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NHL Free Agency 2020: Teams Projected to Have Best Salary-Cap Situations

Jake RillSenior Analyst IIMarch 21, 2020

Ottawa Senators left wing Anthony Duclair (10) skates with the puck during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Nick Wass/Associated Press

Perhaps nothing has more of an effect on the NHL offseason than the league's salary cap.

That determines how much a team can spend on potential free-agent signings and what trades it can make, and it can also lead to tough decisions, such as having to possibly get rid of a key player on its roster.

Earlier in March, NHL.com's Dan Rosen reported that the league's salary cap could be between $84 million and $88.2 million for the 2020-21 season, up from $81.5 million this term. However, that was before the NHL was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, which could have an impact on next season's salary cap.

While it's unclear what the NHL's salary cap may be next season, here's a look at three teams that should be in good situations, which could be crucial if the salary cap were to go down in 2020-21.

                        

Ottawa Senators

Projected 2020-21 cap hit: $41.9 million

The Ottawa Senators have only two players under contract for next season who are projected to make more than $5 million: defenseman Thomas Chabot ($8 million) and winger Bobby Ryan ($7.25 million). That should give them some flexibility with how they choose to fill out their roster.

Ottawa has seven players on its active roster who are set to be restricted free agents, six of whom will be arbitration-eligible. That includes two of its top three leading scorers, right wing Connor Brown and left wing Anthony Duclair.

It's possible that the Senators will decide to move on from a pair of veterans, as 38-year-old defenseman Ron Hainsey and 38-year-old goalie Craig Anderson are both set to become unrestricted free agents. With Ottawa struggling this season, it may choose to get younger.

With the cap space that the Senators should have—not to mention the three first-round picks they have in June's draft—there should be some moves they can make to benefit them for the future.

                   

New Jersey Devils

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Projected 2020-21 cap hit: $55.3 million

Although the New Jersey Devils' top two scorers are under contract for the next campaign (right wing Kyle Palmieri and left wing Nikita Gusev), both are set to become unrestricted free agents in June 2021. Perhaps that will affect the Devils' plans for this offseason if they want to bring back both players.

With most of its key players under contract for next season, New Jersey could use its salary-cap flexibility to add some pieces who will make the team more competitive. The Devils have struggled this season, but they boast some solid young players, such as No. 1 overall picks Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, who should continue to develop.

New Jersey traded former MVP Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes in December, and it won't have any of his retained salary starting next season. It will be interesting to see which direction the Devils head in this offseason, especially if they opt to move another one of their higher-paid players.

                    

Los Angeles Kings

Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Projected 2020-21 cap hit: $59.9 million

A large portion of the Los Angeles Kings' cap hit for next season is going to defenseman Drew Doughty ($11 million) and center Anze Kopitar ($10 million). And despite both players being the wrong side of 30, they are under contract for multiple seasons, so those hits aren't coming off the books anytime soon.

Still, L.A. is in a relatively good spot financially, and moving one or both of those players would give it even more flexibility. One of their only key players who is set to be an unrestricted free agent is defenseman Ben Hutton, whose cap hit is $1.5 million. Los Angeles should be able to re-sign him or afford a suitable replacement.

If the Kings can clear even more cap space, they could bring in some young players who can help to get the franchise back on track after its recent struggles.

                   

Cap info per CapFriendly.

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