6 Stories To Watch This NHL Offseason


Now that the season has come to an end and the Cup has been awarded, it’s time for the entire league to switch into another gear.  It’s the offseason, everyone; the time when hockey games start being played on paper and not on the ice.  But that doesn’t make things any less compelling for fans or teams, who stick with their teams every day of the year, hockey or no hockey.

In this spirit, I’d like to present six of the most compelling stories for hockey fans entering this year’s offseason:

1. Free agent frenzy.  Last year’s class of free agents was slightly disappointing for many teams with money to spend.  There was very little star power to attract other than Brad Richards, and that meant bigger money to less gifted players (Ville Leino, Tim Connolly).  This year there are three bona fide superstars that could very well be on the move: defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter, and winger Zach Parise.  All three will be looking for over $6 million a year in salary, and their talent on the ice may almost be worth the money they collect.

Weber and Suter still might have a shot at a Cup in Nashville, but cap issues will likely prevent both players from sticking around.  The Detroit Red Wings are widely considered to be the favorites to obtain one of them, probably Suter.  The story is similar for Parise in New Jersey.  His team made it all the way to the Cup Finals before falling to the Kings, so he has a definite shot at making another run with the Devils’ set-up.  However, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello has been known in the past to play hardball in attempts to resign free agents, and simultaneously the money might be larger from a place like Minnesota, San Jose, or even LA.  And in case you Panther fans were wondering, it seems unlikely Dale Tallon will take a run at any of these players: the contract could get in the way when it comes to resigning guys in the future, and also it just might not be affordable.  We’ll see if any surprise suitors come in and try to snatch up one of these fine players, and if the Panthers are one of them.

2. The landing spot of Roberto Luongo.  The man affectionately called “7uongo”, “Bobby Lose”, and “Roberta” on this site promises to be on the move this offseason.  With Cory Schneider looking like the real deal in a couple of years backing up Roberto Luongo, the Canucks have decided to hand him the job and trade Luongo’s large contract away.

The surprising part of this story is the names involved with the trades.  The Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs make sense, but the Florida Panthers?  According to many Canadian media outlets, the Panthers are calling Vancouver about Luongo, and are considered to be one of his most desired landing spots.  It makes sense from a Canadian standpoint for Florida to pick him up, but our goaltending situation appears pretty settled.  The Panthers have three NHL-ready goalies: Jose Theodore, Scott Clemmensen, and Jacob Markstrom.  It wouldn’t appear to make much sense, but maybe Tallon’s got something up his sleeve.  Then Frank Rekas would be forced to fall back in love with Bobby Lou.

3. Martin Brodeur’s decision.  Arguable the greatest goalie of all time has a decision to make in the next couple of months.  Will the quadragenarian Martin Brodeur decide to put away the pads after a historic career or play one more year with the New Jersey Devils?

If one judges his decision solely upon the NHL playoffs, he should have enough gas left in the tank.  But the same was said for recent retiree Nick Lidstrom, as well.  His excuse was that his love for hockey might begin to wear thin, with very little left for him to accomplish.  That scenario could switch over to Brodeur, too, but only if he decides there’s no uncharted ground for him and that his career has wrapped itself up nicely.  I doubt he will retire: I think he has one more year in him, especially after being so close to the Cup.

4. The new CBA.  It’s not the sexiest topic of the offseason, but it could be the most important.  The collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA.  It expires on September 27, so a new deal will need to be hashed out in the next few months or else we could see a repeat of the lockout situation of 2004.  On the docket will be issues like revenue sharing, supplementary discipline, and Olympic participation.  And by the looks of it, the discussions won’t be a pretty affair.

Judging by how the CBAs in the NBA and NFL have went, the NHL will look to reduce the players’ portion of the revenue, which currently sits at 57 percent.  The NHLPA president, Donald Fehr, will not take that sitting down.  But as of right now that appears to be the only issue, even though it’s an important one.  Even though jabs will be thrown by both sides, there is a distinct requirement for the league and players’ union to pull something together, especially since the lockout of 2004-05 is so fresh on many hockey players’, fans’, and owners’ minds.

5. The Coyotes situation in Phoenix.  The Coyotes are having a tough time trying to build a steady franchise while the club’s foundation is falling right out from under their feet.  In the governmental and legal areas, the Coyotes are being thrashed around by both the City of Glendale and the Goldwater Institute.  The former wants the team to stay but find some way to turn a profit for once.  The latter is a taxpayers’ defending body, who is cutting right through all the loans and losses from the Coyotes and saying the team is screwing over Glendale.  Meanwhile, the team’s ownership is in flux, the rights to residing in the Jobing.com Arena no longer seem guarenteed, and Canadian cities from all over are chiming for the franchise to return to the Great White North.

There is very little to say other than this being a total mess.  The Coyotes can’t seem to turn a profit in Glendale, but moving will be a last resort.  As the future of the franchise is ground through the gears of government, we’ll see how things turn out for the Phoenix Coyotes.  Unfortunately for them, I think, this story might have a sad ending for a Phoenix fan, whether things resolve themselves this offseason or sometime in the near future.

6. The NHL draft, like every year.  Once more, the Edmonton Oilers will be stocking up on young talent and becoming the envy of all other franchises.  For the third straight season, the Oil will nab the first overall pick.  But things might have to change for Edmonton as far as strategy is concerned, and that could lead to some draft day drama.

The Oilers’ previous two first overall picks, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, have been high-scoring forwards.  The team has shown a lack of depth on the blue line, so realistically they’d like to pick a defenseman.  However, the unanimous best player in the draft is Nail Yakupov, another forward.  The best defenseman is Ryan Murray, and he isn’t slated to be picked until a few spots later.  The Oilers might trade down, or they might just pick the best player like everybody thinks they will.  Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see how GM Steve Tambellini works with the top pick.

Thanks for reading!  If there’s something else you’d like to discuss, don’t be afraid to comment!

Follow the Rat Pack on Twitter: me @GreatScottsman, Frank Rekas @TheRatTrick, David Lasseter@davidlasseter, Josh Luecht @joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin @PatrickRattrick, Gabrielle Kiger@gabbykiger, Paige Lewis @RattrickLewiz, Chrissy Parente @chrissaay44, Adam Reid @adamreid_, David Rodriguez @davidbub_2, and Justin Rosenberg @justinrosenberg.  Also, please join our Facebook Fan Page and hit the like button, send us photos, and make some comments.