At the point of this writing, we sit in the stretch drive. There are no more trades to be made. Heck, there are barely any more call-ups allowed until the postseason. The rosters are set in stone, as is the CBA, and all 30 teams are destined to play in the same place. However, the upcoming offseason could be one of epic proportions.
Beginning with the draft, we have an above-average class headlined by Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko. Unlike last year, we are expecting to see more high-end talent in the beginning and teams pining for those prospects to hit their cupboards. And while trading first round picks with regularity is a thing of the past, we should see teams move up with frequency in order to select 'their' player. All-in-all, the draft is a great day in which NHL players get their start and trades are made.
Last season, we saw names like Brent Burns, Brian Campbell, John-Michael Liles, and Ryan Smyth move teams. Just a day before, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were sent packing from Philadelphia. The draft is essentially when the action begins so expect a bevy of moves.
One name expected to be moved by the draft is Rick Nash of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Thrown under the bus by GM Scott Howson, Nash is expected to be dangled with a hefty price tag. Before the trade deadline, it was rumored that Howson turned down Tim Erixon, Brandon Dubinsky, J.T. Miller, and other assets meaning if Nash is moved, it will be a blockbuster.
However, the draft should just be the calm before the storm as contracts expire on July 1st. This season's free agent class, much like the draft is top heavy, featuring players like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Alexander Semin. Supplementary players are notably thin this season as skaters like Tuomo Ruutu, Ales Hemsky and Tim Gleason re-signed, but signing a player like Suter or Parise could be a game-changer. Imagine what any team would look like after adding one of those players.
Prior to last season's draft and free agency period an important decision was made as True North Sports and Entertainment purchased the Atlanta Thashers, and in turn moved them to Winnipeg, reuniting the Jets with their hometown fans. This season it is believed the Phoenix Coyotes will also change location. Whether that location is Quebec, Kansas City, Hamilton or Las Vegas remains to be seen but it seems imminent that this team will no longer represent Glendale, Arizona.
Speaking of realignment, the NHLPA and Board of Governors are expected to meet and discuss the all-too-necessary decision of realigning the league. This season, the Board agreed to change the six-division format into four conferences before the NHLPA shut down the proposal. Due to their failure to agree, next season will be played under the exact same format, meaning Winnipeg continues to face natural rivals in Carolina, Washington, Tampa Bay and Sunrise. These issues, and many others such as the concussion epidemic should be at the forefront of these meetings.
It is because of theses issues that many believe we might see yet another lockout. The two sides need to agree on a new CBA which is clearly easier said than done. Both sides will have an agenda and there may be some posturing for position in order to get the better end of the deal. Considering how stubborn we've seen both sides in the future we can only imagine the process drags itself out.
As we get over our Stanley Cup hangover and await the upcoming 2012-2013 campaign we should embrace what should be an exciting offseason. There should be future stars, signings, trades, and more importantly: drama.
Our podcast 'RLD Hockey Talk' is LIVE every Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 ET/Noon CT. Some of our notable guests in past episodes have been Dustin Brown, Doc Emrick, John Buccigross, Dave Strader, E.J. Hradek, Elliotte Friedman and Jay Grossman.