Thanks to another good year at NHL arenas, the Canucks have more money to spend on contracts for next season.

The league salary cap will rise for the fourth consecutive year due to increased NHL revenues, meaning clubs will be able to spend up to $56.7 million next season. That means the Canucks have roughly $20 million to play with when free agency opens Tuesday, but that could get gobbled up in a hurry if any of the rumours involving Vancouver are true.

The Canucks are said to be courting Marian Hossa, Ryan Malone and Pavol Demitra according to various sources, but simple math tells you they can’t have them all. Hossa is expected to fetch around $8 million US per year, Malone is seeking $5 million a season and Demitra will likely expect a raise on the $4.5 million he was making in Minnesota.

If the Sedins are to remain in Vancity, Malone seems to make the most sense, as he would appear to be the perfect complement to the twins given his combination of size and scoring ability. However, the duo of Hossa and Demitra is very intriguing and would instantly give the Canucks both offensive firepower and speed. If Mike Gillis was able to lure both slick-skating Europeans to the West Coast, expect him to move some other salary via the trade route in order to give himself some flexibility in reconstructing the roster.

>> Brian Burke’s final year in Anaheim could be a rewarding one given Scott Niedermayer’s decision to return for the final year of his contract. Niedermayer played only 48 games last season after coming out of retirement to rejoin the 2007 Cup champs, and his impact was immediate. With perennial Norris candidates Niedermayer and Chris Pronger on the blue-line, the Ducks will once again be among the elite in the Western Conference regardless of whether or not sniper Teemu Selanne chooses to play another season in the NHL.

But the biggest issue facing Burke is the re-signing of coveted restricted free agent Corey Perry. The Ducks don’t have much room left under the cap and Perry will undoubtedly receive an offer sheet from another team if Burke can’t come to terms with him on a new deal prior to July 1. Should that happen, Burke will be forced to match the offer or let Perry go in the same manner Dustin Penner made his way to Edmonton.

– How to make a Scott Rintoul: Mix equal parts college athlete, sports fan and broadcaster. Shake vigorously.

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