NHL Free Agency 2012: 10 Teams with Cap Space and Who They'll Pursue
There are a few teams that will have a lot of money coming off their books when this season ends, and there's a pretty good crop of unrestricted free agents that could hit the market when the finals end.
Those two ingredients create a nice recipe for rumors, speculation, and in some markets, hope.
Looking forward to next summer's potential spending spree, here are some teams that will have a pretty good amount of money to work with and some likely targets for those franchises.
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With over $30 million in probable cap space and not many free agents they'll want to bring back, the Jets will enter free agency after their first year in Winnipeg looking to make a statement.
They need top-end leadership and talent with some young players like Mark Scheifele coming along.
Again, if we assume that Zach Parise hits the open market (which is still questionable), one would have to think he would be front and center on the short list of guys the Jets would love to pay a king's ransom to help make them relevant postseason contenders.
New York Islanders
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The Islanders will have around $32 million in cap space next summer, thanks in large part to Brian Rolston finally coming off their books. However, they'll have some glaring needs, especially in net and on their blue line.
As this season continues, the Isles will have to make a decision with unrestricted free agents Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov. Certainly, they won't want to be left with only Rick DiPietro under contract.
But on the blue line, the Isles have only three guys on the NHL roster under contract next year. A player like Dennis Wideman, John-Michael Liles and Francois Beauchemin would be a nice addition for a team that has issues between the pipes.
St. Louis Blues
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If the Blues' new ownership is in place, they'll have an interesting play coming up this summer. They could have more than $30 million in cap space but have a list of restricted free agents that will include Chris Stewart, TJ Oshie and David Perron.
Under the new guidance of Ken Hitchcock, it's hard to imagine a more oil-and-water mix than Hitch and Alexander Semin. But the Blues have issues getting the puck in the net and will probably be looking for a scorer.
A better fit on this Blues' roster might be Tuomo Ruutu, who's capable of 30 goals in a season and likes to bring the wood as well. More than a few forwards would think twice about stepping on the ice if Ruutu and Backes were on a line together.
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The Blackhawks have most of their core under contract for a few more years, but they could have over $12 million in available cap space to fill the bottom of their roster next year. With good organizational depth, there's a good chance some of the spots will be filled from within as well.
Physical play continues to be a problem in Chicago, so targeting someone like Jarret Stoll, Mikael Samuelsson and Chris Kelly might make the most sense for the Hawks.
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The Canes have a new coach and could have a few faces off their roster when next year begins. But as it stands today, they'll have around $26 million in cap space available with 16 players on their NHL roster under contract.
Carolina will likely be looking to add grinding forwards that will make it harder to skate against the Canes.
Someone like Jarret Stoll or Paul Gaustad might make a lot of sense for the Canes.
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With almost everything Dale Tallon did last summer turning out well so far, he'll have over $25 million in cap space to play with again next summer.
He'll likely want to give new deals to restricted free-agent forward Kris Versteeg and unrestricted free-agent defenseman Jason Garrison, but there's room to add on the blue line in Florida.
A veteran like Brad Stuart (if Detroit doesn't bring him back) or John-Michael Liles would make some sense, as would an older veteran like Filip Kubina or Jaroslav Spacek.
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The Avs are hitting salary cap armageddon this summer.
There are only eight players on their NHL roster under contract for next year, and they have to make decisions on restricted free agents like Matt Duchene, Erik Johnson, Kyle Quincey, Ryan O'Reilly and Peter Mueller.
If there's one glaring need in Colorado, it's a top-pair defenseman. Despite there being a ridiculous roster crisis up front (only three forwards signed after this year on their NHL roster), Dennis Wideman would be a fantastic addition for the Avs.
Should the Avs decide to go big up front, Alex Semin and Zach Parise might be on their radar (assuming either hits the open market). But Wideman is probably the better bet to be on top of the shopping list in Denver.
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The Stars will have new ownership in place, and the goal will (in theory) be to get the Stars back on the map. They got off to a good start this year, but injuries have started to take their toll on the Stars' place in the standings.
With almost $30 million to spend next summer, the primary objective in Dallas will be to retain Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski, both of whom will be restricted free agents. Beyond those two, the stars will be looking for veteran role players to fill out a solid, competitive foundation.
Some names that might pop up in Dallas could be Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner up front and Barrett Jackman on the blue line.
Penner would be a good bet considering the success Dallas has enjoyed with another reclamation project this year—Sheldon Souray.
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It's hard to say what the heck is going on with the Ducks right now, much less where they'll be next summer. As it stands today, they'll have over $26 million to spend, but any trade involving one of their young star forwards (read: Bobby Ryan) will greatly impact what they look like next year.
What's a glaring weakness on this team, however, is a veteran work ethic. A steady leader like Shane Doan would be a fantastic addition to that roster.
Another consideration will be the Ducks jumping into the goalie market if Jonas Hiller continues to struggle. Whether or not they want to rent a veteran is a question, but targeting a younger veteran like Josh Harding, Al Montoya or Jonas Gustavsson might make sense as well.
Detroit Red Wings
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The Red Wings could have around $25 million in cap space to work with over the coming summer but will have some serious needs to fill. They have 14 players on their current NHL roster under contract for next season, but that doesn't include names like Lidstrom, Stuart, Commodore, Bertuzzi and Holmstrom.
After they handle the restricted free agency of Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader, and (probably) promote Brendan Smith onto their blue line, there will be some areas they'll want to address.
The most likely target for Detroit is one of the defensemen in Nashville, whichever player the Preds decide to make available. If it's Ryan Suter, he could stand to pick up a significant part of the cap space left when Lidstrom retires.
It isn't like the Red Wings to swing for the fences in free agency with more than one player, but with the cap space they'll have, it's possible they go after a big-time free agent forward as well.
Their immediate need, however, will be a top end player for their blue line.