By Allan Muir
The thing that many people asked after hearing that Pittsburgh had traded for Jarome Iginla -- right after "What just happened?" and "Who's he gonna play with?"-- was, "Wait...how can the Penguins afford another $7 million player?"
Even Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle was stunned by that aspect of the blockbuster deal.
"Where are they getting all the money?" he wondered. "I'm sure everybody's asking that, because they’ve added three pretty big pieces to their hockey club."
The truth is, when it came to assuming expiring contracts like Iginla's, Brenden Morrow's and Douglas Murray's, the Pens had plenty of room under the cap. In fact, they still do. By the time deadline day rolls around next Wednesday, they'll have the space to assume more than $17 million worth of annual average contract value (AAV). That's more than enough to add another superstar or two to what already looks like the league's deepest lineup.
And they're not alone.
According to the mathematical wizards at capgeek.com, there are 26 teams with the ability to assume at least $10 million in AAV, ranging from San Jose ($13 million) to St. Louis ($85 million).
Because of the shortened season, the trade deadline comes later than usual. That means teams looking to buy are on the hook for a smaller percentage of a player's contract, approximately $148,000 for every million dollars owed. So Iginla basically "cost" the Penguins $1,034,726.21 in cap space.
In the grand scheme, it's nothing. And that helps open the doors for business.
Boston, a team that's been swinging for the fences in an effort to add talent, has more than $27 million worth of AAV space under the cap. Chicago has more than $15 million. The defending champion Kings have nearly $38 million.
The rest of the league varies from $13 million (San Jose) to $85 million (St. Louis).
Of course, it doesn't matter how much space you have if there's nothing to spend it on, or if the price to acquire the talent is too high. But outside of Vancouver, which would have to move a contract out in order to obtain the top-six help up front that it needs, the cap won't be an issue ahead of the deadline.
Of course, that changes if a player has additional years on his contract. In that case, it all depends on the team and the term, but with the cap dropping to $64.3 million next season means those players could be tougher to move. MORE: What each team needs to do down the stretch