With the salary cap set to rise by about $7 million for the 2014-15 season, every team in the NHL has enough money to land at least one big-time player when free agency opens July 1.
Not every team will do that for a variety of reasons—internal budgets, unattractive destination, only so many big-time players available—but there should be some wild spending coming down the road.
There's also the trade avenue that seems to involve more top-notch players than usual, especially at the center position—Joe Thornton, Ryan Kesler, Jason Spezza are all rumored or, in the case of Spezza, are available at the right price. Considering the second-best center on the free-agent market after Paul Stastny is either Brad Richards or David Legwand, that makes for an interesting wrinkle for teams looking to improve down the middle.
So which teams will be making the most noise in free agency?
Some teams have big decisions on their own UFAs (Montreal, Colorado, N.Y. Rangers) while others could be factors on players reaching the open market (Minnesota, Anaheim). This is all speculation, but here are eight teams that are in a position to change their fortunes for the better via free agency.
(All statistics via NHL.com, all contract information via CapGeek.com)