SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) – The salary cap for NHL teams will rise next season, from the current $39 million to between $40 million and $45 million, commissioner Gary Bettman said on Thursday.

Bettman presented the news to owners at the end of a two-day meeting at a north Scottsdale resort. Bettman projected overall revenues of just over $2 billion.

“Clearly the cap is going up and that’s good for everybody,” Bettman said when the session ended.

The salary cap based on league revenue was established after a bitter player lockout that wiped out an entire season.

“It does provide a different landscape,” said John Ferguson Jr., general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. “We negotiated some deals last summer and stayed out of some, frankly, because of that uncertainty.”

If the cap goes to $45 million, the maximum salary for a player would rise from the current $7.8 million to $9 million.

A salary cap increase, even if it’s slight, was a pleasant surprise to most of the team officials.

“I think everybody in this business was probably looking at next year the cap possibly coming down or staying the same,” St. Louis Blues general manager Larry Pleau said.

. “Now all of our thought processes looking forward is definitely going to be different.”

If revenues top $2.05 billion, the players will get back the 12 percent escrow payments they have made under the new collective bargaining agreement.

“I know historically the projections we get at this point in the season, they could still be two, three, four percent off,” Bettman said. “And so what we did is, with some degree of comfort and intuitiveness, said this is where we think we’re going to be.”

In other business, the owners heard a report from the Pittsburgh Penguins on the possibility the franchise could move, most likely to Kansas City. The ownership is pushing for a gaming license to operate slot machines that would be used to fund a new arena to keep the team in Pittsburgh.

“We’ve been saying that for a long time and we have a plan that’s tied to gaming,” Penguins president Ken Sawyer said. “But it will be an unbelievable plan, the best in the history of Pennsylvania for the public sector. So we think it’s a no-brainer. But it will take at least a year to find out if our gaming partner wins the license. We’re not leaving Pittsburgh until June 2007 at the earliest.”

AP-ES-12-15-05 1900EST

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.