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Ranking every NHL team’s salary-cap situation, from best to worst

The NHL offseason is here. Let’s do some math!

We’ve put together this list for the last several years. Our methodology is cut-and-pasted as follows:

Take a team’s signed players, project what they’ll need to pay the RFAs that will make the lineup, subtract those going on LTIR and you have a solid estimate of what they can spend in unrestricted free agency to fill out their rosters.

Now, this is not an exact science. Some teams may play hardball with their restricted players and give them all cheap one-year deals; other clubs may go long, long term and that would cost more. We tried to be as reasonable as possible in coming up with projections, but we’re talking about 120-plus contract forecasts calculated in a compressed window. They’re not all going to hit the mark.

No, they won’t — but we’re trying to come as close as possible, with invaluable assists from the soon-to-be-departed CapFriendly, the Evolving Hockey contract predictions, The Athletic’s staff of beat writers and elsewhere.

Remember that this isn’t a ranking of how strong these teams are or are set up to become; we’re simply ranking how much cap space they will likely have to improve their rosters beyond players who are already under team control.


1. Utah Hockey Club

2024-25 salaries: $45,435,476
RFAs estimate: $17.3 million
LTIR candidates: Shea Weber ($7.857 million)
Dead money deals: Patrik Nemeth buyout ($1.16 million), Zack Kassian buyout ($766,667), Oliver Ekman-Larsson retention ($320,000)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Travis Dermott, Travis Boyd, Josh Brown
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $33.12 million

With a new owner who’ll be willing to spend, Utah can flex its salary cap space and make noise this offseason. The team has a few notable RFAs to re-sign, including three on the back end headlined by Sean Durzi, but even after accounting for generous raises, GM Bill Armstrong has tons of cash to spend.

Utah isn’t in its competitive window to hand out expensive long-term contracts to top free agents yet, but it should be involved for younger players who emerge on the trade market and mid-range veteran free agents who it can overpay in salary while keeping the term down. Utah will only have three defenders under contract once the RFAs sign so landing blue-line help should be a focus.

2024-25 salaries: $61,654,199
RFAs estimate: $847,100
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Matt Duchene buyout ($5.55 million), Ryan Johansen retained salary ($4 million), Kyle Turris buyout ($2 million), Mattias Ekholm retention ($250,000)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Jason Zucker, Alexandre Carrier, Kevin Lankinen, Tyson Barrie, Anthony Beauvillier, Kiefer Sherwood
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $25.5 million

Nashville has the most cap space of any team that made the playoffs in 2023-24. It’s a bit surprising considering the club is carrying $11.8 million of dead cap from various buyouts and salary retention in trades, but sending Ryan McDonagh and his $6.75 million cap hit back to Tampa Bay carved out a lot of flexibility.

The Preds also boast a surplus of draft picks, so they can kick tires on any top forward who hits the trade or free-agent market, whether it’s Mitch Marner, Martin Necas or Jake Guentzel. It’ll also be important to replenish the back end with a defensive-minded top-four player to replace McDonagh’s impact.

This could be an exciting, aggressive offseason for Barry Trotz’s franchise.

2024-25 salaries: $54,694,167
RFAs estimate: $9.11 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Ben Meyers, William Lagesson
Problem contract: Cam Fowler ($6.5 million AAV for two seasons)
Projected cap space: $24.2 million

Anaheim has ample cap flexibility and enough trade chips (seven picks in the first three rounds of the draft) to go after big names. GM Pat Verbeek was active last year signing Alex Killorn and Radko Gudas and you’d expect him to be aggressive again in helping the Ducks gradually work their way up from the basement of the NHL standings.

Verbeek has specifically talked about targeting a top-six winger and right-shot top-four defender — he can find those pieces and still have plenty of cap room left over.

2024-25 salaries: $59,097,500
RFAs estimate: $5.44 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Jake McCabe retention ($2 million), Josh Bailey buyout ($1.16 million)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Colin Blackwell, Sam Lafferty, Tyler Johnson, Jaycob Megna, Nikita Zaitsev, Jarred Tinordi
Problem contract: Seth Jones ($9.5 million AAV for six seasons)
Projected cap space: $23.5 million

The Blackhawks have the cap space to do anything they want within reason, even after acquiring Ilya Mikheyev. It’s time to slowly build the roster up, but they also have to be mindful not to add any risky medium- to long-term contracts that could hinder them when they’re ready to be playoff-competitive again.

Finding a running mate for Connor Bedard should be priority No. 1 this summer. After that, it would be useful to add a solid veteran defender, too. Chicago can afford to overpay on the cap hit that it offers players so long as the term is short.

2024-25 salaries: $58,670,834
RFAs estimate: $7.8 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Brent Burns retention ($2.72 million), Martin Jones buyout ($1.66 million), Erik Karlsson retention ($1.5 million), Tomas Hertl retention ($1.3875 million)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Alexander Barabanov, Mike Hoffman, Justin Bailey, Kevin Labanc, Ryan Carpenter, Jacob MacDonald
Problem contract: Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($7 million AAV for two seasons), Logan Couture ($8 million AAV for three seasons)
Projected cap space: $21.54 million

The Sharks have already made moves to absorb salary and fill out their depth with the Barclay Goodrow waiver claim, Ty Dellandrea acquisition and the Jake Walman trade where they also received a second-round pick.

San Jose has tons of cash left but it’ll also be getting a massive jolt from the arrival of 2023 No. 4 pick Will Smith and presumed 2024 No. 1 pick Macklin Celebrini if he decides to leave college.

Logan Couture only played six games in 2023-24. He’s aiming to return next season, but if he can’t get healthy, his $8 million cap hit may end up on LTIR.


Jonathan Huberdeau has seven years left on his $10.5 million AAV deal. (Sergei Belski / USA Today)

2024-25 salaries: $64,800,833
RFAs estimate: $1.96 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals:
Notable unsigned UFAs: Oliver Kylington, A.J. Greer, Dennis Gilbert
Problem contract: Jonathan Huberdeau ($10.5 million AAV for seven seasons)
Projected cap space: $21.24 million

Calgary has more than $20 million available to spend, with 18 skaters already under contract for next season. It’ll be very interesting to see how the Flames weaponize this cap room. GM Craig Conroy could leverage this space and the eight picks he has over the first four rounds of the 2024 draft to acquire young players who can help now and fit the club’s core long-term.

Alternatively, if the club is entering more of a traditional rebuild — which seems like the more prudent path — it can search for opportunities to get paid to take on inefficient contracts. San Jose’s move to absorb Jake Walman’s contract and receive a second-round pick from Detroit in the process would be an example of that.

2024-25 salaries: $68,759,167
RFAs estimate: $776,400
LTIR candidates: Tucker Poolman ($2.5 million)
Dead money deals: Oliver Ekman-Larsson buyout ($2.36 million), Ilya Mikheyev retention ($712,500)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Elias Lindholm, Dakota Joshua, Nikita Zadorov, Tyler Myers, Ian Cole, Casey DeSmith
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $20.96 million

The extra $4 million or so gained from offloading Ilya Mikheyev at 15 percent retained to Chicago will be very valuable for the Canucks. Vancouver has significant cap flexibility but also several roster holes that need to be filled because of six pending UFAs.

The Canucks’ top priority will be landing a top-six winger for Elias Pettersson’s line. It’s expected they’ll take an aggressive run at Jake Guentzel if he hits the July 1 market. Beyond that, they’ll need to find an additional top-nine forward to either replace Lindholm at third-line center or fill Pius Suter’s wing spot if he shifts to the middle to play 3C. On the blue line, they need to sign two No. 4/5 type defenders — which could mean extending re-Nikita Zadorov and Tyler Myers — and perhaps another No. 6/7 to replace Ian Cole.

2024-25 salaries: $56,925,515
RFAs estimate: $12.1 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Jeff Skinner buyout ($1.44 million)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Zemgus Girgensons, Tyson Jost, Victor Olofsson, Eric Robinson
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $18.98 million

As of this writing, the Sabres haven’t officially bought out Jeff Skinner, but every bit of available information suggests they will. That’ll net them $7.55 million in cap savings, which we’ve already included in our calculations (for 2024-25, at least. That number will decrease by $3 million in ‘25-26, then $2 million more in ‘26-27). He’s still a capable second-line scorer and power-play element, and he’s a prime candidate to take a Matt Duchene-esque below-market deal to play on a contender. Buffalo gets added flexibility to improve the mix around core pieces like Tage Thompson, Owen Power and Rasmus Dahlin in the immediate future.

Another main order of business is figuring out a contract with RFA goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who emerged last season as a viable long-term option in net alongside Devon Levi. With their foundation locked up, the Sabres are in solid long-term shape — they could also use another top-four defenseman, but really, who couldn’t?

2024-25 salaries: $78,586,250
RFAs estimate: $2.44 million
LTIR candidates: Carey Price ($10.5 million)
Dead money deals: Jeff Petry retention ($2.344 million), Jake Allen ($1.925 million)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Tanner Pearson, Colin White, Chris Wideman
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $17.47 million

The Canadiens have enough cap space to do basically whatever they want — and that’s before factoring in the space created by Carey Price’s long-term injury exception. Montreal’s rebuild is progressing, but it needs a bit more time to bake before any big free-agency splashes are warranted.

The best use of that cap space is probably on a young, long-term piece via the trade market. Trevor Zegras has been connected with Montreal for a while now, and whether that comes to fruition or not, he’s a player profile that makes perfect sense.


Pending UFA Sam Reinhart should be getting a big raise on his next contract. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

2024-25 salaries: $68,483,334
RFAs estimate: $4.55 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Keith Yandle buyout ($1.24 million)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Sam Reinhart, Brandon Montour, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Dmitry Kulikov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Nick Cousins, Ryan Lomberg, Steven Lorentz, Kevin Stenlund, Kyle Okposo
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $15.02 million

One of the underlying stories of Florida’s Cup run was the pending UFA status of Sam Reinhart and Brandon Montour, two of their high-profile contributors. It’s tough to imagine the Panthers extending both, given the raises they’ve earned — and it’s even tougher to imagine them letting Reinhart walk.

He scored 57 goals in the regular season, then the Cup-clincher. His deal will eat up a huge chunk of that $15 million, likely leaving them $5 million or so to add a No. 4/5 defenseman and reshuffle the bottom six. Looking down the road a bit, Sergei Bobrovsky is down to two years remaining on his $10 million AAV megadeal. Some added flexibility is on the way.

2024-25 salaries: $66,400,834
RFAs estimate: $7.92 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Mike Reilly ($870,000)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, James van Riemsdyk, Pat Maroon, Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, Kevin Shattenkirk
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $13.68 million

At last, Don Sweeney is starting an offseason with real salary-cap space. A solid chunk of it is earmarked for new full-time starter Jeremy Swayman; Evolving Hockey has the RFA signing a four-year deal worth $6.25 million annually.

Still, nearly $14 million is enough to make some real additions, especially if Jake DeBrusk indeed signs elsewhere. Boston’s need for a top-six center is well-documented, and it’s led to them being linked with basically every player on the market who remotely fits the bill. If they want to reel in one of the big names — Elias Lindholm, Steven Stamkos — they’ll have the money necessary to get it done.

2024-25 salaries: $73,207,262
RFAs estimate: $847,300
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Sammy Blais, Kasperi Kapanen, Marco Scandella
Problem contract: Torey Krug ($6.5 million AAV for three seasons), Brayden Schenn ($6.5 million AAV for four seasons), Justin Faulk ($6.5 million AAV for three seasons)
Projected cap space: $13.94 million

With 10 forwards, six defenders and two goalies already signed, St. Louis has nearly $14 million that can be invested in legitimate roster upgrades. The big question, though, is how the Blues will spend this cash given the retool they’re mired in.

Will they be active in free agency to be playoff-competitive? Will they only pursue younger players on the trade market who can be a long-term fit with the core? Will they take low-risk fliers on high-salaried reclamation project players on short-term deals, similar to what they did with Jakub Vrana and Kasperi Kapanen?

Acquiring a No. 2 center could be a priority since Brayden Schenn looked far more effective on the wing this season.

13. Detroit Red Wings

2024-25 salaries: $55,232,640
RFAs estimate: $19.4 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Justin Abdelkader buyout ($1.056 million), Kailer Yamamoto buyout ($533,334)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Patrick Kane, David Perron, Daniel Sprong, Shayne Gostisbehere, Christian Fischer
Problem contract: Justin Holl ($3.4 million AAV for two seasons)
Projected cap space: $13.37 million

The Red Wings have oodles of cap space for the time being, but a huge chunk of that is earmarked for extensions for RFAs Moritz Seider and Lucas Raymond, plus a few others. Their RFA estimate assumes that both of their young stars sign long-term deals.

We’re also not assuming that they buy out defenseman Justin Holl (two remaining years at $3.4 million), though that remains a possibility. The end result is a reasonable chunk of change to spend on improving a roster that’s still thin in several spots, especially on the wing and defense; Tuesday’s trade of Jake Walman to San Jose made a bad group worse.

2024-25 salaries: $64,575,833
RFAs estimate: $12.77 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Tomas Tatar, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Justin Schultz
Problem contract: Philipp Grubauer ($5.9 million AAV for three seasons), Andre Burakovsky ($5.5 million AAV for three seasons)
Projected cap space: $10.66 million

Seattle was the only team that missed the playoffs despite ranking top 10 in preventing goals against. All of the Kraken’s attention should be on adding dynamic scoring ability to a forward lineup that didn’t have a single 65-point or higher producer in 2023-24.

With the blue line already set (Ryker Evans will likely step into an everyday role with Schultz’s expected departure), Seattle has sufficient cap space to make one or two splashy top-six additions. Perhaps it’ll shop the final year of Brandon Tanev’s $3.5 million AAV to manufacture even more wiggle room.

2024-25 salaries: $64,550,000
RFAs estimate: $12.84 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Ivan Provorov retention ($2.025 million), Mike Richards termination penalty ($700,000)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Matt Roy, Viktor Arvidsson, Cam Talbot, Trevor Lewis
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $10.6 million

Rob Blake’s one-for-one trade to send Pierre-Luc Dubois to Washington for Darcy Kuemper helped the Kings get rid of an anchor contract and address the starting goalie position in one fell swoop. Now, L.A. enters the offseason with enough money to upgrade the skater group, especially up front.

Losing pending UFA Matt Roy would be a significant blow but with prospect Brandt Clarke coming on the right side, those cap dollars could be better spent on adding scoring pop. The Kings can also open up a bit more cap room than we’ve projected if they bridge Quinton Byfield this summer instead of extending him to a long-term deal.

2024-25 salaries: $72,726,397
RFAs estimate: $4.73 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Ilya Kovalchuk cap recapture ($250,000)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Brendan Smith, Kaapo Kähkönen
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $10.55 million

The Devils had one major task entering the offseason, and they’ve already accomplished it. Jacob Markstrom, after months of prelude, is their new starting goaltender. His presence solves a years-old problem and raises expectations even higher.

The Flames retaining salary was a nice bit of added value for Tom Fitzgerald, giving him even more space to figure out a plan for RFA Dawson Mercer and add some reinforcements on the wing and the bottom defensive pair. New Jersey’s time to win is now, and it has the salary structure in place to make that happen.

2024-25 salaries: $77,533,750
RFAs estimate: None
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Jonathan Drouin, Sean Walker, Brandon Duhaime, Joel Kiviranta, Yakov Trenin, Jack Johnson, Caleb Jones
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $10.47 million

Colorado’s cap picture is quite uncertain.

There still isn’t any clarity on whether Gabriel Landeskog will become healthy enough to play for next season – he’s not on LTIR for now to account for the possibility of his return. Valeri Nichushkin doesn’t count against the cap right now because of his suspension. But he’s eligible to be reinstated around November, and if he clears the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program, his $6.125 million will automatically land back on the Avalanche’s books. That would, of course, eat up a majority of the $10.55 million of space Colorado currently projects to have.

With only seven forwards and four defenders signed, the Avs will likely have to move money out to re-sign Jonathan Drouin.


Will a Mitch Marner trade impact the Maple Leafs’ salary-cap outlook? (James Carey Lauder / USA Today)

2024-25 salaries: $69,169,667
RFAs estimate: $8.57 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, T.J. Brodie, Mark Giordano, Joel Edmundson, Ilya Lyubushkin, Ilya Samsonov, Matt Murray, John Klingberg
Problem contract: Morgan Rielly ($7.5 million AAV for six seasons)
Projected cap space: $10.26 million

The elephant in the room — not just for the Maple Leafs, either — is Mitch Marner. Moving on from him would fundamentally change Toronto’s outlook on and off the ice. With him still in the fold, the task will be to stretch about $10 million into two relevant wingers, a No. 4/5 defenseman and perhaps a middle-six center. Good luck with that. The Leafs are a good team with tons of holes and not enough space on hand to fill them all. Will they pick and choose, or will they do something drastic?

A note: We’re penciling defenseman Timothy Liljegren in for an extension worth a bit more than $4 million annually.

2024-25 salaries: $71,753,741
RFAs estimate: $7 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Joe Pavelski performance bonus ($2 million), Thomas Harley ELC bonus ($637,500)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Matt Duchene, Chris Tanev, Joe Pavelski, Craig Smith, Jani Hakanpää, Scott Wedgewood
Problem contract: Tyler Seguin ($9.85 million AAV for three seasons), Jamie Benn ($9.5 million AAV for one season)
Projected cap space: $9.25 million

After a huge breakout season, will the Stars re-sign RFA defender Thomas Harley to a long-term extension or will they bridge him on a shorter deal to keep his AAV lower? For now, we’ve assumed the latter since Dallas has a few key needs and not a whole lot of cap space to go around.

Extending Chris Tanev, or finding a comparable right-handed shutdown defender, will be a top priority. That will immediately eat a big chunk of the club’s cap space. It’d be nice to land an impact top-nine forward to help replace Duchene and the retiring Pavelski, but the Stars also need to sign a backup and fill out a couple of depth roster spots, so they may have to go bargain shopping.

20. Washington Capitals 

2024-25 salaries: $84,265,000
RFAs estimate: $3.78 million
LTIR candidates: Nicklas Backstrom ($9.2 million)
Dead money deals: Evgeny Kuznetsov retention ($3.9 million)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Max Pacioretty, Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Problem contract: Tom Wilson ($6.5 million AAV for six seasons)
Projected cap space: $9.16 million

Clearly GM Brian MacLellan has prioritized improving his roster in meaningful ways for next season. Trading for Pierre-Luc Dubois and his mammoth contract is a gamble, but a sensible one given the context.

If the goal is still winning as many games as possible on the final leg of Alex Ovechkin’s record chase, placing Backstrom on LTIR will help. There could be more room on the way, too, depending on the next step for T.J. Oshie. Beyond that, adding some serious help on the wings and a second-pair defenseman would go a long way. Another center wouldn’t hurt, either.

2024-25 salaries: $77,966,667
RFAs estimate: $2.03 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Connor Brown performance bonus ($3.225 million), James Neal buyout ($1.91 million, Corey Perry performance bonus ($325,00)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Adam Henrique, Warren Foegele, Connor Brown, Mattias Janmark, Corey Perry, Sam Carrick, Sam Gagner, Vincent Desharnais, Troy Stecher, Calvin Pickard
Problem contract: Darnell Nurse ($9.25 million AAV for six seasons), Jack Campbell ($5 million AAV for three seasons)
Projected cap space: $8 million

The Oilers need to make moves to open up more cap space because $8 million isn’t enough to build Stanley Cup-caliber depth when you’ve only got seven forwards and five defenders signed for next season.

Buying Jack Campbell out and shipping Cody Ceci out seem like logical decisions to free up an additional $7.15 million. From there, Edmonton will need to rebuild its bottom six because Adam Henrique, Mattias Janmark, Connor Brown, Corey Perry and Warren Foegele are all pending UFAs. Landing a top-four right-handed defenseman also needs to be a priority.


What can the Penguins do this summer to ice a competitive team around Sidney Crosby? (Mitchell Leff / Getty Images)

2024-25 salaries: $77,254,342
RFAs estimate: $4 million
LTIR candidates: Matt Nieto ($900,000)
Dead money deals: Jeff Petry retention ($1.56 million), Jack Johnson buyout ($916,667)
Notable unsigned UFAs: None
Problem contract: Ryan Graves ($4.5 million AAV for five seasons)
Projected cap space: $7.65 million

Cap space doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue for Pittsburgh as no-movement clauses; Rickard Rakell and Reilly Smith — two aging, underperforming middle-six wingers — both have $5 million cap hits and partial NMCs. That adds a degree of difficulty to Kyle Dubas’ attempt to make one last push during Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s productive years.

There are no glaring holes in the lineup; the issue is that it’s a lineup that failed to make the postseason two years running. The bright side for Dubas is that even if Smith and Rakell stick around, he has enough space to add another relevant winger or two. If he does that, the roster will make a lot more sense. Either way, something needs to change.

2024-25 salaries: $66,325,000
RFAs estimate: $14.96 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Alex Wennberg buyout ($891,667)
Notable unsigned UFAs: None
Problem contract: Elvis Merzlikins ($5.4 million AAV for three seasons)
Projected cap space: $6.71 million

New Blue Jackets GM Don Waddell has plenty of RFAs to worry about, including leading goal scorer Kirill Marchenko. The bigger problem for Waddell, though, is that Marchenko only scored 23 times. Columbus has some talented young pieces, but none of them (outside Adam Fantilli) are slam-dunk foundational guys, and the overall lineup is a mess. Waddell has also already ruled out the possibility of trading Elvis Merzlikins due to a lack of interest from other teams.

It’s an intriguing amount of space, though, and that’s with Patrik Laine still on the books. Laine ($8.7 million cap hit) has requested a trade, and Columbus can retain enough salary to create some options.

2024-25 salaries: $64,125,833
RFAs estimate: $17.5 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Jake Guentzel, Teuvo Teravainen, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Jordan Martinook, Stefan Noesen, Tony DeAngelo
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $6.4 million

As of this moment, Carolina hasn’t traded pending RFA Martin Necas. That may well come to pass, but for the sake of this exercise, we’re assuming he signs a long-term extension for about $7.5 million annually (along with a similar deal for fellow RFA Seth Jarvis).

If Necas is moved, as expected, Carolina will free up more (currently theoretical) space to either retain some of its own free agents or pursue new ones for the bottom two defensive pairs and top nine. The Canes could use it. Adding goal-scoring, as often has been the case for Carolina, needs to be a priority.

2024-25 salaries: $87,196,428
RFAs estimate: $1.7 million
LTIR candidates: Ryan Ellis ($6.25 million)
Dead money deals: Kevin Hayes retention ($3.57 million for two seasons)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Erik Johnson, Marc Staal, Denis Gurianov
Problem contract: Sean Couturier ($7.75 million AAV for six seasons)
Projected cap space: $5.35 million

In terms of importance, nothing Philadelphia does on the open market will approach adding impact forward prospect Matvei Michkov a bit earlier than expected. Either way, there’s not much of a reason for Daniel Briere to dip his toe in the pool. The Flyers seem to be more focused on figuring out which of their higher-profile players will stick on the roster as the retool enters its next phase.

It’s worth watching Ryan Johansen here as well. He currently counts $4 million against the Flyers’ cap, but certainly doesn’t seem to be in their plans. A buyout seems less likely than LTIR and would save Philly an extra $2.66 million.

2024-25 salaries: $75,151,524
RFAs estimate: $7.67 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Blake Wheeler, Alex Wennberg, Jack Roslovic, Erik Gustafsson, Chad Ruhwedel
Problem contract: Jacob Trouba ($8 million AAV for two seasons)
Projected cap space: $5.18 million

The Rangers aren’t quite bumped up against the cap, but they don’t have enough free money at the moment to make a splash, either — and if we take Chris Drury at his word, that seems to be the goal.

That said, $5 million or so after dealing with RFA D-men Ryan Lindgren and Braden Schneider isn’t enough to reel in, say, Jake Guentzel. It’s probably not enough to add two lower-profile, still-decent wingers, either. Moving Kaapo Kakko ($2.4 million AAV) would get them closer, but some more creativity is probably necessary to create the space for a true shake-up.

2024-25 salaries: $81,743,588
RFAs estimate: $1.63 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Zach Parise buyout ($7.371 million), Ryan Suter buyout ($7.371 million)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Alex Goligoski, Dakota Mermis, Jake Lucchini
Problem contract: Filip Gustavsson ($3.75 million AAV for two seasons), Frederick Gaudreau ($2.1 million AAV for four seasons)
Projected cap space: $4.63 million

This is the final summer where Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s buyouts combine for a crippling $14.7 million dead cap charge on Minnesota’s books. Relief is on the way, but Bill Guerin faces one more offseason where things are tight.

The Wild have enough room to target a middle-six forward upgrade, but that’s about it. Anything more than that will require shipping out a contract like Filip Gustavsson’s.

28. Tampa Bay Lighting

2024-25 salaries: $82,665,000
RFAs estimate: $862,900LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Steven Stamkos, Anthony Duclair, Tyler Motte, Calvin de Haan, Matt Dumba, Haydn Fleury, Austin Watson
Problem contract: Erik Cernak ($5.2 million AAV for seven seasons)
Projected cap space: $4.6 million

If the Lightning want to use every cent of currently available cap space on Steven Stamkos, they’ll be able to pay him $5.335 million annually. It’s almost impossible to imagine a world in which that happens, even considering Julien BriseBois’ record of cap sorcery. Factor in an RFA deal or two (as we did with Gage Goncalves here) and the margin gets even smaller.

The obvious choice here is between 1) sending out a contract and hoping Stamkos (still) takes less than market value and 2) letting a franchise icon walk while trying to spend that money on two middle-six options since the Lightning have nearly none of them in the fold.

2024-25 salaries: $77,966,667
RFAs estimate: $1.74 million
LTIR candidates: Robin Lehner ($5 million)
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Jonathan Marchessault, Chandler Stephenson, Anthony Mantha, Michael Amadio, William Carrier, Alec Martinez
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $4.46 million

Once again, the Golden Knights are walking a tightrope with their cap situation. They’re already close to the ceiling and have several impact forwards hitting the market, led by Jonathan Marchessault, who scored 42 goals this year. Vegas probably can’t extend him without making a cap-clearing trade.

Zach Whitecloud, who makes $2.75 million on the bottom pair, could be a trade candidate if the Golden Knights go down that route. Shea Theodore is entering the final year of his bargain $5.25 million AAV contract. If Vegas doesn’t think it can afford Theodore’s massive upcoming UFA contract, it may be worthwhile to trade him for value now rather than risk losing him for nothing later, especially now that Noah Hanifin is in the fold.


Matching seven-year, $59.5 million contracts for Mark Scheifele and Connor Hellebuyck kick in next season. (James Carey Lauder / USA Today)

2024-25 salaries: $79,247,024
RFAs estimate: $4.95 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Blake Wheeler buyout ($2.75 million)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Tyler Toffoli, Sean Monahan, Brenden Dillon, Laurent Brossoit, Colin Miller
Problem contract: Nate Schmidt ($5.95 million AAV for one season), Neal Pionk ($5.875 million AAV for one season)
Projected cap space: $3.8 million

With Connor Hellebuyck and Mark Scheifele’s lucrative new extensions kicking in, the Jets’ cap situation is crunchier than you might expect. Winnipeg needs to re-sign Monahan or find a second-line center replacement, re-sign Brenden Dillon or find a top-four replacement and sign a backup goalie. That doesn’t even include the impact of Tyler Toffoli’s expected departure.

Nikolaj Ehlers is reportedly being shopped – trading him would potentially open up $6 million, but it’d also leave a significant top-six hole in the lineup. Buying Nate Schmidt out could be a way to carve out some much-needed flexibility.

31. Ottawa Senators

2024-25 salaries: $76,699,047
RFAs estimate: $7.8 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: Joonas Korpisalo retention ($1 million), Colin White buyout (minus-$625,00 in ’24-25)
Notable unsigned UFAs: Dominik Kubalik
Problem contract: None
Projected cap space: $3.5 million

The Sens could sit on their hands for the rest of the offseason and still come out as one of the biggest winners. Acquiring Linus Ullmark and dumping most of Joonas Korpisalo’s contract in one fell swoop was a thing of beauty. With their single biggest issue freshly resolved, they can figure out what to do with trade candidate defenseman Jakob Chychrun (one year remaining at $4.6 million).

After that, it’ll be about improving around the margins and, once again, figuring out a longer-term deal with Shane Pinto, whose gambling suspension derailed last year’s attempt.

32. New York Islanders

2024-25 salaries: $82,187,500
RFAs estimate: $2.85 million
LTIR candidates: None
Dead money deals: None
Notable unsigned UFAs: Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin, Sebastian Aho, Robert Bortuzzo, Mike Reilly
Problem contract: Jean-Gabriel Pageau ($5 million AAV for two seasons)
Projected cap space: $2.96 million

There’s no particularly easy route to improvement on the Island, which is why buyout speculation has coalesced around Jean-Gabriel Pageau. We didn’t incorporate that in our calculations for the Isles, because it’s foolish to assume anything with Lou Lamoriello, but the move would save them an additional $2.75 million for 2024-25.

Pageau is overpaid but still an OK third-liner, so it’s fair to wonder whether the juice would be worth the squeeze. Anders Lee, on the other hand, has more trade value and makes $6 million. That’s not an irrelevant amount of money — and while sending out a captain is always an odd thought, there aren’t a ton of alternatives.

(Photo of Blackhawks GM Kyle Davidson and Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)