Today, Mirtle has a good breakdown of the Penguins pending cap crunch. Basically he points out what most hockey fans are aware of--that there is no way that a talented team like the Pens can be kept together in a cap system for the long run. Basically Pittsburgh will have two choices once the entry level contracts of Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal expire--allow some of their core guys to move on, or try and keep them all and fill the rest of the roster out with AHL caliber players.
What isn't asked in the piece is this: How is this good for hockey?
When the cap was brought in following the lock-out it was heralded as the great saviour of small market teams. Finally a system was put in place that would allow the Edmontons and Buffalos of the league to compete with the big boys. It was even whispered that a cap system could eventually lead to the return of NHL hockey to a Winnipeg or Quebec City.
The idea of a cap was supported by most Canadian fans. For reasons that are unclear, it remains supported today.
Ironically, the teams that have been most adversely affected by cap economics in the early going have been the small market teams that the system was supposed to help. A great Sabers team was nearly dismantled. Pittsburgh is forced to make a run for the cup a couple years before it is likely ready because it knows that time is of the essence.
But, regardless of whether a great team is in a small or large market it will need to be dismantled prematurely under the current system. Unless there is a change, we will never see another great dynasty emerge in the NHL and that's a real shame. Think about the sports teams that captured your imagination--the '80s Oilers, the '70s Habs, the '80s Celtics and Lakers, the Yankees of any generation, the Jays of the early '90s. Love those teams or hate them, you paid attention and they created interest in their sport.
As a hockey fan, you should want to see the 2011-12 Pens win 60 games. Sadly, you will be denied that opportunity by a system that encourages mediocrity and accomplishes little more than to make more money for the NHL owners.