The Detroit Red Wings, San Jose Sharks, Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks are in unfamiliar territory as the trade deadline approaches.
Unlike last season, when the salary cap severely restricted all four with regard to the moves they could make, money is little more than an afterthought for them with Monday's deadline rapidly approaching.
The Red Wings, who had less than a million in space last February and have long tiptoed around the upper limit, could bring in some $23 million in cap hits. The Blackhawks aren't far behind at $22 million, while the Bruins sit at a minimum of $13 million and the Sharks at close to $12 million.
While those are the four most extreme examples, many of the deadline's projected buyers have more cap space than they did last season, when a half-dozen clubs were feeling the pinch with less than $2.5 million available.
This year, almost every team could find a way to add $2 million or more.
Following is a breakdown of the annual averaged salary (full-season cap hit) each team can add if it waits until the deadline to make a move. These numbers are estimates based on best information available, and tagging rules can limit the amount of non-expiring contracts each team can acquire.
BUFFALO SABRES: $100k to $3.6m
The Sabres started the season with almost no cap space and little has changed. But if Jochen Hecht is going to be out until the end of the regular season, he gives them an additional $3.5 million in long-term injury relief.
PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: $890k to $1.47m
The Flyers exhausted much of their space when they took on close to $5.5 million in the cap hits of Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman. A demotion, such as Eric Wellwood, would give them close to $1.5 million.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS: $400k to $2.0m
The Canucks are in an almost identical position to last season, when they added Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre at the deadline to the tune of $2.5 million. It would take two demotions, but they could take on $2 million at the deadline. If Keith Ballard's injury will keep him out until the end of the regular season, his long-term injury exception could give them up to $6.2 million.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS: $900k to $7.6m
Washington has close to $1 million available, with an additional $1 million at their disposal if demotions occur. Putting Nicklas Backstrom on long-term injured reserve would open up an extra $6.7 million, but the Capitals will only do that if Backstrom is out until the end of the regular season.
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS: $2.8m to $11.5m
The Penguins' range in potential cap space is so massive because they technically have access to all kinds of room with Sidney Crosby on long-term injured reserve. But unless they know with some certainty he's out for the rest of the regular season, that space is basically useless. Assuming Crosby is on his way back, the Penguins could add roughly $2.8 million to their current roster.
CALGARY FLAMES: $2.3m to $4.8m
If the Flames were healthy, and not paying $2.5 million for four replacement players, they'd have approximately $2.6 million in cap space. With all four still on the roster, long-term injured reserve for Derek Smith and David Moss gives them $2.3 million in space. If they used LTI on Curtis Glencross, that number could swell to $4.9 million. The catch for the Flames is, the extra LTI space is of little benefit unless those players are out until season's end.
LOS ANGELES KINGS: $3.9m to $9.4m
The Kings can add roughly $3.9 million to their current roster without any salary leaving via trade or demotion, and roughly $5 million if they send down Dwight King and Jordan Nolan. But if they used long-term injury exemption on Simon Gagne and Scott Parse, they'd bump that up to $9.4 million.
TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS: $5.9m to $7.3m
NEW YORK RANGERS: $6.9m to $8.8m
New York is always a hotly rumored trade destination, and the Rangers' ample cap room only adds fuel to the fire. Already able to add $6.9 million, that number would become $8.8 million if they put Mike Sauer on long-term injured reserve until the end of the regular season and demoted Stu Bickel.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS: $10.6m-plus
Last year's No. 1 spender suddenly finds itself with ample cap room.
SAN JOSE SHARKS: $11.7m-plus
The Sharks can take on some big tickets, although contracts extending beyond this season could create tagging problems. They're a top spender for 2012-13, with $55.5 million already committed to 14 players.
BOSTON BRUINS: $13.2m-plus
The Bruins finessed their way around the salary cap last season, giving Marco Sturm to Los Angeles to stay below the upper limit and then using Marc Savard's long-term injury exemption to orchestrate a four-player swap with Atlanta that landed them Rich Peverley prior to the deadline. The cap is of little concern now, and they could even increase their $13.2 million in space by more than $4 million if they put Savard on long-term injured reserve once again.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: $22m-plus
The Blackhawks, famous for shedding millions of dollars after winning the 2010 Stanley Cup, don't have cap concerns like that anymore. Tagging would limit the amount of non-expiring contracts they could add, as they already have $54.9 million on the books for 17 players in 2012-13.
DETROIT RED WINGS: $23.5m-plus
Last season, the Red Wings' big deadline move was signing Evgeni Nabokov to a $570,000 contract because they didn't have space for more. That didn't pan out, as as the Islanders plucked Nabokov off waivers. If general manager Ken Holland is idle at the deadline, it won't be because of the cap.
OTHER TEAMS (ordered by playoff position as of Feb. 20)
• St. Louis Blues: $25m-plus
• Florida Panthers: $25m-plus
• Nashville Predators: $25m-plus
• Ottawa Senators: $25m-plus
• Phoenix Coyotes: $25m-plus
• Winnipeg Jets: $25m-plus
• Dallas Stars: $25m-plus
• Colorado Avalanche: $25m-plus
• Tampa Bay Lightning: $17.8m-plus
• New York Islanders: $25m-plus
• Minnesota Wild: $25m-plus
• Montreal Canadiens: $9.3m-plus
• Anaheim Ducks: $22m-plus
• Edmonton Oilers: $16.7m-plus
• Carolina Hurricanes: $25m-plus
• Columbus Blue Jacket: $6.7m-plus
CapGeek.com has a deadline tracker on its front page that monitors cap space based on the latest transactions right up to the deadline. For the latest on the cap impact of each team's roster moves, visit www.capgeek.com.