He's my run down of teams cap situations; I made my judgement on the following factors:
-Fire power and Depth of the current roster
-Breathing room under the current 56.8 mil cap
-Player contract quality (cap space saved due to good contracts)
[B]1. Detroit Red Wings[/B]
There isn't much breathing room with 0.2 mill in cap space, however they more than make up for that with the number of players they can dress. They already have a full roster with players to spare and it's almost identical to the one last year (minus Hossa and Conklin). They don't necessarily save much cap room with good contracts, but there are a few notable players poised for big years despite being paid less than 1 mil; Daren Helm had a break out year last year and fit into an impact depth role last playoffs. Ville Leino appears to be a contender for a spot on the wings roster next year after coming off a very good transition year with Grand Rapids; then again he's just another prospect from Europe which the Wings scouts pulled out of nowhere.
[B]2. Washington Capitals [/B]
Another year with a solid roster for the caps, they have a full roster under contract. The caps also have over 3 mil in breathing room as well, GM George McPhee didn't change much since last year, however the Kunuble signing was a good addition to they're defence. Last year the Caps defence seemed to be the root of all problems; guys like Poti were shaky in the 2 round that they played, Boudreau had no other choice but to play him because they didn't have much for depth on defence. The Kunuble signing will help the problem, that and this year Karl Alzner will likely crack the line-up. Unfortunately, last year Alzner didnít play for the caps in the season because of cap problems, he missed the playoffs also because of an injury. With a much deeper defence this year the capitals will have a very balanced team this September.
[B]3. Pittsburgh Penguins [/B]
With essentially the same core as last yearís cup winning team and 2.1 mil cap room with a full roster the pens look to be a contender for a cup repeat. I was really surprised to see Fedotenko re-sign for as little as he did considering how he came of yet another playoff run playing an effective secondary 2 way play role. He may not be as effective in the season, but some of his best hockey is played in May and June. One key loss from last yearís defence was Scuderi, without him the Pittsburgh defence will not be the same, but with a year older and more experienced Crosby, Malkin and Staal who all are becoming better 2 way players the Pittsburgh defensive game shouldn't be much worse. It`ll also be interesting to see what happens when the Pens have a cold streak and how Bylsma can handle it, since he started coaching the team last February it was all going uphill for the team; all fixing bad habits and no creating of new ones.
[B]4. Philadelphia Flyers [/B]
It can be tough judging how a team will do when it's a different roster to what was iced in previous years. This is the case with the Flyers, but it appears they are going back to their roots of gritty hockey. They added two of the toughest guys on market; Lapperier and Pronger. Both players are well known to have a positive impact on their line mates, now last yearís high offensive calibre team got its boost defensively. The only question mark on the roster is goaltending; Emery will have a fresh start in the NHL this year and I'm sure the Flyers coaching staff will be keeping a close eye on him; all other recent Emery experiments have resulted in disaster because of his ego. With the amount of leadership and discipline on the Flyers roster I think they can make it work, then again all other odds are against Emery being successful in Philly, but I`d rather not be another guy bashing the Flyers goaltending history. With all the changes made much is still the same; the Flyers can only go as far as a goalie can carry them, I think this year they are poised for success better than in the past.
[B]5. Calgary Flames [/B]
Another team going back to its roots; out was an offensive minded Mike Keenan and in was a defensive oriented Brent Sutter. Now the Flames moved from a high talented offensive group to a team with one of the best defensive cores in the league. The addition of Bouwmeester will give a lot more options for defence parings since many times in the past the Flames have tried to make the Phaneuf-Regehr paring the top defence line but it never ended up working because there was too much power on the top line and not enough on the other 2. Aside from the flames top 3 remains Sarich, Pardy and Giordano, all had strong seasons last year. Sarich stepped up last playoffs despite having a broken ankle, Pardy had a strong learning year last year and could be staged for another career year, and Giordano appeared to have learnt a lot after playing a year in Russia last year having improved his outlet pass aswell as being a much faster player up until his season ending surgery. Another thing to look forward to is the return or Wayne Primeau and Brandon Prust; not high calibre players on their own, but at the start of last year Flames fans briefly witnessed the first solid and effective Flames checking line in a long time, this line consisted of Prust-Primeau-Bourque. The life of this checking line was short lived as Primeau needed season ending surgery and shortly after Prust suffered a broken jaw and missed 2 months only to return shortly then to be traded. Expect to see Curtis McElhinney play more games as even though management denied it but Kiprusoff was obviously tired at the end of last year having played 72 games last year. McElhinney`s stats last year weren`t much but he had flashes of brilliance despite playing 10 games where the team really didn`t show up to play.
[B]6. Chicago Blackhawks [/B]
Aside from the qualifying offer incident everythingís been going right for the Hawks as a result of very good drafting; both early and late picks have basically built the teamís entire roster. Iím fully aware that the Hawks are 4.5 mil over the cap at this moment. Keep in mind the Hawks were in a very similar situation last year going into training camp; this seemed to work since the players all seemed a little hungrier to make the roster. This year itís a little different since the obvious and easy solution is to trade Huet and his 5.625 mil cap hit, this would leave the starting position open. From what Iíve heard Corey Crawford is up to the task putting up very good numbers in Rockford, if heís capable of having a good transition year the Hawks wonít have to sacrifice much to stay under the cap. If the offence and defence both manage to stay intact the Hawks will have a depth which will be hard to match especially since all the youth on the team now have 3 rounds of playoff experience. In yet another year the Hawks will be the biggest threat to knock off the Wings from the top of the central div.
[B]7. Boston Bruins [/B]
Another year for the Bruins will all their talent spread evenly across 4 offensive lines. Theyíre in a very similar situation to the Hawks; over the cap and they are yet to re-sign RFA Phil Kessel, but a simple trade fixes everything. Itís time to ditch Tim Thomas; heís probably at his point of highest trade value coming off a Vesina winning year, heís getting older and he wonít be around forever anyways. As for his replacement; Tukka Rask is undoubtedly ready and needs to make the jump to the NHL either this year or next year at the latest in order to continue developing. This tweak will give the Bruins some cap room as well as a good player or draft picks in return for Thomas. This would be a very well timed full time NHL start for Rask since the Bruins have one of the best defensive systems in the east which would likely prove to be a very good confidence builder.
[B]8. Tampa Bay Lightning [/B]
Itís hard to disagree that Tampa is one of the most improved teams since last season; the offence is growing in terms of depth as a result of good drafting. The Lightningís defence has drastically changed too; Iíd expect Meszaros, Hedman, Ohlund, Walker, Foster, and Krajicek to make their top 6. Aside from Hedman Iíd expect Foster to make the biggest breakout year of these 6; heís just made a very unexpected comeback from that injury which made him miss 50 games last year with the Wild. Now heís in the perfect place to make a solid comeback to the form he was in before the injury; the higher skilled, less physical South East division.
Itís quite typical for a team in the SE to have certain elements on their roster which the other teams donít and this helps them to success; last season Washington had firepower throughout all their lines, this translated into the division title. This year the Lightning boast a very mobile defence core, depending on the success of this freshly assembled defence the Lightning could be a very dangerous team.
[B]9. Anaheim Ducks [/B]
This year will be a very different year for the Ducks; their offence has gotten significantly better, but with the loss of Pronger their defence wonít be the same as it used to be. With such a differently balanced team from last year and its defence first style of play the ducks may need a new system to adapt to the new roster. I kinda doubt that coach Randy Carlile will want to change away from defence first to a more offensive style. Whether or not the system is adjusted more offense is on the way, Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf are both very powerful two way players. Last year the ducks really missed the 2nd line presence of Andy McDonald and their offence really suffered, Saku Koivu is a very similar player and will fill the 2nd line center role well, hopefully bringing back the Ducks offense to where it was in the days of the Mighty Ducks. One of the question marks for this year is Goaltending; there will obviously be more work for Giguere and/or Hiller with the absence of Pronger, but I wouldnít worry too much about it with the two potentially battling it out for a starting role.