Yeah, they lost out on a lot of guys they wanted, but back then the third or fourth option was still good. Now the fourth option is a #4 d-man or a forward you hope scores 20 goals
This is more due to the CBA rules on contracts than the cap itself. If there were a four year limit on contracts you'd see a much bigger free agency frenzy. It's these career long contracts that have killed the offseason excitement and led to stagnant teams.