NHL Free Agency: 6 Teams Closely Watching the Salary Cap Arguments

Nicholas GossCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2012

NHL Free Agency: 6 Teams Closely Watching the Salary Cap Arguments

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    While every NHL team is closely monitoring the progress being made on a new CBA, a few teams are anxiously awaiting what the salary cap will look like in the new deal.

    Darren Dreger of TSN reported in late August on the numbers that the owners are looking for the cap to be in the next CBA.

    Proposed Salary Caps: all projected and fixed: 2012/13 - $58M 2013/14 -$60M. 2014/15-$62M. 2015/16-$64.2M. 2016/17 - $67.6M 2017/18 - $71.1M

    — Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) August 29, 2012

    There are plenty of teams close to the current salary cap that may have to make substantial moves to eliminate salary in the near future if the cap ceiling is significantly decreased for next season.

    Let's look at six teams closely watching the salary cap arguments, as well as a potential amnesty buyout clause candidate from each team in case that is something clubs can use in the new CBA. 

     

    Note: Salary information courtesy of Capgeek.com, quotes via Bruins media website.

Calgary Flames

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    Not only are the Calgary Flames close to the salary cap, they have a few players with contracts that are going to be tough to trade if the team needs to free up some cap room in a small period of time.

    Forward Mike Cammaelleri and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester both have a salary cap hit of $6 million or more for the next two years, and since both are overrated, it's going to be difficult for the Flames to trade either player at any point in the next two seasons.

    Defensemen Dennis Wideman ($5.25 million cap hit for next five years) and Mike Giordano ($4.02 million cap hit for next four years) both have contracts that likely won't be attractive to other teams.

    Jarome Iginla could be moved to a Stanley Cup contender to free up $7 million in salary cap space. While trading their captain would be a blow to the franchise, Iginla is one player that does have value to other teams.

    The Flames are still the fourth-closest team to the salary cap, and they could find themselves in a tough situation if the cap goes down.

     

    Amnesty Buyout Possibility: Jay Bouwmeester, $6.67 million cap hit for two more years.

Vancouver Canucks

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    The third-closest team to the salary cap is the Vancouver Canucks. The team's two highest-paid players are Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who both have a salary cap hit of $6.1 million but are likely to finish their careers in Vancouver.

    Ryan Kesler has the third-highest cap hit at $5 million, and although few would consider him an untouchable player, he's an integral part of the Canucks' success.

    Unlike the Flames, the Canucks have plenty of players who could be traded to free up cap space. One player could be goaltender Roberto Luongo, who has a $5.3 million cap hit until 2022.

    General manager Mike Gillis also has some upcoming unrestricted free agents that teams may find attractive for depth purposes. These players include Manny Malhotra ($2.5 million cap hit), Chris Higgins ($1.9 million cap hit), Maxim Lapierre ($1 million cap hit) and Mason Raymond ($2.275 million cap hit).

    The Canucks are close to the current cap, but they do have some flexibility if moves need to be made to fit under a lower cap ceiling.

     

    Amnesty Buyout Possibility: David Booth, $4.25 million cap hit for three more years.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Philadelphia Flyers have a lot of good-sized cap hits on their books for next season, including six defensemen who have a cap hit of $3.5 million or more for next year.

    The Flyers are the fifth-closest team to the cap, but they could free up about $10 million in cap space by putting defenseman Chris Pronger's $4.92 million cap hit on LTIR, then use a possible amnesty buyout to get rid of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov's $5.66 million cap hit.

    With young stars Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier all two years away from becoming restricted free agents, the Flyers could find themselves in a difficult situation soon if they don't manage their contracts wisely.

    Depending on what the new cap numbers in the next CBA look like, the Flyers might regret handing out the contracts that Scott Hartnell and Jakub Voracek signed this summer, which included cap hits above $4 million.

     

    Amnesty Buyout Possibility: Ilya Bryzgalov, $5.66 million cap hit for eight more years.

Buffalo Sabres

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    The Buffalo Sabres have a bit under $6 million in cap space right now, which isn't an awful situation to be in, but they do have several contracts that teams won't be quick to call about. Buffalo also cannot afford to get rid of any key players and expect to contend in the Eastern Conference.

    The Sabres have eight players, including goaltender Ryan Miller, who have a contract with a cap hit of $4 million or higher for next season. The contracts of Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff, which have cap hits of $4.5 million and $4 million, respectively, aren't going to be easy to eliminate via trade.

    The Sabres would probably be able to get under a much smaller salary cap without hurting the quality of their roster in a profound way, but any substantial losses would make their task of making the playoffs next season much harder.

     

    Amnesty Buyout Possibility: Ville Leino, $4.5 million cap hit for five more years.

Minnesota Wild

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    After adding more than $15 million to their salary cap total with the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter contracts ($98 million each for 13 years) this summer, the Minnesota Wild are now the second-closest team to the cap ceiling.

    The good news for the Wild is that they have some offensive prospects in Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle who could step in for a veteran forward that needed to be traded for salary cap relief.

    Since only two of the eight players on the Wild who have cap hits of $3 million or more next season are defensemen, the team could trade some of its forward depth and accomplish two goals: get under a new cap ceiling and add defensive depth.

     

    Amnesty Buyout Possibility: Dany Heatley, $7.5 million cap hit for two more years or Pierre-Marc Bouchard, $4.08 million cap hit for one more year.

Boston Bruins

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    The Boston Bruins went on a spending spree before the previous CBA expired, which included new contracts to three key players in Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic. All three contracts have a salary cap hit of $4.5 million or more.

    Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli recently talked about the process of making these signings when many parts of the new CBA are still unknown.

    "There’s so much uncertainty going forward that I would rather make decisions—and I know these are big numbers we’ve given these guys the past little bit—but they’re deserving of them, they’re all very good players, and they’re core guys," said Chiarelli.

    "We’ve got to do planning, and we’ve got to go through a bunch of scenarios depending on what the system will be going forward.

    "Part of managing a team is being fiscally responsible and making the right decisions, so we’re just trying to continue to do that, and understanding and respecting and obviously we’re going to be in a new system and knowing that there has to be elements where you can shed and you have to have some flexibility."

    Boston does have several upcoming free agents of value who could be traded to earn some cap relief, so Chiarelli has some options if he needs to make some big moves to free up cap space.

     

    Amnesty Buyout Possibility: Tim Thomas, $5 million cap hit for one more year.