BY: Rich Chere

NHL general managers are preparing for a hit that could be every bit as painful as anything former Devils captain Scott Stevens delivered during his Hall of Fame career.

As they compile their wish lists for the start of free agency beginning July 1, GMs will likely be facing the first decrease in the salary cap since it was instituted for the 2005-06 season.

The cap could drop by as much as $2.5 million for the 2009-10 season from its current $56.7 million figure, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Although Daly couldn't say, it is not inconceivable that the figure could fall to $50 million for the 2010-11 season.

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