Each year, NHL free agency has a different feel to it. Last year, most of the bigger free agents settled with their home clubs. Most NHL teams seemed to have cap problems. The ones that managed to scrape a few dollars together re-signed their own players. Very few got into or could afford to get into bidding wars for even key acquisitions.
The Philadelphia Flyers couldn't sign a new, good, free-agent goalie last year. The lack of one hurt them in the playoffs.
The Calgary Flames spent another year without a first-line center for Jarome Iginla. The Leafs were in the same situation with Phil Kessel, the Blue Jackets with Rick Nash. It seemed like bidding for available free agents was in decline.
This year, the Flyers and the Blue Jackets have addressed their very expensive needs already. They may be ready to spend more.
This year, the cap floor is $48 million and as the free-agent season begins, there are only four NHL teams with less than $10 million in useable cap space available.
Dale Tallon and the Florida Panthers just traded the Chicago Blackhawks for Brian Campbell and his contract of $7.143 million a year for five more years. Despite that, according to capgeek.com, they have 12 roster spots to fill and almost $42 million in cap space. To reach the cap floor, they need to spend another $27 million on players.
Teams with all this space and the need to reach a cap floor may be inclined to compete for top-drawer talent rather than overpay say the third or fourth-best available UFA center (Tim Connoly, Michal Handzus?)
Teams without an abundance of cap room might find it hard or even impossible to compete with these teams currently at the bottom of the league in salary spending.
This is a look at the teams that might take advantage of their room and will be expected to spend a lot on free agents this year. It is also a quick look at the teams that will have to spend more on players just to accommodate the rules of their hard-won hard cap.