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Frank Seravalli

TSN Senior Hockey Reporter

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BOCA RATON, Fla. — The NHL’s general managers departed South Florida cautiously optimistic a salary cap increase this summer will provide a little extra breathing room.

NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly provided the managers a salary cap projection for the 2020-21 season with a range between $84 million and $88.2 million, dependent upon negotiation with the NHL Players’ Association.

If those projections remain accurate, that would represent a minimum three per cent increase from the $81.5 million limit this season.

The keyword there is “if.” Many GMs said Wednesday that they planned to be very conservative with that projection, because this season’s $81.5 million cap figure ended up being a full $1.5 million lower than the projection commissioner Gary Bettman gave to the group at these meetings last year.

To that end, Daly said the NHL is negotiating with the NHLPA – as part of collective bargaining talks – on a system that would set a schedule of future seasons’ salary cap numbers.

“Part of our discussion with the players’ association has been to see if we can come up with a formula that would provide more predictability for the clubs on an advanced basis, which currently isn’t the case,” Daly said. “Hopefully, at some point in the future, we’ll have a mechanism that allows them to have that information.”

That was the big cap news from Wednesday’s meeting. Arming GMs with reliable future cap numbers – for say, the next two to three seasons – would create much better roster certainty, particularly with regards to planning and signing players to long-term contracts.

It would fundamentally change the way GMs do business, because they've been operating essentially blindly on a year-to-year basis, save for a guess of the usual small increase.

Plus, if the scheduled salary caps are set conservatively, it could significantly reduce the amount of escrow withholding for players – a major sticking point in the CBA talks – and might even result in the owners paying players extra (beyond their published salaries) if revenues exceed the projections.

“If the concern is keeping the escrow down,” Bettman said, “then you’ve got to focus on the cap in that light.”

Potential punishment for Coyotes

Daly has been spearheading the investigation into the Arizona Coyotes’ alleged private fitness testing of draft-eligible prospects, which is strictly forbidden in the NHL constitution. When finished, those findings will be presented to Bettman for ruling.

He passed on the status of the investigation to all 31 GMs with Coyotes GM John Chayka in the room.

“It’s ongoing,” Daly said. “The club is being very cooperative. Ultimately, the matter will be submitted to the commissioner to determine what happened, what actually transpired, and whether there should be a league response.”

The NHL constitution calls for a $250,000 fine for each violation. But Bettman holds the power to mete out punishment he feels fits any potential crime. That includes a significant fine, the forfeiture of draft picks, the termination or suspension of employee(s), removing the Coyotes from consideration of hosting future league events or any combination thereof.

“It could be whatever the commissioner determines is appropriate,” Daly said.

The Coyotes have not publicly commented on the allegations.

Daly said: “I don’t think I’m talking out of school when I say that they [the Coyotes] don’t believe that what they’ve done is as serious as others believe.”

Rest assured, the rest of the NHL’s teams are watching this closely.

Whistleblower Hotline

Daly said the NHL plans to have a hotline to allow players and team personnel to anonymously report any inappropriate conduct up and running by June 1.

To date, Bettman and Daly said teams have been “over-inclusive” so far because they were previously warned the NHL “doesn’t like surprises.”

“Normal HR issues they deal with regularly, we’ve been brought into the loop on because clubs want to err on the side of being over-inclusive,” Daly said. “We’re not sitting on any major scandals or news-breaking stories in that regard.”

Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli​