Playing around with Capgeek's Fantasy calculator, I decided to create my "ultimate team" under the salary cap. To not have the luxury of front-loaded low-cap-hit contracts, I used the raw salaries, not the cap hits, on each player's contract for next season. My philosophies are to go cheap on the goalies, to have a minute-munching shutdown second scoring line, to have defensively responsible lower forward lines, to draw lots of penalties, and to have strong puck-moving defensemen to press the attack. I think I made a hybrid Blackhawks '10-Red Wings '08 team.
Here's what I have:
Line 1: Zach Parise-Nicklas Backstrom-Mike Knuble
I think Backstrom can be a more dominant player if he doesn't have a dominant puck-carrying winger with him. Parise is a passable replacement for Ovechkin, taking lots of shots, winning puck battles in the corner, and sniping corners. Knuble is Knuble.
Line 2: Mike Richards-Pavel Datsyuk-Dustin Brown
I don't think a line of Alex Ovechkin-Sidney Crosby-Alexander Semin could outscore this line. Semin would end up in the penalty box due to a stick infraction on Dustin Brown, for sure, while Richards would wrap up Ovechkin and Datsyuk take care of Crosby. This line is plenty tough and has tremendous potential in all facets of the game.
Line 3: Darren Helm-Jay McClement-Frans Nielsen
Both McClement and Nielsen play tough minutes and play them well. Helm is a speedy demon. I like the look of this line.
Line 4: Patrick Kaleta-Blair Betts-Matt Bradley
Kaleta draws a ton of penalties, Betts is a solid defensive player, and we all know about Bradley's strong two-way play (relatively speaking). This line won't embarrass itself, which is all I ask of a fourth line.
Extra: Zenon Konopka
He can kill penalties, win faceoffs, and fight. Betts isn't terribly durable, so I decided on center Konopka as opposed to, say, winger Taylor Hall.
Pairing 1: Nicklas Lidstrom-Drew Doughty
I cheated a little by getting Doughy on a huge discount for next season due to his entry-level contract. Really, though, I got a cheap Norris finalist with a top-5 defenseman. I would have liked Keith, but Lidstrom makes less money without being much of a downgrade, and also brings the "experience" factor for the defense corps.
Pairing 2: Mike Green-Marc Staal
This is basically Green-Schultz; Staal is better than Schultz in all facets of the game, though. Since Staal is still a restricted free agent, I will use Willie Mitchell as a comparable for salary.
Pairing 3: Andy Greene-John Carlson
Greene really had a break-out season last season, taking the place of Paul Martin as New Jersey's go-to puck-moving defenseman. Carlson may not be the ideal partner for Greene, but both have game-breaking potential offensively and should get sheltered minutes as it is.
Extra: Thomas Hickey
One of the premiere defensive prospects in the NHL, in case of injury, Greene or Carlson will move up a pairing and Hickey will move onto the third pair. This is a much better situation than moving up Carlson and having Tyler Sloan take his spot.
Starter A: Tuukka Rask
Starter B: Dan Ellis
Both should be very very good as part-time starters. If Rask doesn't play as well as he has thus far, Ellis is more than competent, and if he fails, then a spare-parts goalie or prospect goalie should work fine. I wouldn't have much stress if there weren't any good cheap goalies--a Chris Osgood, Marty Turco, or Antti Niemi would have sufficed as well. Ellis fulfills the "veteran goalie" requirement.
Total salary in 2010-2011, not including Staal: $53,872,000
Cap room: $6,527,000
Whatever Staal makes, there is room. A reasonable guess of Mitchell's $3.5 million gives me
Total salary: $56,872,500
Cap room: $2,527,500
leaving plenty of room for trade deadline parts.
Three players on entry-level contracts: Drew Doughty, John Carlson, Thomas Hickey
Twelve players on RFA contracts: Zach Parise, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Darren Helm, Jay McClement, Frans Nielsen, Patrick Kaleta, Mike Green, Marc Staal*, Andy Greene, Tuukka Rask
Seven players on UFA contracts: Mike Knuble, Pavel Datsyuk, Blair Betts, Matt Bradley, Zenon Konopka, Nicklas Lidstrom, Dan Ellis
I don't think I went overboard on ELC or RFA contracts.
In short, if your GM doesn't make any silly, handcuffing signings, it's possible to field an outstanding hockey team. Drafting well for a few years, signing players on discounts to play with your team, and finding young stud players who can play tough minutes is critical, however.