Our superficial journey begins in the Patrick Plus division. The "proper" name is clearly derived from its metropolitan hotbeds like Columbus, Ohio, and is differentiated from the Atlantic division by having no teams located on the Atlantic coast. Lets go down the list in order of their place last season, and see where they stand going into free agency.
13-14 charts use either the $64.3 million cap or what the team spent as 100%, whichever is larger. (Some exceeded the cap due to bonuses.) 14-15 charts assume a salary cap of $70 million, which I chose for being near what everyone has been saying and a nice round number. As always, you can click each graph to embiggen.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (109 points)
The Penguins, as you can see, spent fully 25% of their 2013-14 cap space on Crosby and Malkin, and then have a million guys for less than a million dollars apiece. They suffered a ton of injuries and what you're seeing there is a lot of AHL callups. They're very top heavy to begin with, though. For that reason, I'm combining Pittsburgh 13-14 into two categories: Good Lord Stop Getting Hurt and Topheavy.
Into the offseason, the Crosby-Malkin Factor actually gets worse as Malkin has a new deal kicking in for 14-15, and Letang's pay raise isn't helping matters either. They only have 14 roster players signed so far, and with only 2 RFAs remaining to lock down, the Penguins could be looking at a crunch here. Topheavy stands.
2. New York Rangers (96 points)
This is a well-balanced pie apart from how much of the cap is spent on Nash and Richards. I'm not too sure what to call this one apart from Cap Team. They would certainly have liked to see more from Richards for that price, and as such they've bought him out.
Next season's Rangers are still very much a mystery. They have 5 RFAs, including Zuccarello and Kreider, and now 100% less Brad Richards Salary weighing them down so the Rangers' options are very much open. Their 14-15 category is going down for me as Sign Some Fucking Players but if we notice closely how big Lundqvist's slice has (deservedly) gotten, and the history of Glen Slather to just roll up the dump truck full of money, Topheavy might not be too far off the horizon.
3. Philadelphia Flyers (94 points)
This was for 13-14 a Cap Team, albeit one lacking superstar salaries, with heavy emphasis on defense. 9% for Timonen was their biggest paycheck and that hardly breaks the bank. The Flyers weren't paid as world beaters, and they weren't paid as replacement level players either. Most of these guys are making pretty average money.
Giroux will be increasing his haul dramatically to 11.8%, which falls right in between Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang money. Before Chris Pronger's salary comes off the books, the Flyers are looking at about 6.5% of the cap available to spend. So they become a Cap('n) Crunch Team and we should expect more of the same from them, since they will by and large be the same team, if we don't see a bunch of trades this summer.
4. Columbus Blue Jackets (93 points)
Columbus masqueraded as a Cap Team, but if we look closely we see 7 defensemen and 11 forwards that made less than a million dollars apiece, implying injuries, a lack of depth, or both. However I'm willing to label them Balanced. They had players making decent money, they had discount and entry-level contracts, and they had some wiggle room at the end of the day.
However, now that top earner Gaborik is a Stanley Cup champ, Columbus not only lack top-end salaries, they have a ton of money to spend, which puts them somewhere in the grey area between Sign Some Fucking Players and Budget Team. They could be anywhere across the map next year. Keep an eye on RFA Ryan Johansen's deal to see what GM Jarmo Kekkalainen has in mind.
5. Washington Capitals (90 points)
Washington leaned a little on the Topheavy side of a Cap Team. About 40% of their cap goes into Ovechkin, Backstrom, Laich, and Green, and their graph is tough to distinguish from that of the Penguins. Which is problematic, given that the team missed the playoffs and will look pretty much the same next season at the top. There's a nice chunk of cash ready to be spent where the team needs it, but they look Topheavy for the foreseeable future.
6. New Jersey Devils (88 points)
The Devils missed the playoffs to a large degree because of their goaltending last season, to hear many around the league tell it. That's probably not far off, as they finished 25th in the league in SV%. Their graph is as full as that of a Cap Team but it is full of smallish to medium pieces, with lots of little ones; this leads me to slap them with the Thin label. That might not be fair, and as I don't follow the Devils much, maybe they just have a shitload of bargain deals. But knowing how much scoring pop they lost when Kovalchuk retired to Russia to go make roughly all of the rubles, that seems unlikely.
Where they're at moving forward is a little tough to say. They have enough contracts on the books as well as enough free space to almost look like a Bargain team, however they still have plenty of time to come back up to a Balanced, if not a Cap, Team. This one is very much still in flux, and that's good for them, since 6th in a crap division is no way to go through life.
7. Carolina Hurricanes (83 points)
What the Hurricanes gave us last year was a horrorshow amalgam of Topheavy and Thin. Half their cap space went to the Staals, Semin, Hockey Bieber, and Ruutu, and Ward's salary in 2014 is inexcusably high. After that, nothing at all. Their result was the logical outcome.
Losing Ruutu and Pitkanen to UFA are part of the reason they go into next season with a quarter of the cap to spend, but they've had quite a few contracts come off the books. After they sign (or don't) their 4 RFAs this summer, we can start to see what next season will look like, but they look destined to remain Topheavy, at least for now. At any rate the Hurricanes need a bunch of value signings and to find a way to lose that Cam Ward salary. (Why wasn't he amnestied? 9% of next season's cap. It boggles my mind. They could have James Reimer three times.)
8. New York Islanders (79 points)
This is exactly how I imagine a Budget Team is designed. Look at all that free space. Look at the beautiful fade in the forward salaries: from Tavares all the way down, it's very balanced, very structured. (Right, that word appears.) Unfortunately, the Islanders were middle of the road in possession this season, and combined that with a low SH% and goaltending good for 28th in the league. That's not going to win you many games.
This summer, big green pie slice Vanek finds himself without a team, as does Moulson, relatedly, and the forwards suddenly look mighty thin. But with the Islanders still needing to spend quite a bit of money to reach the salary floor, I'm not ready to brand them with anything other than Sign Some Fucking Players. Budget Team is going to be the most likely outcome though.
Stay tuned, as the Flortheast (aka Atlantic Division) gets labeled next, with the Western conference to come. It should be cool to compare and contrast the Avs #salarystructure with what we see around the league.