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10 NHL Teams That Will Be Priced out of Free Agency with a Reduced Salary Cap

Brad KurtzbergContributor IDecember 24, 2012

10 NHL Teams That Will Be Priced out of Free Agency with a Reduced Salary Cap

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    There is little doubt that once the lockout is settled, the overall salary cap in the NHL will be going down.

    While the final settlement isn't in place just yet, it is almost certain that the players' share of hockey related revenue will be going down from 57 percent to 50 percent.

    This means that some teams will struggle to get under the salary cap next summer and may not be able to do much in free agency.

    Here is a look at teams that face being shut out from free agency next summer. Keep in mind that there are some variables that we don't know yet. Some of these teams could be helped by a buyout or amnesty clause or if all player contracts are cut across the board.

    The teams in this article are at or near the cap ceiling right now. Trades and rules can change some of these statuses, but as of right now, these teams face the most difficult time with a reduced cap.

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Washington Capitals

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    The Capitals have the least potential cap trouble of any team on this list, but they do have some issues to address.

    As of the lockout, the Caps have roughly $6.6 million of cap space against the old cap. They will get a little bit of relief next summer although most of their potential unrestricted free agents (UFAs) are lower salaried players with the exception of forward Mike Reibero and defensemen Roman Hamrlik and Tom Poti.

    The Caps will also want to re-sign at least one of their two young goalies (Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby) and they will almost certainly cost more than they are earning right now.

    Washington has roughly $20 million in cap space tied up in three star players in Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green.

Montreal Canadiens

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    The Habs won't be losing many high salaried players to unrestricted free agency next summer with only Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon set to have their deals expire among the team's major contributors.

    Under the old CBA, the Canadiens had roughly $6.3 million in cap space and that was before they signed restricted free agent P.K. Subban to a new deal.

    The players with the highest cap hit next season in Montreal include Scott Gomez, Carey Price and Andrei Markov.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Under the old CBA, the Sabres had roughly $5.8 million left in cap space although that will evaporate if the new agreement is roughly as expected.

    Next year, some money will be freed up by the potential departures of Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold although young forward Cody Hodgson will be an RFA and will likely command a bigger cap hit than his current $1.66 million.

    The Sabres biggest contracts for next season include Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers and Jason Pomvinville.

Chicago Blackhawks

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    The Blackhawks remain a talented and deep team that should contend for another Stanley Cup run once the new season gets under way.

    Under the old CBA, Chicago had roughly $5.7 million in cap space. There are no high salaried players set to come off the books at the end of the 2012-13 season for Chicago with backup goalie Ray Emery being perhaps the highest profile player set for UFA status.

    Barring a trade or amnesty of some kind, it is unlikely the Blackhawks will be in a position to sign major free agents in 2013 under the new and reduced salary cap.

San Jose Sharks

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    Under the old CBA, the Sharks are approximately $4.9 million under the salary cap. If the reduction is roughly what is expected, San Jose may have to make a few moves to get under the cap this year.

    There are rumors that some of the club's higher profile players may be moved soon and that may become a salary cap necessity.

    As of now, Ryane Clowe, Douglas Murray and Michal Handzus are the highest paid players set to become UFAs next summer.

    Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Brent Burns and Martin Havlat are each set to have cap hits of $5 million or more in 2013-14, the largest cap hits on the Sharks.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    The Flyers have roughly $3.5 million in cap space under the old CBA to work with so they are likely to be forced to make some moves to get under the new cap limit once the lockout ends.

    The Flyers are a contending team and any move they make would be designed to keep them in "win now" mode.

    Kimmo Timonen and his $6.33 million cap hit is a potential UFA in the summer of 2013 which will help give the Flyers a little more wiggle room.

    The players in Philadelphia with the highest cap hits include Timonen, Danny Briere, Chris Pronger, Braydon Coburn and Ilya Bryzgalov.

Calgary Flames

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    The Calgary Flames are in an interesting position right now. Under the old CBA, they are approximately $3.5 million under the salary cap. It is likely they need to make a move to get under the new and reduced cap before the season starts.

    Next summer, Jarome Iginla's contract expires and the Flames' captain and highest profile player becomes an unrestricted free agent. Iginla carries a $7 million cap hit and the big questions will be whether or not the Flames re-sign Iginla and if they do, for how much and for how long?

    Beside Iginla, the Calgary players with the largest cap hits include Jay Bouwmeester, Mike Cammalleri, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and Denni Wideman.

Boston Bruins

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    The Bruins find themselves with very little cap space right now (about $1.3 million under the old cap) but there are a few ways to add some space so the Bruins can make a minor move or two next summer if they want to test the free agent waters.

    The good news is that Tim Thomas and his $5 million cap hit will be off of Boston's books. The bad news is that Tuukka Rask's deal is also up next summer and if he plays well this year, Rask will be due for a raise that will probably eat up some of the money saved on Thomas.

    Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference are due to be unrestricted free agents as well although the Bruins will likely want at least one of them back, if not both.

Vancouver Canucks

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    As of now, the Vancouver Canucks are only $2.4 million below the old salary cap number but there is a wild card to be played before their ultimate position can be definitely sorted out: the expected trade of goalie Roberto Luongo.

    Luongo has a cap hit of $5.33 million per season. How far under the cap Vancouver will be will largely depend on who they get in return for Luongo and what the cap hit is for those players.

    Alex Edler and Manny Malhotra are the two biggest cap hits on the current roster who are scheduled to become UFAs next summer so the Canucks won't be able to be big players in free agency next summer unless the Luongo deal or some other trade takes place to free up more space.

Minnesota Wild

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    The Wild have only $1.3 million available against the old CBAs salary cap after signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to expensive, long-term contracts—the very kind the owners want to outlaw under the new CBA.

    Looking ahead to the summer of 2013, the Wild may have some wiggle room because they have a few higher priced players who should be eligible to become UFAs including goalie Niklas Backstrom and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen.

    Even if cheaper deals are signed, it is unlikely Minnesota will have much room to go on another free agent spending spree next summer after hitting the jackpot in 2012.

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