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Who Will Spend on Unrestricted Free Agents?

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We all know that there are certain teams that are very frugal (Nashville comes to mind) and there are other clubs that tend to spend every available dime under the salary cap.

So what I did is look at the last three seasons and figure the percentage of the cap maximum each team has spent between 2005-2008. Source: Irish Blues' NHLSCAP.com

In the last three years here is the % of cap max spent per team:
99.7% BOS
98.9% DET
98.5% PHI
97.8% COL
97.6% VAN
97.6% DAL
97.1% TOR
96.0% CGY
96.0% ANA
95.7% NJD
95.3% NYR
95.0% OTT
94.9% ATL
94.1% CHI
94.0% EDM
94.0% MON
92.7% TBL
91.5% LAK
89.2% NYI
89.1% CAR
88.1% BUF
87.3% SJS
86.5% MIN
85.5% STL
84.5% CBJ
83.7% FLA
83.3% PIT
82.7% PHO
78.5% NAS
73.9% WSH

Now if the past is an accurate indicator of how many money a franchise is willing to spend then we can use to that project each club's internal salary budget by multiplying the percentages above with the new upper limit number $56 million.

Now of course many teams already have millions committed so I subtracted out the minimal salary for each club. (If you want to see those numbers go here http://thrasherstalons.blogspot.com/2008/06/who-has-space-under-nhl-salary-cap.html)

What we have leftover is not cap space--but an estimate of how much money each team has leftover from the projected budget.

Budget Space/NHL Team
$20.9 COL
$20.8 ATL
$17.6 LAK
$16.4 CBJ
$15.3 VAN
$14.8 CHI
$14.7 NYI
$13.5 NYR
$13.4 DET
$10.5 NJD
$10.1 TOR
$09.2 TBL
$08.3 MON
$07.3 PIT
$07.2 BUF
$07.2 OTT
$07.1 BOS
$06.7 EDM
$06.1 PHX
$05.5 CGY
$05.4 FLA
$05.3 MIN
$04.1 CAR
$04.0 DAL
$03.9 PHI
$01.9 SJS
$01.0 STL
$00.0 ANA
$-01.2 WSH
$-02.1 NSH
Note: The negative numbers for NSH and WSH means they are already over their 3 year average. Re-signing their respective RFA like Ovechkin and Weber have pushed them both to spend more.

Analysis: What I find interesting about this exercise is that the teams with most projected budget money rarely get much mention here in the trade/free agent board. ATL, CBJ, CHI, NYI all have a TON on projected money to work with and could turn really surprise folks in early July if they do indeed choose to spend it all. Only one third of the 30 teams have a projected budget space greater than $10 million which is probably necessary to go after one of the really big name UFA (without moving some salary off their current roster).

Caveats: These estimates will be accurately only if the past spending is an good predictor of future spending. I can think of three teams: PIT, STL, TBL, WSH where I think they will spend more than in the past. I can think of two teams: TOR and perhaps LAK where they might spend less. So these numbers are all to be taken with a grain of salt.