The Columbus Blue Jackets could use the ample room in their salary cap to sign key players to long-term extension and lure some big names from the free-agent market to make them more competitive next season.
"These are new waters for everybody," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "It's really interesting to see what's going to take place, because some teams are already over the cap limit and the summer hasn't even started yet."
"And other teams are well below the limit, and they're trying to find ways to use that to their benefit, too," Kekalainen added.
The Blue Jackets have a $19 million space in their salary cap which they could use to sign goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, center Artem Anisimov, Vinny Prospal and defenseman Adrian Aucoin.
Also, Kekalainen said the Blue Jackets could use the salary cap room to trade for established players this summer.
Aside from a huge salary cap room, the Blue Jackets also own three first-round selections in next month's draft that is expected to be loaded with talent.
"We're in a great spot in that we have draft picks and we have (salary-cap) room, and we have a very keen interest in making our team more competitive," Kekalainen said.
Kekalainen added that the Blue Jackets' hockey-operations department has put itself in the predicament of other clubs to forecast how it might attempt to get under the cap.
"We've gone through the process of what might happen," Kekalainen said. "We've tried to put ourselves in their shoes, see how we would handle it. There are teams who will have to make moves they might not want to make. We'll be ready when the time comes."
For the first time since the NHL instituted a salary cap in 2005, the cap is down from $70.2 million to $64.3 million.
Some teams are already above the cap, including the Philadelphia Flyers at $70.7 million, Montreal Canadiens at $65.7 million and Vancouver Canucks at $64.4 million.
Twelve other teams will exceed the cap if they re-sign prominent players with salaries equal to this season.
"When you're in a cap world, sometimes you just don't have choices," Washington Capitals general manager George McPhee told The Washington Post. "This is what you have to work with now, and if it doesn't fit (for the player) you move on, you get someone else. That's just the world we live in now."
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