It's a terrific game, and dangerously addictive. I've been playing the Championship Manager series (which simulates Soccer leagues - EHM is essentially just a hockey adaption of the same game engine) for a decade, and love it.
I only recently got EHM however (not out of lack of interest, but more out of fear of what it would do to my work discipline :) ). Am now in year four with the Philadelphia Flyers and doing pretty well - two straight President Trophies and SC's. Through trades I managed to nab the 1st overall picks in the drafts those years too, so my future includes John Tavares and Steve Stamkos. Current lineup (2009-10):
F: Forsberg, Mike Richards, Lee Falardeau, Scott Walker, Gagne, Matt Cullen, Jochen Hecht, Janne Louhi, Corey Perry, Erik Cole, Nick Parrish, John Tavares
D: Pitkanen, Mike van Ryn, Brian Campbell, Ivan Baranka, Dmitri Tolkunov, Evgeny Shtayger
G: Nittymaki, Norrena
The gamemakers seem to have had somewhat different ideas of which players develop well than real life, but I find one aspect in which the game is very instructive is in how horribly difficult it is to keep a good team together under the cap system. To put it differently, it isn't possible - it's just a question of which good players you choose to lose that year. I found, somewhat to my suprise, that FA signings is generally not the best way to address the issue. I have signed only one notable UFA in 3 pre-seasons - Erik Cole. A better approach has seemed :
1) to make trade deadline deals moving upcoming FAs you've decided you can't keep, preferably for players who can help you but who are on longer - and cheaper - contracts. Inevitably that means shipping veterans for younger players who are less capable right now, in a situation where you are looking to challenge for the cup. But it is still worth it, to keep the team competetive.
2) Make full use of European UFAs. There are a lot of undrafted players in Europe who are good enough to come in and play in your third pairing or your fourth line. Some of them stick, most don't. But they are all essentially free assets. Sign a bunch every year, stock your farm with them, call them up occasionally and you will find they are eventually tradeable for worthwhile assets like even fairly high draft picks, or to fill out more important trades.
3) Don't be afraid to translate players or prospects you can do without into draft picks, and put serious work into drafting well. Once your prospects are coming intop the lineup, it's critical relief for your endemic cap problems.