Race to the salary floor: Four teams still have cash to spend to compete

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While we’ve been busy taking a look at the cap room a handful of teams will have next year and the lack of cap room others have, there’s still a few more teams that have a lot of money left to spend so that they too can compete this year. Four teams are still under the NHL salary floor of $48.3 million and with most, if not all, of the prime free agent targets signed these teams could be facing a bit of a bind.

Who are those four? CapGeek.com has us covered in knowing who they are and how much they’ve got left to spend. We’ll take a look at each team’s scenario and just what they’ve got left to do to cover the rest of their payroll bill to play next season.

New York Islanders

The Isles have over $9 million left to spend to get to the salary floor. CapGeek lists the Islanders as having just over $39 million committed to next season’s payroll and for a team that’s got most of their roster set for next season, that’s a bit of an issue. To help chip away at that daunting amount, the Islanders have four restricted free agents left to sign. Josh Bailey and Blake Comeau will get a decent pay day once they’re signed to new deals but Micheal Haley won’t get paid much at all and likely ends up in the AHL. Jesse Joensuu has already departed to play in Sweden.

Making things more fun for the Islanders is the talk of bringing back former captain and major buyout victim Alexei Yashin. Yashin is reportedly being offered a deal around $2 million but the stunning part about that is he’s already being paid $2.2 million by the Islanders for the next four years thanks to being bought out back in 2007. Whoops.

If Yashin is signed by the Islanders again, he’ll be double dipping on the team and still unlikely to help them reach the salary floor. That is unless they offered him a contract similar to the one that got the Isles in so much trouble the last time around. Of course, if things play out like that they’ll have to completely rebuild the Nassau Coliseum really fast after hordes of angry Isles fans burn it to the ground.

If the Isles can acquire a defenseman worth a couple million in a deal and get Bailey and Comeau re-signed to improved deals and bring in Yashin, they’ll get closer to the $48.3 million they need to reach the floor. Finding another team to deal with for a defenseman might be tricky and the isles seem unlikely as an option to bring back newly unrestricted free agent Chris Campoli.  It’s never a dull moment on the Island.

source: APNashville Predators

Nashville’s situation can get figured out really fast and really easily. The Predators payroll is sitting at $41.2 million, just over $7 million from the salary floor and they’ve got one really big restricted free agent left to get signed in captain Shea Weber. Weber is one of the top defensemen in the NHL and more than worthy of a big raise and a long term deal with the Preds.

Weber should get a contract somewhere in the range of $6 million-$7 million per year against the cap and with that coupled up with potentially Ryan Ellis making the Predators roster and bringing his entry level deal worth over $1.4 million against the cap the Predators are shaping up just fine to be in compliance with the floor.

The key is getting Weber’s deal done and while the Preds are a frugal team that doesn’t break the bank for anyone, doing so for Weber makes a lot of sense. He’s their best player, the team captain, and he loves playing in Nashville. While the Preds may have headaches next season dealing with Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne, it’s not as if they’re pushed up against the cap. Time to “get ‘er done” in Nashville.

source: Getty ImagesColorado Avalanche

The Avalanche aren’t too far off from getting things done. Colorado’s payroll is at $45.4 million putting them about $2.8 million off from reaching the salary floor. The Avalanche have just one restricted free agent left to get signed in defenseman Kyle Cumiskey. Cumiskey’s potential deal likely won’t pay him enough to get the Avs to the floor but there’s another guy waiting in the wings that could solve all of Colorado’s problems.

2011 first round pick Gabriel Landeskog is a distinct possibility to make the team in his first year out of junior hockey and should he do that, his first-year entry-level contract will come with a cap hit of over $3 million as the second overall pick in the draft. The trick there is that Colorado still has to sign him to it and then he’ll have to make the team out of training camp. If he does that, the Avs salary floor worries are all taken care of and the addition of Cumiskey’s deal will push them over the floor limit.

source: Getty Images

Phoenix Coyotes

Phoenix doesn’t have much to do to get over the salary floor. With a payroll currently at $47.8 million, the Coyotes only have just over $430,000 left to spend to break the barrier. With restricted free agents Kyle Turris and Mikkel Boedker left to get signed, it’s mathematical that the Coyotes will get over the salary floor. Even if somehow both Turris and Boedker signed contracts worth the league minimum they’d go flying past the salary floor and into compliance.

As it is, the Coyotes will be looking to Turris to have the breakout season they’ve been waiting on since drafting him third overall in 2007. Turris has had his ups and downs in Dave Tippett’s system in Phoenix and being rushed to the NHL under Wayne Gretzky’s watch in 2007-2008 did him no favors. Boedker similarly could use a breakout year as well and he too has struggled under Tippett’s watch. They’ll get paid, but they may not be long for the desert if things don’t pick up.

Into the fire: Halak, recalled yesterday, starts for Isles in Pittsburgh

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A little scene setting for you.

New York heads into tonight’s massive game in Pittsburgh sitting two points back of Boston for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference. The Isles have two games in hand on the B’s — who are idle tonight — so a win could move them into a playoff spot.

As such, the Isles will start a goalie that hasn’t played in the NHL in 85 days.

Against the league’s highest-scoring offense.

The goalie in question is Jaroslav Halak, who’s spent the last three months playing for the Isles’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport. Recalled yesterday, Halak will now face big league competition for the first time since Dec. 29, when he allowed four goals on 24 shots in a loss to Minnesota.

(Afterward, then-head coach Jack Capuano ripped Halak, saying he gave up “some soft goals to start” and “wasn’t sharp at all.”)

But Halak’s been really good in Bridgeport.

He’s posted a 17-7-1 record with a 2.15 GAA and .925 save percentage, and a pair of shutouts. And given how spotty Berube’s play has been as Greiss’ backup, the Isles really had no other choice than to recall Halak.

The club is in the midst of a compacted part of the schedule. Greiss was excellent in Wednesday’s win over the Rangers — stopping 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 victory — but he was also busy.

The Isles are in Pittsburgh tonight, then host the Bruins on Saturday — another massive game — then host the Preds on Monday. It’s a compact part of the schedule, and Berube’s struggles have rendered him virtually unplayable, given how meaningful the games are (and, to borrow a timeless cliche, how vital points are at this time of the year.)

So it’s Halak tonight, and possibly more down the stretch.

For Tuukka Rask and the Bruins, a ‘bad goal’ at the worst possible time

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The growing ranks of Tuukka Rask detractors gained some serious ammunition during last night’s loss to Tampa Bay.

The deciding goal in the 6-3 defeat was a “bad one,” according to Rask and most anyone else who was watching.

It may have been a hard shot by Jonathan Drouin, unleashed at the top of the circle, but it still should’ve been stopped.

After the game, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters that Rask “needed to be better tonight.”

In fact, Rask hasn’t been very good the past few months. Since Jan. 1, his save percentage is just .888. But with nobody trustworthy behind him, he’s had to just play through his struggles.

It’s impossible to say if Rask’s numbers would be better if the Bruins had a more capable backup. He’d be more rested, though. And when he was struggling, the coach would at least have another option to consider. With an .897 save percentage on the season, Anton Khudobin simply hasn’t been reliable enough to garner that consideration.

Don’t expect Rask to get the next game off. Saturday in Brooklyn, the Bruins — losers of four straight in regulation, and suddenly on the verge of falling out of the playoff picture — face the Islanders in arguably the biggest game of both teams’ seasons.

Bolts recall Koekkoek, putting Garrison’s status into doubt

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The Tampa Bay Lightning, after earning a big win last night in Boston, may not have defenseman Jason Garrison tonight in Detroit.

The Bolts recalled d-man Slater Koekkoek from AHL Syracuse this morning — a move that would seem to put Garrison’s status into doubt against the Red Wings.

Garrison was forced to leave the Bruins game in the second period with a lower-body injury.

Koekkoek has played 29 games for the Lightning this season, recording no goals and four assists.

Melnyk blasts ‘whiner’ Crosby, who won’t face hearing for Methot slash

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Sidney Crosby won’t face a disciplinary hearing for his slash on Ottawa d-man Marc Methot, an NHL spokesman confirmed — news that won’t be welcomed by Sens owner Eugene Melnyk.

The incident occurred during Ottawa’s 2-1 win on Thursday night, and forced Methot from the game with a bloodied, lacerated finger. The club later announced that Methot would be “out for weeks” with the injury.

Crosby’s slash came two nights after he speared Sabres forward Ryan O’Reilly below the belt. It should be noted that neither the O’Reilly spear or Methot slash resulted in penalty calls, and neither was subjected to supplementary discipline.

One individual that’s guaranteed to be upset with today’s news is Melynk. He appeared on TSN 1200 radio this morning and seemed to suggest the league was looking into the Crosby-Methot incident.

He also had a few choice words for No. 87: