Preds willing to spend to salary cap — but just what is that?

Monday, June 25, 2012 at 9:05pm
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David Poile (Michael W. Bunch/SouthComm)

The Nashville Predators do not know what it will cost to keep free agent defenseman Ryan Suter. That likely will not be determined until Sunday, when the free agent signing period begins and it becomes clear what other teams are willing to offer for his services.

The Predators are certain, however, about what they’re willing to spend. For the first time in franchise history, ownership has authorized general manager David Poile to approach the league’s salary cap if that’s what it takes to keep Suter and other key players.

Of course, that only complicates matters, because no one is certain what the salary cap for 2012-13 will be.

The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players is set to expire Sept. 15, and the owners would like to reduce costs going forward, if possible. Until a new agreement, all spending is speculative.

Thus far, there has been little if any progress made toward a new CBA, and chances are infinitesimal that a deal will get done — and a cap will be set — before the start of free agency.

“It’s a guessing game for everybody,” Poile said. “If you’re on the team side, you’re hoping there’s going to be some adjustment with the cap, and that’s not for the cap to go up, it’s for the cap to
go down.

“So when you’re signing your players and you say you’ll be a cap team, well what is the cap going to be? That’s hard for everybody. That’s a danger for us or anybody that comes near what the cap is going to be.”

Commissioner Gary Bettman has stated that teams must spend at their own peril. No exceptions will be made for those that wind up over the cap, whatever it might be once it is set, whenever it is set.

So until then, big-spending teams — as the Predators hope to be — will be taking a chance.

“When we do a new CBA, whatever is agreed upon, that will be the cap,” Poile said. “And there could be some adjustment. If you’ve chosen unwisely, you’re going to have a big problem.”