Leonsis isn't cash strapped, but he is trying to keep losses to a minimum. He's tried to reduce payroll lately (yes, even with the signing of Lang) and is committed to making a profit. We'll see.
The big problem with comparing the NHL to the other sports is that hockey doesn't have a good national TV contract. The NHL and MLB packages are tremendously valuable to those two leagues, and the NBA gets a ton of revenue each year. Unfortunately the NHL is just not as good a TV sport as the other major leagues and doesn't have the popularity in the lower 48 of other sports. The billion dollar NFL national TV contracts combined with local contracts and advertising give each NFL franchise more than the Flames spent on payroll this year. And that's before counting merchandise, gate revenues for 70,000 person stadiums and all the other revenue streams. If the NHL can market/develop itself into a media success then the funds will follow. If they don't then they need to realize that they can't spend with the leagues that have massive TV dollars rolling in. It takes more than an ESPN contract to pay the bills, the NHL needs to be on Fox/ABC/CBS/NBC and not just a few Saturdays late in the year.