02/23/2024

BUF:

2

CBJ:

1

Final

WPG:

3

CHI:

2

Final

MIN:

4

EDM:

2

Final

02/24/2024

STL:

1

DET:

6

Final

MTL:

3

NJD:

4

Final

TBL:

4

NYI:

2

Final

NYR:

2

PHI:

1

Final

WSH:

2

FLA:

3

Final

TOR:

4

COL:

3

Final

VGK:

3

OTT:

4

Final

BOS:

2

VAN:

3

Final

DAL:

2

CAR:

1

Final

CGY:

6

EDM:

3

Final

MIN:

5

SEA:

2

Final

NSH:

4

SJS:

2

Final

ANA:

2

LAK:

3

Final

02/25/2024

TBL:

4

NJD:

1

Final

PHI:

6

PIT:

7

Final

CAR:

2

BUF:

3

Final

NYR:

2

CBJ:

4

Final

DET:

3

CHI:

2

Final

ARI:

3

WPG:

4

Final

NSH:

4

ANA:

2

Final

02/26/2024

OTT:

3

WSH:

6

3

15:38

NYI:

1

DAL:

0

2

17:22

LAK:

0

EDM:

0

Final

BOS:

0

SEA:

0

10:00 ET

02/27/2024

WSH:

0

DET:

0

07:00 ET

BUF:

0

FLA:

0

07:00 ET

ARI:

0

MTL:

0

07:00 ET

TBL:

0

PHI:

0

07:00 ET

VGK:

0

TOR:

0

07:00 ET

CAR:

0

MIN:

0

08:00 ET

OTT:

0

NSH:

0

08:00 ET

STL:

0

WPG:

0

08:00 ET

LAK:

0

CGY:

0

09:00 ET

DAL:

0

COL:

0

09:30 ET

PIT:

0

VAN:

0

10:00 ET

NJD:

0

SJS:

0

10:30 ET

02/28/2024

CBJ:

0

NYR:

0

07:00 ET

STL:

0

EDM:

0

08:30 ET

02/29/2024

VGK:

0

BOS:

0

07:00 ET

CAR:

0

CBJ:

0

07:00 ET

NYI:

0

DET:

0

07:00 ET

MTL:

0

FLA:

0

07:00 ET

BUF:

0

TBL:

0

07:00 ET

ARI:

0

TOR:

0

07:00 ET

WPG:

0

DAL:

0

08:00 ET

MIN:

0

NSH:

0

08:00 ET

COL:

0

CHI:

0

09:00 ET

PIT:

0

SEA:

0

10:00 ET

LAK:

0

VAN:

0

10:00 ET

ANA:

0

SJS:

0

10:30 ET

Grading All 32 Teams Cap Situations

As Jesse J and B.O.B once famously said in their hit single Price Tag, “It’s all about the money.” Rumor has it that song is actually Lou Lamoriello’s ringtone on his flip phone. Kidding.

But Jesse J and B.O.B were not wrong; the sad truth in life is that money determines most outcomes. The same is the case in the NHL, where money is scarce, and players are losing their jobs because of it.

Let’s look at all 32 NHL teams’ salary cap situations and give them a grade based on where they are at as an organization.

We will start out west in the Stanley Cup winning Pacific division with the Anaheim Ducks and roll down the league alphabetically.

*Note that all teams with $0 in cap space use the LTIR.

Anaheim Ducks

Cap Space: $28,135,833

Current RFA’s: Trevor Zegras, Troy Terry, Jamie Drysdale

Best Contract: Frank Vatrano ($3.65m AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Alex Killorn ($6.25m AAV, four years remaining)

Overall Grade: B+

With the Ducks playoff draught now at five straight seasons and the rebuild well underway, the Ducks are expected to have loads of cap space, and that’s exactly what they have. Pat Verbeek has handed out some lucrative contracts to aging veterans, which isn’t an issue for their cap hit yet but will be in the near future, and that is why the overall grade for Verbeek and the Ducks is a B+.

Arizona Coyotes

Cap Space: $8,764,522

Current RFA’s: Jan Jenrik, Jack McBain

Best Contract: Nick Schmaltz ($5.85m AAV, three years remaining)

Worst Contract: Jakub Voracek (IR), ($8.25m AAV, one year remaining)

Overall Grade: A

GM Bill Armstrong has done a pretty neat job of assembling a team ready to begin to come out of the rebuild. With players like Clayton Keller and Nick Schmaltz locked up for multiple seasons at good price tags make future rosters foreseeable. Armstrong has done his job to draft and now develop these young players. The Yotes now need to figure out a home.

Boston Bruins

Cap Space: $5,429,166

Current FA’s: David Krejci*, Trent Frederic, Jeremy Swayman

Best Contract: Brad Marchand ($6.125m AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Matt Gryzelcyk ($3.687m AAV, one year remaining)

Overall Grade: C

The Boston Bruins had a record-breaking season in 2023-23 and decided to go all-in for a Stanley Cup at the trade deadline. The B’s would blow a 3-1 series lead in the opening round of the playoffs to the Florida Panthers. The Bruins are now stuck in the muddy middle in terms of cap. With Patrice Bergeron retiring and the probable departure of David Krejci, the Bruins have glaring holes down the middle of the ice. With little cap space to work out of this, the Bruins received a C, which might even be generous.

Buffalo Sabres

Cap Space: $6,026,430

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Tage Thompson ($7.142m AAV, seven years remaining)

Worst Contract: Jeff Skinner ($9m AAV, four years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

The Sabres are ready to take their next step out of their rebuild and look to earn a playoff spot in this upcoming season. Kevyn Adams has young stars like Tage Thompson and Dylan Cozens signed to fair, long-term deals. Jeff Skinner‘s deal is an absolute nightmare, despite recent success, and will present trouble in the future for Adams as he needs to sign Rasmus Dahlin, Owen Power, and just about his entire blue line to new deals next summer.

Calgary Flames

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Rasmus Andersson ($4.55m AAV, three years remaining)

Worst Contract: Nazem Kadri ($7m AAV, six years remaining)

Overall Grade: D

Usually, when the front office and coaching staff are flipped over and changed from the ground up, there is a massive reason why that happened. Maybe, it’s because this team, who was thought to be a contender, missed the playoffs a season ago and has literally $0 to spend even after shedding some cap. The Flames look to be in deep, deep trouble. An expected rebuild is most likely coming for newly hired GM Craig Conroy.

Carolina Hurricanes

Cap Space: Expected $920,000 (Tony DeAngelo 1.6m AAV contract pending)

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Brent Burns ($5.28m AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Teuvo Teravainen ($5.4m AAV, one year remaining)

Overall Grade: A-

The Carolina Hurricanes have been knocking on the door for a championship for years. With arguably the best defensive core in the NHL all at fair AAV, the Hurricanes are just that extra goal away from winning a Cup. Let’s see if this is the year.

Chicago Blackhawks

Cap Space: $12,864,876

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Connor Bedard ($950k, three years remaining) (*^take it with a grain of salt)

Worst Contract: Nikita Zaitsev ($4.45m AAV, one year remaining)

Overall Grade: B

It is quite challenging to approach these grades with rebuilding teams, and the Blackhawks are the perfect example of that. They have zero good contracts except for Bedard’s ELC, which doesn’t seem fair for the list, but here we are. Just enjoy watching Bedard’s rookie year, guys.

Colorado Avalanche

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Devon Toews ($4.1m AAV, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Sam Girard ($5m AAV, four years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

Just one season removed from a Cup, the Avalanche look to reload and take a crack at it again. The roster is well assembled, with two of the top five players in the world steering the way in Nathan Mackinnon and Cale Makar. They will go as far as those two take them. Their captain, Gabriel Landeskog, is expected to miss another full season. They must shed Sam Girard’s money to pay Devon Toews next summer, hence the grade.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Cap Space: $4,729,167

Current FA’s: Tim Berni

Best Contract: Boone Jenner (3.75m AAV, three years remaining)

Worst Contract: Erik Gudbranson ($4m AAV, three years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

As I said, with the Blackhawks, it is tough to grade the cap situations of rebuilding teams. The Jackets should improve from this past season and maybe even take a hunt for a wild card spot. They hope to have a healthy Zach Werenski back. We shall see what Adam Fantilli can do in his rookie campaign if he does turn pro. Jarmo Kekalainen will have a load of RFA’s to sign next summer, including Kent Johnson.

Dallas Stars

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Joe Pavelski ($3.5m AAV, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Tyler Seguin ($9.85m AAV, four years remaining)

Overall Grade: A

You don’t get to the Western Conference Finals in two out of the last four seasons without some great work from your GM, and that is exactly what Jim Nill has done in the Lone Star state. Beauty contracts handed out to the likes of Jason Robertson, Joe Pavelski, and Jake Oettinger give the Stars cap situation an A rating.

Detroit Red Wings

Cap Space: $7,375,277

Current FA’s: Joe Veleno

Best Contract: Daniel Sprong ($2m AAV, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Ville Husso ($4.75m AAV, two years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

Similar to the Sabres, the Red Wings should be challenging for a playoff spot this year. They have a decent roster from top to bottom as they exit their rebuild. Stevie Y will have loads of work to do next Summer as they have a boatload of free agents such as Mo Seider. The flexibility in cap space for the future is what pulls back a B here in Motown.

Edmonton Oilers

Cap Space: $5,609,208

Current FA’s: Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod

Best Contract: Leon Draisaitl ($8.5m AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Darnell Nurse ($9.25m AAV, seven years remaining)

Overall Grade: A-

Considering the Oilers only pay Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl a combined $21 million against the cap is pretty remarkable. Very fair contracts to other key forwards like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zach Hyman help this grade reach the A’s, but the Darnell Nurse deal is quite honestly probably the worst in hockey, sending the Oilers overall grade to an A-.

Florida Panthers

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Carter Verhaeghe ($4.16m AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Sergei Bobrovsky ($10m AAV, three years remaining)

Overall Grade: B+

An eighth seed to the Cup final. The Panthers proved the world wrong all spring during their incredible run to the Cup final, which ended somberly. However, Bill Zito and company in southern Florida moved plenty of money around to attempt and run it back. The D core will look a bit different, with Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour starting the season on the LTIR. 16 of the 25 players scheduled to be on the main roster will be free agents after this season which is quite a precarious situation bringing the Cats’ grade down.

Los Angeles Kings

Cap Space: $123,333

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Mikey Anderson (4.125m AAV, eight years remaining)

Worst Contract: Pierre-Luc DuBois ($8.5m AAV, eight years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

The Kings hope to take their next step toward playoff success. The grade is a B because I don’t love the sign and trade for DuBois at that price. Danault, Fiala, and Kempe all have terrific deals, which is positive, but the Doughty, Kopitar, and DuBois numbers are inadequate.

Minnesota Wild

Cap Space: $5,393,079

Current FA’s: Calen Addison, Filip Gustavsson

Best Contract: Joel Eriksson Ek ($5.25mil AAV, six years remaining)

Worst Contract: Buyouts on Zach Parise, Ryan Suter ($7.3mil AAV, two more years)

Overall Grade: B

Some nice deals in the framework for this playoff club. The fact that they’re paying nearly $14.7 million against the cap for players who haven’t been on the roster for over two years is horrifying. A “B” rating might be generous.

Montreal Canadiens

Cap Space: $6,990,834

Current FA’s: Jesse Ylonen

Best Contract: Cole Caufield ($7.85mil AAV, eight years remaining)

Worst Contract: Josh Anderson ($5.5mil AAV, four years remaining)

Overall Grade: C+

For a team in the center of a rebuild, you’d expect there to be some more available spending money. That is not the case for the Habs. Some questions still surround Nick Suzuki and his long-term deal. The Habs have plenty of money on LTIR with Carey Price. They will just continue to work out of their rebuild.

Nashville Predators

Cap Space: $7,906,635

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Juuse Saros ($5mil AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Ryan McDonagh ($6.75mil AAV, three years remaining)

Overall Grade: B+

With Barry Trotz taking over for David Poile this past summer and realizing it was time to rebuild the Preds roster, he has made some nice changes to set up the Preds in the future. But as it stands for now, paying high dollars to Ryan McDonagh hurts the availability to bring in future free agents, but during a rebuild, that is not the major focus giving the Preds team grade a B+.

New Jersey Devils

Cap Space: $2,969,167

Current FA’s: Kevin Bahl

Best Contract: Jack Hughes ($8mil AAV, seven years remaining)

Worst Contract: Ondrej Palat ($6mil AAV, four years remaining)

Overall Grade: A

In my opinion, Tom Fitzgerald is the best GM in hockey, and their cap situation shows his true brilliance. Jack Hughes and Jesper Bratt combining to make short of $16 million is terrific. There is still cap space flexibility there. All their core pieces are locked up at fair, long-term prices. I just don’t love the Palat deal, which could present trouble down the line. Dawson Mercer and Tyler Toffoli will both need new deals next summer.

New York Islanders

Cap Space: 0$

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Sebastian Aho ($825k, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Anders Lee ($7m AAV, three years remaining)

Overall Grade: B-

The Islanders will go as far as Mat Barzal and Bo Horvat take them. With the two making a combined $17.6 million, the Islanders’ future is in Bo and Barzy’s hands. Fourth line vets like Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin hold the cap up a bit but can be removed easily. Lamoriello’s guys are locked up, but there won’t be much wiggle room for a handful of years. They’ll need more contributions from players on cheap deals like Sebastian Aho and, previously, Zach Parise.

New York Rangers

Cap Space: $2,248,417

Current FA’s: Alexis Lafreniere

Best Contract: Ryan Lindgren ($3mil AAV, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Jacob Trouba ($8mil AAV, three years remaining)

Overall Grade: B-

The Rangers would be in a much worse spot financially if young players like Alexis Lafreniere and Kakko Kappo developed properly to this point. Still, they haven’t, allowing the Rangers to keep a core of aging yet successful veterans together. Lafreniere still needs to get paid, and with only $2,248,417 in cap space, it is unsure what will happen on that front. A vet will most certainly be on their way out in time, as Ryan Lindgren, Kappo Kakko, and Braden Schneider all need new deals next summer. We shall see what happens in the Big Apple.

Ottawa Senators

Cap Space: $895,953

Current FA’s: Shane Pinto, Egor Sokolov,

Best Contract: Drake Batherson ($4.975mil AAV, four years remaining)

Worst Contract: Joshua Norris ($7.95mil AAV, seven years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

Ottawa hopes to take another step in the right direction and potentially challenge for a playoff spot. They have dollars to work with and have their young core locked up to long-term deals. I just question Josh Norris’s future, giving the Sens a “B.”

Philadelphia Flyers

Cap Space: $2,967,905

Current FA’s: Morgan Frost

Best Contract: Cam York ($1.6mil AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.1mil AAV, four years remaining)

Overall Grade: C+

The Broad Street Bullies are well on their way to a rebuild. They don’t have much money to spend, which they don’t need to do anyway. They don’t have too many assets to sell off. But, under Keith Jones and John Tortorella, the Flyers have a lot of work left to do before being able to compete again. Players like Travis Konecny and Scott Laughton will most likely be sold off at the upcoming trade deadline for more assets for their rebuild.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: Drew O’Connor

Best Contract: Pierre-Olivier Joseph ($825,000, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Mikael Granlund ($5mil AAV, two years remaining)

Overall Grade: F

The Penguins are attempting to run it back for another season. They have not won a playoff round since 2018 and now have $0 to spend with the oldest roster in the league. Bryan Rust making $5.125mil hurts; Jeff Petry‘s $6.25mil per is as egregious as ugly. With not many future assets and limited cap space, it appears the Penguins are reaching a melting point.

San Jose Sharks

Cap Space: $5,466,666

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Alexander Barabanov (2.5mil AAV, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($7mil AAV, three years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

The Sharks are in what appears to be a brutally long rebuild. Paying vets such as Erik Karlsson and Logan Couture lucrative amounts hurt their cap outlook, but with where they’re at in their rebuild, it doesn’t matter—setting them up quite nicely for retirement!

Seattle Kraken

Cap Space: $943,234

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Jared McCann ($5mil AAV, four years remaining

Worst Contract: Philipp Grubauer ($5.9mil AAV, four years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

The Kraken have an average roster at best, with not too many dollars to spend. They play great team hockey but have minimal cap space that they’ll desperately need next summer. They’ll hope Shane Wright takes a massive step this season on his ELC dollar.

St. Louis Blues

Cap Space: $293,571

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Pavel Buchnevich ($5.8mil AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Colton Parayko ($6.5mil AAV, seven years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

Blues GM Doug Armstrong hoped to re-tool his team on the fly over the last few months. He’s moved out vets like Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly while bringing in new faces such as Kevin Hayes and Kasperi Kapanen. The team can still compete and have their young studs locked up long-term, earning them a B. I wouldn’t be shocked if we were signing Gloria again next April.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Brandon Hagel ($1.5mil AAV, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Erik Cernak ($5.2mil AAV, eight years remaining)

Overall Grade: B+

When you win back-to-back cups and appear in six straight deep post-season runs, it’s likely there won’t be too many 0’s in the bank account. That’s the case for Julien Brisebois and the Bolts. But the Bolts aren’t going anywhere just yet. The Lightning have a lot of money locked up long-term in stars such as Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Mikhail Sergachev, and Victor Hedman, who will continue to give the club W’s. Vasilevskiy is still terrific. It’s just $5.25mil per is a steep price for a defensive defenseman in Erik Cernak keeping their grade away from an A.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Mark Giordano ($800k, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: John Tavares ($11mil AAV, two years remaining)

Overall Grade: C+

The Leafs finally got over the hump of… the first round this past season. But they were ripped apart by the Panthers in round two. The Leafs have another roster that, on paper, seems capable of winning the Cup. However, the reason the grade is in the C’s is that Auston Matthews and William Nylander both need new deals after this season, which will combine to cost close to $20mil in cap space, something that, as of where their cap outlook is at right now, seems impossible. Is it an all-in season in Toronto under new manager Brad Treliving knowing a big name is most likely going to be elsewhere next season?

Vancouver Canucks

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Andrei Kuzmenko ($5.5mil AAV, two years remaining)

Worst Contract: Conor Garland ($4.95mil AAV, three years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

The Canucks have a nice group of forwards locked up at great deals, and the back end is a bit frightening. Is Thatcher Demko a #1 goalie? He is being paid like one. Elias Pettersson is an RFA after this season.

Vegas Golden Knights

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Chandler Stephenson ($2.75mil AAV, one year remaining)

Worst Contract: Robin Lehner ($5mil AAV, two years remaining)

Overall Grade: A-

The defending champs get an A- rating on their betting slips. They’ll try to go back-to-back this upcoming season, and they very well can with this well-constructed roster from top to bottom. The question remains with the future of Robin Lehner, who is currently on LTIR. It seems as if it’s Adin Hill and Logan Thompson’s crease in Sin City. We’ll see what happens between the pipes, but the Knights are showing an ace in Vegas.

Washington Capitals

Cap Space: $0

Current FA’s: NA

Best Contract: Sonny Milano ($1.9mil AAV, three years remaining)

Worst Contract: Nicklas Backstrom ($9.2mil AAV, two years remaining)

Overall Grade: C-

The Capitals are in a really ugly spot, and it will only get uglier. Their once illustrious core is now aged out and overpaid while there is also a severe lack of available money. Well, let’s see if Ovechkin can catch Gretzky!

Winnipeg Jets

Cap Space: $3,779,643

Current FA’s: Rasmus Kupari, Logan Stanley

Best Contract: Josh Morrissey ($6.25mil AAV, five years remaining)

Worst Contract: Nate Schmidt ($5.95 mil AAV, two years remaining)

Overall Grade: B

It sometimes feels as if the Jets are always just mediocre. That sort of feels how their cap space layout seems as well. Is a rebuild coming? What happens with Connor Helleybuck? It’s a B in Winnipeg to finish up our list.

So, there were a lot of dollars just thrown at you there. Take a deep breath, and we will debrief.

Winners:

New Jersey Devils, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Vegas Golden Knights, Edmonton Oilers, Arizona Coyotes, Dallas Stars

Losers:

Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Calgary Flames

Best Overall Contract: Chandler Stephenson (VGK)

Worst Overall Contract: Darnell Nurse (EDM)

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