Its difficult to say how Thursdays announcement that the NHL is raising its salary cap from to 64.3 million to 70.2 million will impact Sundays start of free agency.
With the current CBA set to expire on Sept. 15 there is a very real chance that salary cap number will be renegotiated during labor talks.
But even if it its a loose figure, the additional 6 million in cap space will undoubtedly give teams the freedom to sign players they might otherwise avoid.
The Capitals, for example, will arrive at Sundays free agent frenzy with 20.8 million in cap space, assuming they let Alexander Semin walk. Thats significant coin for a team that spent all of last season at the salary ceiling.
On Wednesday, Caps GM George McPhee dropped this interesting nugget when explaining his decision to trade defenseman Dennis Wideman instead of paying him the 26.25 million the Calgary Flames gave him over five years.
To have the cap space to do the right things, we werent going to be able to sign him, McPhee said.
So that means, at least in theory, the Caps have money targeted for someone else in free agency, right?
Not necessarily, says McPhee, noting the addition of second-line center Mike Ribeiro and the progression of rookie defenseman Dmitry Orlov as two significant pieces to the 2012-12 puzzle.
I think were in pretty good shape, McPhee said. We have good young goalies, the dee is complete, we added a skill guy. Well get into free agency like everybody else does, but if we dont do anything I wouldnt be disappointed. And if theres something there that makes sense at the right price, then well do it.
Well, NHL free agency is anything but The Price Is Right. Its more like The Price Is Over-Inflated But Were Willing To Pay It Because The Market Says We Must.
Truth is, Devils left wing Zach Parise, the top forward on the market, is going to command at least 8 million a season. And the Predators Ryan Suter, the top defenseman, will get similar money in a long-term deal.
Could the hiring of former Devils assistant Adam Oates help sway Parise away from front-runners Minnesota and Pittsburgh and convince him to sign with the Capitals?
Unfortunately, Im not allowed to talk about that, Oates said, because hes still employed with the team. So I better not.
Even McPhee admitted that having more than 20 million in cap space a few days before the free agent signing period is pretty tempting.
But it doesnt mean you have to use it all now, he says. You can use it during the season or at the 2013 trade deadline.
Its expensive to use it now. If you do something, its always more than the guys worth. The question is how much more and are you trying to trade him by November because he cost too much.
If the Capitals believe Parise and Suter are too expensive for their taste, how about the next level of free agents?
Goal-scoring forwards like Shane Doan, P.A. Parenteau, Dustin Penner, Ray Whitney and Lee Stempniak would be perfect complementary wingers to centers like Nicklas Backstrom and Ribeiro.
And on the back end, solid defensemen such as Matt Carle, Jason Garrison, Michal Roszival, Bryan Allen and Bryce Salvadore will be available to fill the Capitals need for a No. 4 defenseman who can bump Roman Hamrlik down to a better-suited No. 5 role.
Which way will McPhee and the Capitals go? How much of that 20 million will they spend? Do you believe they will make a run for Parise or Suter? Or should they go the less expensive route? Join the conversation below.