NHL Free Agency: The Central Division Cap Situations

NHL Free Agency: The Central Division Cap Situations

With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom in Detroit becoming official, there should be two immediate responses from Blackhawks fans:

  1. Respect. He was the best of his era.
  2. Fear. The Wings now have an enormous amount of cap space.

Looking around the Central Division, this will be an interesting summer. And teams will have some money to play with as they put together their rosters for the 2012-13 season.

What follows is a look at the cap situation of the teams in the Central Division as we close in on free agency. The projected payroll figures and rosters cited are from CapGeek.com. The estimated cap space reflects the $64.3M cap ceiling used for the 2011-12 season.

Chicago Blackhawks

Players Signed: 22
Projected Payroll: $61,490,128
Estimate Cap Space: $2,809,872

The Hawks’ roster includes a few 2011-12 rookies: Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen. It does not include potential 2012-13 rookies such as Brandon Saad or Jeremy Morin. Obviously the Hawks have a filled roster and some players they might like to see at the NHL level, so Stan Bowman’s recent comments about additional changes leaves the door open for intrigue this summer.

Detroit Red Wings

Players Signed: 18
Projected Payroll: $44,042,045
Estimate Cap Space: $20,257,955

CapGeek includes Jan Mursak, Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith in those 18 roster spots (with good reason), which is why the rest of the NHL should be fearful of what could be coming this summer in Detroit.

They’re losing their captain and one of the best defenseman of all-time, but they’ll have over $20M in cap space to replace him (with Ryan Suter) and add a couple more marquee free agents while still having their top tier forwards and Niklas Kronwall back.

St. Louis Blues

Players Signed: 16
Projected Payroll: $35,895,833
Estimate Cap Space: $28,404,167

The Blues are looking at two consecutive summers that will hold the next decade of their organization in the balance; only two players on their NHL roster are signed after July 1, 2014 (Roman Polak and David Backes).

This summer, TJ Oshie, Chris Stewart and David Perron are restricted free agents, while their free agent class of 2013 includes Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ian Cole and Patrick Berglund. While they have a great deal of cap space this summer, they also have some significant decisions (read: major financial commitments) coming in the next 13 months.

Nashville Predators

Players Signed: 12
Projected Payroll: $32,154,167
Estimate Cap Space: $32,145,833

The Preds are committed to only 50 percent of the cap right now, and have roughly half of a roster to fill between now and September. Obviously Ryan Suter (unrestricted) and Shea Weber (restricted) are the headline-grabbing free agents in Nashville, but there are more players they need to speak with before July 1.

Forwards Colin Wilson, Sergei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov, defenseman Jack Hillen and backup goalie Anders Lindback are all restricted free agents this summer. Andrei Kostitsyn, Paul Gaustad, Hal Gill and Francis Bouillon will become unrestricted free agents when June ends. And, like St. Louis, the Preds will be busy again next summer; only three skaters on their roster – Martin Erat, David Legwand and Ryan Ellis - are signed past next season.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Players Signed: 18*
Projected Payroll: $48,883,809*
Estimated Cap Space: $15,416,191*

Why the asterisk? They’re trying to find a new home for Rick Nash this summer, which will change both the makeup of their 2012-13 roster/payroll and the future of the organization. Not knowing what will replace Nash (and his $7.800M cap hit) on the roster makes the Blue Jackets a bit of a wild card when trying to project a roster and cap space.

Looking forward, Columbus has $17.4M committed to four defensemen through the 2014-15 season already. Their approach to rebuilding has been highlighted by long-term deals on the books for James Wisniewski, Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson, who will make over $14M in cap hit through the 2016-17 season.

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