I've created a chart that lists the amount of money spent by each team against the cap over the next two years. For all of these calculations, I've included rookie bonuses in the cap number. The main reasons for this are that it's easier for me to do it this way and that many teams probably won't be able to afford the money in 2010-11 any better than they can this season. I've also included how many players each team has signed and then calculated how much money they have left to spend per roster spot assuming a 23-man roster. For 2010-11 I've assumed a cap of 55M (a rosy estimate I'd say). I recognize that there are many other ways for teams that are pressed against the cap to create more space. They can buy players out, send them to the minors, loan them to Europe, trade away a player with a larger cap hit, play with a 21 or 22 man roster etc. This chart doesn't factor in any of those things. Instead, it represents where each team is starting going into free agency. Without further ado, here are the teams that may be able to take on some salary, both this year and next (all cap numbers are from nhlnumbers.com, MS = Money Spent while SF = Slots Filled on the Roster):
As you may have noticed, I organized this chart based on how much the team has to spend per player in 2010-11. To give that figure some context, if every roster spot was given equal pay, each player would receive 2.391M. A lot of the teams on this list won't spend to the cap on personnel. Among those teams that could be expected to spend to the cap are Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Those teams should have a tremendous advantage going into free agency, to the point that they could get almost any player they'd like if they're willing to spend the money.
On the other side of the coin we have the teams that have less space both this year and next:
Here we laregly find teams that have dominant players eating up a large portion of the salary structure. We also find the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers, the only teams on this list that aren't paying at least one player 6M or more. So far, that hasn't been a winning strategy for either group. Philadelphia, at the bottom of the list, desperately needs to move some salary out. In fairness to them, I did include Mike Rathje in their cap number. If they bury him on the injured reserve they can afford to average $850,000 on their last five players. While that means their situation is not as bleak as the chart suggests, they probably are looking to move some salary away, most likely in the form of Daniel Briere. Philadelphia aside, all of these teams would probably need to move some salary out if they hoped to bring any elite players in.