DETROIT -- Commissioner Gary Bettman expects the NHL's salary-cap ceiling for next season to remain essentially unchanged or drop by about 5 percent.
The key to determining the precise ceiling, which was $56.7 million for 2008-09, will be whether the NHL Players' Association opts to retain a 5-percent inflation clause that's part of the league's labor agreement.
That decision is expected from an NHLPA meeting in Las Vegas later in June.
The NHL's "real revenues," upon which the salary-cap range is based, rose about four percent this season, Bettman said, but a decline in the value of the Canadian dollar offset that increase.
Payrolls are ever-changing, but the Penguins' is believed to have been at just more than $56 million when the regular season ended. Bill Guerin. Rob Scuderi, Hal Gill, Ruslan Fedotenko, Petr Sykora, Miroslav Satan and Craig Adams top their list of unrestricted free agents for this summer.
The salary cap was just one of many issues Bettman touched yesterday during a wide-ranging news conference a few hours before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. Bettman also said the league:
• Is pushing for a "more comprehensive" drug-testing program that would include year-round testing. He added that the NHLPA "has not been ready to embrace" 12-month testing, despite expressions of support from its leadership.
• Developed the idea of playing Games 1 and 2 of this series on consecutive nights -- the first time since 1955 that games in Cup final have been played with no time off in between -- a year ago because "we wanted to try to build an intense start to the series," describing it as "our attempt to do something different to make it better."
• Believes the Penguins were in "worse shape" when they went through bankruptcy in the late 1990s than Phoenix is today, and that the Coyotes were "never in jeopardy" of failing financially. He added that "no club is in jeopardy" because of shaky finances and that "we believe all of our franchises can be successful where they're currently located."
• Should know in about two weeks if it will have a transfer agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation, but that he doesn't expect Russia to be part of any such deal. The outstanding issues, he said, are how many players the NHL can take from those countries, when it can take them and how much it will pay for them.
• NBC's ratings were up 11 percent during the regular season and 20 percent during the first three rounds of the playoffs, while Versus' are up 25 percent across the board.
Dave Molinari can be reached at email@example.com .