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NHL 2013-14 Rosters: Analyzing Overall Roster & Cap Space

Only one of these guys currently has a contract.
Only one of these guys currently has a contract.
Gregory Shamus

We've rolled into August and the hockey world is mostly quiet, save for the odd move here or there. We're more than a month from the opening of training camps, but the Red Wings still have two restricted free agents to sign and have to make a bit of space.

I wanted to take a look around the entire league to see where other teams stand in terms of roster and cap space, so I went to Capgeek and dug through the numbers. While there's no roster limit during the offseason and teams may exceed the salary cap by up to $6.4M before the end of training camp, they will have to get down to a 23-man roster and a $64.3M total cap hit before the season starts. I broke each team down by roster size, forward & defensive spots, and cap space available.

[Last Updated August 3]

Team Roster Size Forward Spots Defense Spots Cap Space
Anaheim 24 -1 0 $4.3M
Boston 22 2 0 $2.9M
Buffalo 21 3 -1 $10.5M
Calgary 24 -1 0 $7.7M
Carolina 19 3 1 $4.9M
Chicago 21 2 0 $2M
Colorado 23 1 -1 $10.3M
Columbus 23 0 0 $2M
Dallas 23 0 0 $2.5M
Detroit 23 0 0 $1M
Edmonton 24 1 -2 $1.3M
Florida 24 -1 0 $12M
Los Angeles 24 1 -2 -$86K
Minnesota 22 1 0 $2.8M
Montreal 23 1 -1 $3.4M
Nashville 22* 0 0 $4.7M
New Jersey 23 0 0 $7.9M
NY Islanders 23 0 0 $15.6M
NY Rangers 24 0 -1 $2.2M
Ottawa 22 0 1 $11.3M
Philadelphia 25 1 -2 $2.9M
Phoenix 20 3 0 $6.9M
Pittsburgh 23 1 -1 -$1M
San Jose 22 1 0 -$400K
St. Louis 23 -1 1 $7.6M
Tampa Bay 21 2 0 $2.6M
Toronto 21 2 0 $4.9M
Vancouver 20 2 1 $4.3M
Washington 20 3 0 $5.7M
Winnipeg 23 1 -1 $2.3M

(*Nashville only has one goalie on their roster)

Notes on this list:

The assumption here is a team with 14 forwards and 7 defensemen. It's not unusual for teams to carry 13/8 instead. On completely healthy teams, 3 skaters are going to be scratched every night anyway, so there's a multitude of reasons either of these setups would be used by a GM at any given time. The teams that are carrying 13/8 right now are Colorado, Montreal, Pittsburgh, and Winnipeg.

I corrected both Boston and Philadelphia's numbers to reflect the Savard/Pronger situations. For all intents and purposes, those guys are retired and the $9M in cap space they're taking up is replaceable for those teams.

This list does not include unsigned RFAs for teams. Here's the by-team list.

Buffalo: Cody Hodgson (F) - Leaves BUF with 1 or 2 roster spots at F, depending on how many D they carry.
Colorado: They own the rights to F Tomas Vincour, but he signed in the KHL this summer.
Detroit: Joakim Andersson (F) and Gustav Nyquist (F) - Leaves DET 2 men over the forward limit.
New Jersey: Adam Henrique (F) - Leaves NJ one forward too many.
NY Islanders: David Ullstrom signed with the KHL.
NY Rangers: Derek Stepan (F) - Leaves NYR one forward too many.
Ottawa: Jared Cowen (D) - Would fill OTT's last remaining roster spot.
Phoenix: Mikkel Boedker (F) - PHX would still have two forward spots to fill.
St. Louis: Alex Pietrangelo (D) - Fills STL's defense out, leaves them needing to dump a forward.
Toronto: Nazem Kadri (F), Leo Komarov (F), and Cody Franson (D) - Komarov is KHL-bound. Signing both Kadri & Franson gives TOR a 13/8 ratio.
Vancouver: Chris Tanev (D) - Fills out VAN's D-corps, leaves them needing 2 forwards.
Washington: Marcus Johansson (F) - Leaves WSH needing 2 forwards.
Winnipeg: Alex Burmistrov (F) & Arturs Kulda (D) - Both appear to be playing in the KHL next season.

Crunching the Numbers

Assuming that all RFAs who aren't KHL-bound re-sign with their teams (which they likely all will), the leaguewide balance of players stands at 19F and -12D needed for every team to fit the 14/7 ratio. The 12 D-men too many portion isn't a concern. Of the teams carrying more than 7 defensemen, they all have people currently on the roster who can be sent down, many without having to clear waivers. Those that have players who would have to be waived have less to worry about because the overall defensive picture in the NHL is set and many teams won't be looking to snatch replacement-level players off the waiver wire before the season starts.

No fewer than 10 teams could be looking to fill a forward spot while 7 teams have players they have to get rid of. Of those seven, only St. Louis, Detroit, the Devils and the Rangers seem to have to worry about actually permanently losing players to make room and I'd say the Blues and Devils could easily pass the right guys through waivers. Despite the supply/demand disparity, I'm not sure many teams would be lining up to snatch Krys Barch or Ryan Reaves (I'm also not convinced that Cory Emmerton is a must-have for any team shopping the waiver wire, but Detroit has two spots too many).

The 10 teams with more forward openings than defensive overages are Boston, Buffalo, Carolina, Chicago, Minnesota, Phoenix, San Jose, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, and Washington. The Sharks are in an odd position needing one more forward while also needing to clear his salary plus an additional $400K of cap space in the process. They might start Martin Havlat on LTIR at the beginning of the season to give them more time to deal with it.

The remaining teams all have space, led by Buffalo and their $10.5M in cap space. Carolina, Washington, and Tampa Bay follow, trailing all the way down to Chicago's mere $2M. For what it's worth, I think a large chunk of Washington's $5.7M cap space will end up going to pay Mikhail Grabovski, but I've got nothing more than a hunch to go on that.

Speaking of free agents, a whole glut of forwards remain unsigned, including Damien Brunner, Chad Larose, Peter Mueller, Vinny Prospal, Brenden Morrow, Dan Cleary, and Simon Gagne.

The final wrinkle to iron out is which teams could fill their roster spaces from within. After all, if this were a seller's market, then we likely would have already seen moves. I'm not big on prospect rankings, but I watched enough of the Calder Cup Finals to see that at least one of Tampa's two spots could easily be filled by Richard Panik and/or Vladislav Namestnikov. Any of these teams could choose to move guys up, so any moves would have to make sense for them to take on salary over those prospects' which might get called up.

Tying it to the Wings, it seems as though Carolina and Phoenix might make the best trade partners in terms of teams who might actually be willing to part with something better than late-round condition-laden picks based on their needs. Buffalo might work out as well, but as they're now a division rival so I don't know if that happens. Between free agents and internal options, the Wings will probably have to focus on finding a willing taker rather than finding best value among the takers though.

If they can't find two takers, then they'll have to explore waiving players. Those who clear would give the team a maximum of $925K of salary relief (or 100% of their salary, whichever is lower). They could technically start the season with Gustav Nyquist in the AHL, since he's two NHL games shy of ending his waiver exemption, but I don't want to get worked up over that two months too early. If it happens, there'll be plenty of wailing and teeth-gnashing to go around at that time.

We've still got plenty of time to agonize over this before training camp ends and all teams have to be both roster and cap-compliant, but I know I'll feel better once Andersson and Nyquist are actually signed.