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Highest payrolls

Joe Thornton and Evgeni Nabokov are two reasons for San Jose's big cap number this season. (Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Joe Thornton and Evgeni Nabokov are two reasons for San Jose's big cap number this season. (Photo by: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

With so much talk surrounding the current state of the global economy, there couldn’t be a better time for THN to discuss the NHL economy. Luckily we do so in our recently completed annual Bucks and Pucks issue coming to your door and newsstands soon.

In that economic vein, this week’s Top 10 focuses on the 10 highest team cap payrolls (ordered by remaining cap space), offering up a little analysis for each on what got the teams to where they are and what their cap-futures hold.

Remember, all numbers are cap hits - not actual salaries. Thanks to nhlscap.com for the info.

10. Montreal – Cap payroll: $55,635,300 - Cap Space: $1,064,699
• Biggest cap hits are both defensemen – Andrei Markov at $5.75 million and Roman Hamrlik at $5.5 million.
• Five highest-paid forwards range from $3.25 million for Andrei Kostitsyn to $5.25 million for Alex Tanguay.
• Young and cheap goalie tandem accounts for less than $3 million combined.

Montreal has just 10 players and $22,520,834 locked-up for next season. So the Habs’ 100th summer will include a spending spree, but whether that involves signing familiar or new faces will depend on performances this season.

9. Detroit – Cap payroll: $55,723,333 - Cap Space: $976,667
• Defending and favored-to-repeat champs are so wary of the cap they’re only carrying 21 players.
• Nicklas Lidstrom and prized summer signing Marian Hossa lead the way at $7.45 million
• Pavel Datsyuk and Brian Rafalski are next in line at $6.7 million and $6 million respectively
• Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin combine for about a $2.17-million cap hit, less than 10 other individuals on the roster

The Red Wings will unlikely be able to keep their current roster intact moving forward. There’s already $41 million-plus on the books for next season and up for free agency are Hossa, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Jiri Hudler, Mikael Samuelsson, Tomas Kopecky and Conklin.

8. Pittsburgh – Cap Payroll: $55,945,067 - Cap Space: $754,933
• Sidney Crosby leads the cap barrage at $8.7 million – Evgeni Malkin will get there next season – with Sergei Gonchar and Marc-Andre Fleury next at $5 million.
• Strong nucleus of Crosby, Malkin, Whitney, Orpik and Fleury signed through at least 2012-13.
• Have overpaid for bit players such as Satan, Fedotenko and Eaton.

With just 12 players signed for almost $42 million next season, the club could turn into a one-and-done option for players looking to bump their offensive totals. And with the likes of Staal and Sykora among those without contracts for 2009-10 and beyond, cap problems look like they’ll be an ongoing issue in Steeltown, USA.

7. Boston – Cap payroll: $56,019,999 - Cap Space: $680,001
• Chara leads the cap charge at $7.5 million.
• Bergeron, Ryder, Sturm and Wideman combine for another $16.19 million.
• Backup goaltender Fernandez eats another $4.3 million.

The Bruins have about $44 million already in place for next season. They’ll need to decide on and sign a No. 1 goalie along with young forwards Kessel and Krejci, but otherwise the core will be intact.

6. St. Louis – Cap payroll: $56,025,832 - Cap Space: $674,168
• For a rebuilding team, the Blues sure aren’t spending like one.
• 30-and-over club members Kariya, Tkachuk, McDonald, McKee, Mason and Legace combine for $22.5 million in cap space.
• Backes, Oshie, Berglund, Perron and Pietrangelo would normally max-out at around $850,000 each, but account for closer to a combined $7.25 million in cap space because bonuses go towards the cap this season.

The Blues are well-heeled for the future with just $41 million on the books next season. Contracts for older players are expiring over the next two seasons and most of the young core is signed-on and nowhere near unrestricted free agency.

5. Washington – Cap payroll: $56,031,101 Cap Space: $668,899
• The Caps are so capped-out (sorry) they had to leave young, NHL-ready defenseman Karl Alzner and his $1.675 million in the American League
• Aging veterans Fedorov ($4 million), Nylander ($4.9 million), Theodore ($4.5 million) and Poti ($3.5 million) take up a lot of cap room
• The rest pretty much goes to Ovechkin ($9.54 million), Green ($5.25 million) and Semin ($4.6 million)

The Capitals are at about $42 million for next season. They have Ovechkin for 12 more years, Semin for one more before becoming an RFA and Green for three more before he becomes an RFA. They also control the cap destinies of young forwards Backstrom and Laich until Backstrom becomes an RFA in two seasons and Laich a UFA in three seasons.

4. Chicago – Cap payroll: $56,050,541 - Cap Space: $649,459
• Cap troubles stem from bonus-laden entry level contracts to young stars Kane and Toews (totaling $6.525 million) and by inability to trade Khabibulin’s $6.75-million cap hit.
• Havlat, Campbell and Huet combine for $19 million.

Chicago is in good shape going forward. Almost $13 million comes off the books next season as the Havlat and Khabibulin contracts expire, leaving less than $39 million tied up. All of which means the Hawks will have enough cap room to build around their young talent.

3. Anaheim – Cap payroll: $56,073,333 Cap Space: $626,667
• Sometimes-retired/sometimes-captain Scott Niedermayer leads with a $6.75 million cap hit
• Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz, Pronger and Giguere take up almost $27 million

Anaheim faces big cap problems moving forward. Only seven players currently on the NHL roster are signed for next season and they account for about $32.5 million in cap space. Granted, those players include three top-six forwards, a top defenseman and a No. 1 goalie, but Burke – or whoever is GM next season – will essentially have to build an entire team for a little more than $20 million. Not an easy task.

2. San Jose – Cap payroll: $56,175,834 Cap Space: $524,166
• Top four forwards – Thornton, Marleau, Michalek and Cheechoo – account for almost $21 million.
• Top three blueliners –Boyle, Blake and Ehrhoff – nearly $15 million hit.
• The rest of the San Jose roster is either very young or very old because those guys come fairly cheap.

The Sharks have young players such as Michalek, Vlasic and Murray locked up long term, but will have $10 million or less to spend next season on as many as nine players needed to fill out the NHL roster, even with Blake’s $5 million coming off the books.

1. NY Rangers – Cap payroll: $55,714,676 Cap Space: $285,324 (incl. $700,000 cap penalty)
• Too few players taking up too much cap space.
• Gomez, Drury, Naslund, Redden, Rozsival and Lundqvist count for almost $37 million against the cap.

The Blueshirts have some serious holes to fill with $40 million already accounted for next season and just nine NHL players signed. If the high-priced stars up front and on the blueline don’t pull their cap weight, this team will have a tough time retooling.

The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.

If you enjoy this feature, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine for the exclusive countdown, Starting From 10, and other great features from the world of hockey.

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