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Teams now focused on free agency

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POSTED June 29, 2014 7:18 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — NHL teams are about to go shopping, and they will have less money to spend than they might have thought just a few days ago.

After a weekend in which 210 players were drafted, clubs will have more decisions to make, and they don’t have lots of time to do it. Free agency begins in earnest Tuesday, and any needs that weren’t addressed during the two-day draft — either in picks or trades — will have to be taken care of on the open market.

The ceiling for next season’s salary cap was set Friday at $69 million — up from $64.3 million. That number is a million or two lower than some projections had it after a year of record revenues.

“It was a surprise for every guy out here,” New York Rangers general manager Glen Sather said. “We all expected it to be higher.”

The Rangers were already in a pinch to get their numerous unrestricted and restricted free agents signed. They created some cap room by buying out the contract of veteran forward Brad Richards, and dealing Derek Dorsett to Vancouver on Friday.

By the time they deal with their own free agents — some of whom might leave — they might not have much money left to add players.

“We already traded one guy to get some relief,” Sather said of Dorsett, who carried a $1,633,000 salary-cap charge. “We’ll see what happens in the next week.”

There were predictions of lots of trades during the draft, but after a flurry Friday, most remaining deals involved picks. In 15 trades Saturday, only five players were moved.

“Some people filled in some spots they wanted to and some didn’t,” new Pittsburgh general manager Jim Rutherford said. “The ones that didn’t will be more active on Tuesday, I’m sure.”

On Friday, Vancouver dealt star forward Ryan Kesler to Anaheim and defenseman Jason Garrison to Tampa Bay, and acquired Dorsett from the Rangers, all before the draft’s first pick. Once the festivities got going, Pittsburgh and Nashville pulled off a big deal in which the Penguins sent James Neal to the Predators for forwards Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling.

“I was surprised, with all the talk and with teams trying to get to their budget, teams trying to work around the cap,” Rutherford said. “But there are still a lot of things in the works for teams. We’ve got free agency, so maybe it comes right after that.”

In a new wrinkle this year, teams were allowed to talk to potential free agents this week to gauge interest. It made for a hectic time for clubs that were deep into draft preparations. With the courting already at an advanced stage, the cost of free agents could rise more because competition is so fierce.

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