As we wrap up another fantastic NHL season with the Stanley Cup Final, teams will look ahead to next year. There can only be one team that wins the last game of the season, and everyone else will start building their rosters to play king of the NHL mountain in 2012-13.
There will certainly be plenty of buyers this offseason, as the era of the salary cap has created more parity in the NHL than ever before. The Stanley Cup Final has been a shining example of the competitive balance in the league. With a sixth seed playing an eighth seed, nobody questions whether either team deserves to be there.
Such balance gives every franchise hope that it can get over the hump to compete in the second season. Teams like Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton are rich in tradition and have hungry fanbases itching to return to the playoffs.
The salary-cap increase to $70.3 million is only a temporary guide to regulate offseason spending. That number could change, of course, with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Sept. 15.
With the Penguins and Capitals making some noise already with the Tomas Vokoun trade, itchy trigger fingers could pull off the blockbuster deal that sends the dominoes falling. In the meantime, July 1 is the date that all general managers have circled on their calendars.
The free-agent sweepstakes are coming up fast. Let's see who is going where.