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Brad Richards heads slim NHL free-agent class @NHL

NEW YORK (AP) - How's this for a change of pace? While the NFL and NBA are embroiled in labor disputes that threaten their upcoming seasons, NHL clubs are gearing up to spend more money on salaries than they have since a lockout canceled a full campaign six years ago.

Harmony exists in hockey - at least for one more season - and the 30 teams will be living with a salary cap that is at its highest level since it was created. They can start shopping Friday when the free-agent season kicks off.

While not everyone will spend up to the $64.3 million cap, a $4.9 million increase over last season, each club will have to reach the minimum payroll of $48.3 million. That figure is $9.3 million higher than the original ceiling established after the season-long lockout in 2005.

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