There is a reason that the Calgary Flames, according to, have the lowest player payroll in the NHL. It is not because first-year general manager Brad Treliving is a whiz with numbers.

The Flames are not good.

They have one go-to player in Mark Giordano. The defenseman is on a bargain contract that pays him just over $4 million per season. The Flames will be in the hunt to pick Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in next year’s draft as they begin their rebuild.

The rule applies to the other end of the cap spectrum. Chicago had to dump Nick Leddy. The Bruins said goodbye to Johnny Boychuk. Neither Chicago GM Stan Bowman nor Boston counterpart Peter Chiarelli considered them “hockey trades.”

Leddy was a valuable ring-winning offensive defenseman who was a good fit on the third pairing. Boychuk was the Bruins’ punishing and experienced No. 3 defenseman. The Islanders reaped the benefits of the deals because the Blackhawks and Bruins are good teams with good players, who are, by definition, expensive.

Chicago has game-breaking talent in Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith. They total more than $18 million toward the Blackhawks’ cap number.

The Bruins have four players who are the best at their jobs: Patrice Bergeron (two-way center), Zdeno Chara (shutdown defenseman), Tuukka Rask (goalie), and Milan Lucic (power forward). Having that kind of talent comes at a cost of more than $26 million this season.

There are checks and balances throughout the NHL. During Wednesday’s season opener against Philadelphia, the Bruins will roll out Chara to neutralize Claude Giroux’s offensive wizardry. Save for the first round, when the NHL gave …read more