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Hockey's "middle class" hit hardest by NHL salary caps

In this image, two hockey players face the right while skating across the ice, hockey sticks in front of them.
Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings on Sept. 18, in Chicago, Ill. Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

NHL veterans and experienced players — known as the "glue guys" or hockey's "middle class" — are being devalued by salary caps and struggling to secure guaranteed contracts, the AP reports.

The big picture: The salary cap was initially added in 2005. NHL's salary cap range for the 2019-2020 season has a $81.5 million ceiling, per NBCSports — a $2 million increase from the 2018-19 season.

What they're saying: “It’s sad because these veteran players are monumental to the team,” St. Louis Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said, per the AP. “Especially these guys that have won, too, like Devante Smith-Pelly."

  • “Teams, they want to take a shot on a young guy that has got an upside they see,” O’Reilly said. “It’s tough because there’s so many good players out there that aren’t getting jobs because of it.”

Reality check, via Axios' sports reporter Mike Sykes: The NHL players don't seem to see their dissolving middle class as that big of a problem. They just opted into keep their current labor agreement in place until the summer 2022, which leaves the league's "glue guys" out to dry for at least 3 more seasons — and possibly more if the league and its players agree to extend the deal.

Go deeper: The biggest earners left in the NBA and NHL playoffs