The problem comes the year after when Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, arguably their three most important players, all come up for new deals and will be in a position to demand healthy raises. Toews and Kane are the two young faces of the franchise; and have a value to the club that goes beyond their considerable on-ice contributions. It is hard to imagine that they will not get their money. Keith may be less visible from a marketing perspective, but he gobbled up a team-high 25:34 minutes of ice time per night last season and is their primary shutdown defenceman.
Because of its structure, Hossa's contract comes in at a reasonable $5.23-million salary-cap charge. The albatrosses will be goaltender Cristobal Huet (three more years at $5.625-million) and defenceman Brian Campbell (seven more years at $7.14-million). If they can make those contracts disappear a year from now, then they can find the money to pay Toews, Kane and Keith. Since no team will take them off their hands, however, they may be forced to consider two expensive alternatives - either buying them out, or burying them in the minors. Neither is a pleasing prospect, but it may be their only answer.
HEATLEY UPDATE: The Heatley rage quieted down a little this week in both Ottawa and Edmonton, probably a good thing in terms of seeking an eventual resolution of the matter. The Oilers, Heatley's primary suitor in trade talks with the Senators, are not completely out of the picture. The Oilers were on Heatley's original list of possible destinations. That he didn't say yes right away when the option was presented to him mainly stemmed from the fact that he wanted a couple of choices to consider.
Presumably, Senators GM Bryan Murray is working the phones now that the dust has settled from the first 10 days of free agency to see who missed out - and who might have the cap room and the interest in Heatley to execute a possible deal.
The Kings are out of the mix, and you'd have to think the New York Rangers are as well, since they keep adding mid-level free agents to the mix - the latest being ex-Oiler, ex-Sabre Ales Kotalik, who signed a three-year, $9-million contract.
The Rangers have a pile of their own restricted free agents to re-sign and have more than $33-million tied up in five players - Henrik Lundqvist, Wade Redden, Michal Roszival, Chris Drury and Gaborik. About the only way they could make a trade for Heatley would is if they sent Roszival and his contract to Ottawa along with one of their high-end prospects. Presumably, Marc Staal is an untouchable, even in Ranger-land; Brandon Dubinsky might be a fit. For all his talent, the mercurial Nikolai Zherdev probably wouldn't be.
You wonder too if, in the light of Heatley's wish to leave Ottawa, the tendency for teams to award no-movement contracts to players lessens in the years ahead.
Quietly, without much fanfare, Vincent Lecavalier's no-movement clause kicked in earlier this month, meaning he is now in control of his future, to the extent that if the Tampa Bay Lightning ever decided to move him, he would be in a position to refuse - and they couldn't do anything about it, not even put him on waivers, or send him to the minors, to get out from under the contract obligation.
Lecavalier suddenly has far more leverage than he did two weeks ago at the NHL entry draft; you'd have to think before he does anything, he wants to see how this next year goes in Tampa, given that the Lightning are at it again.
Even with the rumblings about financial difficulties, they have been active in the free-agent market. Their defence will be vastly upgraded this year, with Mattias Ohlund, rookie Victor Hedman and useful Matt Walker, signed away from Chicago. In goal, the hope is that Mike Smith stays healthy and that he can get some nights off following the signing Friday of Antero Nittymaki, who was a respectable back-up in Philadelphia last year (15-8-6, .912 save percentage).
The Lightning gave up 69 more goals than they scored last year, leaving them with a daunting uphill climb. Still, Steven Stamkos put up big numbers in the second half as he adjusted to life in the NHL, and a full season under coach Rick Tocchet suggests they should be better organized coming out of the gate. Provided Lecavalier comes back strongly from off-season wrist surgery, you'd think that he will provide more than the 67 points he scored a year ago (down from 92 and 108 in the previous two seasons).