The NHL's salary-cap era has a new twist this summer.
While most offseasons are spent with much fuss over how the highest spending teams are going to fit under the salary cap's upper limit, the more intriguing storyline this summer has surrounded the race to the cap floor.
The Florida Panthers have stolen the headlines in that department. As one of a dozen teams that went into unrestricted free agency beneath the $48.3 million floor, the Panthers needed to spend a whopping $22.1 million on 10 roster openings. So they did -- and fast.
Panthers general manager Dale Tallon went on a spending spree, signing UFAs Tomas Fleischmann, Scottie Upshall, Tomas Kopecky, Sean Bergenheim, Marcel Goc, Matt Bradley, Ed Jovanovski and Jose Theodore. He also picked up Kris Versteeg in a trade. That's not even bringing up big-ticket acquisition Brian Campbell from the Chicago Blackhawks a week before free agency.
The free-agent signings totalled $22.025 million in single-season cap money, while Campbell and Versteeg account for more than $10.2 million in space.
It might be the biggest spending spree for a so-called "floor team" in the cap era, and it leaves the Panthers sitting comfortably around $50.5 million with a projected 23-man roster.
With the Panthers taking care of business, there are six teams still under the cap floor, with the New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche needing to do the most work. And given the dwindling number of quality free agents remaining on the market, they may want to consider some interesting alternatives to throwing money at a very shallow talent pool.