Winning comes at a cost.

“When we’re not dealing with cap issues, we’re probably rebuilding,” Toronto Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan recently explained on Prime Time Sports.

“The better you become, the less peaceful it is, the more anxiety there is, because each decision means more and so you still have problems.

“They’re just better problems.”

Embrace the rebuild and watch your salary cap concerns tumble to the floor.

But try to win today, and you’ll sweat every penny spent.

So although the NHL clubs facing the greatest cap crunches took vastly different routes to reach their summer of tough decisions and inevitable roster casualties, they all have one thing in common: they’re striving to be on the ice come May 2020.

While we await an official announcement of the 2019-20 cap ceiling, we dive into the cap issues facing the seven teams believed to have the greatest challenge working with the league’s projected $83-million salary cap.

Something’s gotta give.

Vegas Golden Knights
Projected cap space: $0

Ah, it seems like only yesterday when George McPhee was staring at every general manager’s dream: a blank Excel sheet for him to fill as he wished. Now, two summers later, as McPhee hands the keys and the headaches to his successor, Kelly McCrimmon, the Golden Knights’ books resemble those of a serious contender who made splashes at the deadline (Mark Stone) and was aggressive in free agency (Paul Stastny, Ryan Reaves).

It’s McCrimmon’s first off-season in the GM seat, and he already in the red — $124,999 over the projected $83-million cap ceiling, with four empty slots on the 23-man roster still to fill.

One of those positions should belong to top-line, two-way centre William Karlsson, who bet on himself by taking a one-year deal last summer and is an RFA again. Decisions must also be made on backup goalie Malcolm Subban (RFA), heart-and-soul alternate captain Deryk Engelland (UFA), plus depth forwards Brandon Pirri (UFA), Ryan Carpenter (UFA), Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (UFA), Nikita Gusev (RFA) and Tomas Nosek (RFA). Oh, baby.