How far does a dollar go in the new NHL?

Updated: September 28, 2006, 10:51 AM ET
By E.J. Hradek | ESPN The Magazine

When you can spend to the upper limit of the salary cap, you can push the envelope.

That's what I did in putting together my $44 million team in the current issue of ESPN The Magazine. I was able to get Ducky with my defense, choosing Anaheim blue-line aces Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. Those two earn a combined salary of $13 million. That's nearly 30 percent of my entire payroll on two players. Just like Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke, I believe those players were well worth it.

The good folks at ESPN.com wanted to see what I would do with a little less cash. With the top half of the salary cap set to rise to around that $44 million mark, the minimum will increase to about $28 million and the mid-range level will be approximately $36 million. So, I put together two more 22-man rosters. For one team, I could spend $36 million; the last team, $28.5 million.

With fewer dollars, I had to make some serious choices. There were some players that I could afford to have on all three teams, but I had to forget about having that Niedermayer-Pronger duo on my blue line. With less cash, I had to look for value in my selections.

I still think I have two pretty competitive teams. You be the judge.

E.J. HRADEK'S DREAM TEAMS
$44 MILLION ROSTER $36 MILLION ROSTER $28 MILLION ROSTER
On the high end of the salary cap, E.J. Hradek obviously has more freedom to sign more big-time free agents, including Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and the dynamic defensive duo of Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer. At the mid-range level of the salary cap, can our scouting guru keep his three power players and Sidney Crosby? Not likely, but Hradek can still find ways to be creative with his roster and remain competitive. On the low end of the cap, what are Hradek's choices? He finds out quickly he can take advantage of younger players who are still being paid the league minimum and still sign a power-play specialist like Sergei Zubov.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.