Players split on growth of salary cap

Updated: March 27, 2006, 10:59 AM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

It's possible the free-agency period will be delayed more than a week from July 1 to allow the NHL Players' Association to discuss the merits of having the salary cap grow to about $46 million or to stay around $43 million to expose players to fewer losses if revenues don't keep pace with salaries.

League sources told ESPN.com that it's believed the NHL will agree to extend the start of the free-agency period to somewhere around July 12 to allow players to fully discuss the issue.

League revenues have grown beyond expectations and players will see all monies paid into the escrow account returned to them. But there is considerable debate among players about whether the cap should be lowered to guard against a shortfall in revenues next season or if it should reflect this year's revenues (expected to reach about $2.1 billion).

Players are set to meet in North America and Europe in late June or early July.

One player representative told ESPN.com he thinks players are pretty much split on whether they want the cap to go up as high as possible or be restricted. In general, he said, players that have long-term deals are more supportive of keeping the escrow in check, while those who are free agents would like to see the cap rise to the maximum.

Player salaries cannot exceed 54 percent of league revenues. Any amount that salaries exceed, that figure must be paid back to owners through an escrow account drawn from players' salaries. It was believed that players might have to pay up to 15 percent of their salaries in the first season following the lockout.

Scott Burnside is an NHL writer for ESPN.com.