On the WGR 550 morning show with Howard Simon, Sabres president Ted Black let fly that the team would continue to deliver on the promises made by Terry Pegula by increasing the player salary budget by 15% for the 2011-2012 regular season.
Black went into more detail, saying "I can't say we're going to spend to the cap every year because that's literally never true for any team because you always have to have a buffer...Terry said he is going spend whatever is necessary to win the Stanley Cup. The carburetor is off when it comes to any internal payroll budget. "
The fans will bear some of the burden of this increase with the 5% increase in season ticket prices, but that increase has as much to do with the cap as it does with revenue sharing -- the Sabres wouldn't receive their full share in the revenue sharing plan if they didn't exceed the league average in revenue growth from year to year, which the season ticket bump will help cover. The remaining part of the 15% budget increase will come out of Pegula's checkbook.
After the break we have a projected budget based on next year's expected cap number.
According to the New York Post, the NHL salary cap is expected to jump $2.8 million next season, from $59.4 million to $62.2 million -- this is the best guess from the NHLPA assuming the players vote to trigger the 5% escalator clause.
This season, the Sabres spent $55,839,331 towards the cap, and with a $59.4 million cap, that left them with a $3,560,669 buffer before they hit the cap ceiling. An increase of 15% on this year's cap number would be an increase of $8,375,900 foir next year, bringing the expected budget ceiling to a grand total of $64,215,231 -- a number that would put the team well over the projected salary cap.
What I take that to mean is that this new regime will spend as much money as they need to to field a team that can compete for the Stanley Cup. Like Black said earlier, they won't spend all the way to the cap, because every team needs a buffer as they add and subtract players during the season. Of course, the 15% could be referring to player salaries as opposed to cap numbers, at which point it wouldn't matter how much they spent as long as they remained under the cap.
The Sabres currently have 12 players under contract for next season for a combined cap hit of $40,842,024, so that leaves them with a projected total of $21,357,976 to work with to sign anywhere between 8 and 11 players for next year's roster. Keep in mind that the team has many RFAs, including most of its defensive corps, and many of those players will fill the 8-11 gaps in the roster. However, with the renewed financial commitment from ownership, the Sabres should be able to compete with anyone for big name free agents or RFAs from other clubs.
Though it's still just words at this point, it's nice to see that yet another of Pegula's promises looks like it will come true.