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NHL cap could rise more than expected Add to ...

The NHL's salary cap may be on the rise next season.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman gave the governors a report at their annual meeting on Monday of what the league's executives believe the cap will be next season, based on revenue so far in 2010-11. While Bettman did not make an official announcement, word around the annual meetings is that the cap could rise by as much as $3-million (all currency U.S.) next season to $62.4-million.

The $3-million increase is also based on the assumption the NHL players will invoke their right to bump the projected cap by 5 per cent. They have done so every year since the collective agreement was reached in 2005.

Bill Daly, the NHL's deputy commissioner, also did not reveal what the governors were told, but did say the annual December forecasts "for the most part have been reasonable projections."

Since the cap is based on the league's hockey related revenues, this is good news for the NHL. However, it does not mean the league's revenues are rising dramatically after being flat in the two years since the recession hit.

Most of the increase is likely because of the continued strength of the Canadian dollar and strong ticket sales by most of the NHL's six Canadian teams. The Montreal Canadiens lead the league in attendance this season with an average crowd of 21,273, while the Toronto Maple Leafs, who average 19,292 fans a game, are the top team in terms of revenue.

An increase will not be greeted with universal applause from the governors, though. If the cap hits $62.4-million, that means the floor, or the minimum payroll allowed, will be $46.4-million. That will be a tough one to swallow for the league's low-revenue clubs.

In other business on Monday, the NHL governors approved the sale of Harley Hotchkiss's 22-per-cent stake in the Calgary Flames. The shares, which are being sold as an estate-planning move, will be purchased by the other partners in the club.

Hotchkiss, 83, said he approached his partners about a year ago and told them at that time that he was facing a medical challenge.

"I believe I'll fight my way through it, but it got me to thinking about what to do with my Flames interests and what to do about my long-range estate planning," Hotchkiss said. "This is a result of that. I've made a deal with my existing partners over that time. Murray [Edwards]is the governor now; he has been for two years. I'll stay as a director and as an alternate governor. They've asked me to stay and participate in the meetings and I will, subject to being able to make a meaningful contribution. From that perspective, it's going to stay the same."

With a report from Eric Duhatschek

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