very nice," he said with a smile.

"And it also has a roof and is air conditioned. I'm not going to break any news today, but we are mindful of the fact that at some point it would be good for the Panthers to be in an outdoor game. We continue to explore options."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2024.

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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press