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Daoust takes a look at the salary cap situations for the NHL's (new) Central Division.

 

Two weeks ago we looked at a breakdown of the salary cap situation for all 30 NHL teams. The message is clear: there will be fewer dollars available for free agents this summer than there are normally due to the salary cap ceiling dropping to $64.3 million. The impact on fantasy hockey, mainly cap leagues, is significant as there will be many players who will be forced to sign for less than what we may think they are worth.

 

This week we will start a team-by-team breakdown of potential moves that could happen this summer. Hopefully we can stay ahead of the curve in trying to determine which players could potentially become cap bargains when they sign their new contracts.

 

Since the 2004-05 lockout, the popular course of action is for teams to take care of their own. Many pending contract expirations are settled during the season rather than waiting until after July 1st. Then, those who become free agents get whatever money is left, often with limited potential destinations.

 

So with that in mind, it is highly probable that free agents who re-sign with their current teams will have more odds of signing contracts that resemble what we would have seen last summer. On the other hand, players who hit the open market may get the short end of the stick.

 

Here is a breakdown of the NHL’s new Central division:

 

Chicago Blackhawks


Players Signed

Cap Space

$/Opening

Key RFA

Key UFA

17

$4,826,538

$804,423

Leddy, Kruger

Handzus, Emery, Stalberg, Bickell


After the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, their victory was followed by massive change due to salary cap problems. They appear to be a similar situation in 2013 with very little cap space and some important depth pieces up for contract renewals. Thankfully the amnesty buyouts are available to help the transition to next season.

 

Candidates to be bought out include Michael Frolik, Johnny Oduya and Steve Montador. Of these three, Montador is most likely because he did not play a single game in Chicago this year, instead playing a handful of games in the AHL after clearing waivers.

 

Of the potential departing unrestricted free agents, Victor Stalberg and Bryan Bickell are most likely to have success elsewhere and could provide good cap value in deep leagues. Meanwhile, the cap-saving moves could help the likes of Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes and Adam Clendening secure full-time positions on the main roster.

 

Colorado Avalanche


Players Signed

Cap Space

$/Opening

Key RFA

Key UFA

21

$11,851,667

$5,925,834

Hejduk


Unlike many other teams, the Colorado Avalanche have the majority of their players signed through next year. But with such a poor season just completed and Avalanche legends Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy back in the fold in management positions, it is unlikely that they will stand pat this summer. Look for the team to make a splash and even use an amnesty buyout or two to clear space.

 

 

Since the team has so many players signed, look for the team to be more of a factor on the trade market than in free agency as they will try to take advantage of other teams’ misfortune to add talent to their roster. The most obvious area of need is on the back end where the roster has plenty of bodies but lacks quality. Candidates to be traded or bought out to clear space for youngsters Stefan Elliott, Tyson Barrie and perhaps Seth Jones include Ryan Wilson, Shane O’Brien and Matt Hunwick.

 

Dallas Stars


Players Signed

Cap Space

$/Opening

Key RFA

Key UFA

17

$19,651,389

$3,275,232

Wandell, Bachman

Nystrom, Nilstorp


 The Dallas Stars are in a great position to add to their roster if they choose to do so. They have a lot of strong young talent in their organization but sorely lack proven producers both up front and on the blueline after subtracting several pieces at the trade deadline.

 

Of their free agents, the only thing worth watching is Richard Bachman and Christopher Nilstorp. Bachman may have the inside track after playing more games this year although neither had a good season so there are no guarantees. Whichever one wins the backup job becomes a waiver wire dark horse should Kari Lehtonen get injured again next season.

 

Minnesota Wild


Players Signed

Cap Space

$/Opening

Key RFA

Key UFA

17

$9,112,799

$1,518,800

Clutterbuck, Scandella, Falk

Backstrom, Bouchard, Cullen


The Minnesota Wild will continue their transformation after the signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter last summer. This season their salary cap situation was hurt by overpaid players. Niklas Backstrom and Pierre-Marc Bouchard are examples of players who could take a hometown discount and re-sign in Minnesota or hit the open market. In any event, look for both to play the 2013-14 season at a lower cap hit.

 

Their goaltending position is especially interesting. Backstrom may leave but if he does the team cannot rely on Josh Harding to carry the team. They would have to look for outside help which could be expensive. This will leave very little space for other changes to be made which is not a bad thing given their strong core of emerging young talent.

 

Nashville Predators


Players Signed

Cap Space

$/Opening

Key RFA

Key UFA

15

$18,192,857

$2,274,107

Spaling, Josi, Halischuk, Blum

Mason, Yip


The Nashville Predators appear to have broken their former habit of operating under an internal budget that finds itself close to the NHL salary cap floor. As it stands right now they have $16 million in cap space but have several roster positions open. Roman Josi will command a significant raise after a strong showing this year while the other free agents occupy depth positions and will sign relatively cheap contracts.

 

Expect Chris Mason to be let go. This means that the team could sign another veteran to back up starter Pekka Rinne. However, they could dip into their system and promote Magnus Hellberg after a breakout season in the AHL. After all, they took the same approach when they awarded Anders Lindback the backup gig a couple years ago.

 

St. Louis Blues


Players Signed

Cap Space

$/Opening

Key RFA

Key UFA

14

$26,061,667

$2,895,741

Pietrangelo, Stewart, Berglund, Shattenkirk, Russell

McDonald, Leopold, Langenbrunner, Nichol


The St. Louis Blues have a lot of key free agents headlined by star defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. The team had a lot of unused cap space this year but if they choose to spend up to the cap ceiling they should be able to retain the most important free agents without any trouble.  This means that things may be quiet in St. Louis this summer. Look for the team to round out the roster by promoting from within, with candidates being Ian Cole and Evgeny Grachev, or giving opportunities to cheap veteran free agents.

 

Winnipeg Jets


Players Signed

Cap Space

$/Opening

Key RFA

Key UFA

10

$29,955,833

$2,304,295

Wheeler, Bogosian, Little, Burmistrov, Tangradi, Postma

Hainsey, Antropov, Wellwood, Miettinen, Clitsome


While the Winnipeg Jets have a ton of cap space, they have close to a dozen free agents to sign. They operate under an internal budget so not all of the free cap space will be used. The team will take care of its restricted free agents first which will leave some of the unrestricted free agents in the dark.

 

The team has a lot of bodies on defense so expect at least one of Ron Hainsey and Grant Clitsome to be let go. Up front, the team will probably part ways with Nik Antropov, Kyle Wellwood and Antti Miettinen and will certainly make room for star prospect Mark Scheifele. Expect the Jets to take chances on free agent forwards to round out their roster.

 

Of the departing free agents, Antropov, Wellwood and Clitsome are candidates to become salary cap bargains in deep leagues depending on their new environment.

 

Previously from Daoust:


 

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Comments (2)add comment

ericdaoust said:

ericdaoust
... It's cap space divided by number of openings, where I assume that all teams intend to fill all 23 roster spots. Just a quick way to paint a picture of the situation.
June 02, 2013
Votes: +0

woodrow said:

woodrow
... Hey Eric, what does the $/opening actually imply for these teams. I've read you're previous articles on salary cap and just can't quite seem to get my head around it.
May 31, 2013
Votes: +0
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