How’s this for a change of pace? While the NFL and NBA are embroiled in labor disputes that threaten their upcoming seasons, NHL clubs are gearing up to spend more money on salaries than they have since a lockout canceled a full campaign 6 years ago.
Harmony exists in hockey – at least for one more season – and the 30 teams will be living with a salary cap that is at its highest level since it was created. They can start shopping today when the free-agent season kicks off.
While not everyone will spend up to the $64.3 million cap, a $4.9 million increase over last season, each club will have to reach the minimum payroll of $48.3 million. That figure is $9.3 million higher than the original ceiling established after the seasonlong lockout in 2005.
“Lots of teams have lots of money to spend because the cap went up, which meant the floor went up,” Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee said. “Teams with money are going to have to spend, and the teams trying to get to the floor are going to have to spend. So somebody is going to spend too much money on free agents and I’m glad it’s not going to be us, because we’re in pretty good shape at this point.”
Dallas Stars center Brad Richards appears to be the rare gem in a free-agent class that contains many familiar names, but not a lot of elite talent.
The New York Rangers have long coveted Richards, who would give them the playmaking center they have been searching for and someone to quarterback an often stagnant power play. His familiarity with Rangers coach John Tortorella, who coached Richards when they won the Stanley Cup together with the Tampa Bay Lightning, makes this appear to be a natural fit.
* The Colorado Avalanche will retire Peter Forsberg’s number before the season opener on Oct. 8 against the Detroit Red Wings.
Forsberg’s number (21) will join those of Patrick Roy (33), Joe Sakic (19) and Ray Bourque (77) in the rafters at Pepsi Center.
The former NHL MVP attempted a comeback with the Avalanche last season, but pulled the plug on his career after a two-game audition because of a chronic foot ailment.
Forsberg, who played 1 1/2 seasons with the Flyers late in his career, helped the Avalanche to Stanley Cup titles in 1996 and 2001.