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NHL Offseason Notebook: An Early Look At CBA, Draft, Free Agency And More

Zach Parise (credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Zach Parise (credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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By Josh Colfin

With their win over the Devils last week, the Kings accomplished something even “The Great One” himself could not: win a Stanley Cup for Los Angeles.

In the midst of their first parade with the Stanley Cup through downtown Los Angeles, Kings captain Dustin Brown spoke for the team when he said, “You guys have waited a long, long time for this day.” Forty-five years, to be exact. But who’s counting?

Kings general manager Dean Lombardi has put together quite a team over the past few seasons, and you can fully expect to see Los Angeles in the fight for Western Conference supremacy — and the Cup — for years to come. Now that we’ve officially entered the offseason, it’s time to turn to a few of the top stories that will be dominating hockey headlines throughout the summer.

Collective Bargaining Agreement Set To Expire

Negotiations between the NHL and its players’ association are set to begin shortly, since the current CBA will expire on the Sept. 15. Commissioner Gary Bettman has publicly stated that he is ready to work with the NHLPA and their representative Donald Fehr.

It’s not known exactly where Bettman’s objectives are, but it is expected that the league will want to cut the players’ current revenue of 57 percent. Adding to the complexity of the CBA, the salary cap will likely increase to anywhere from $69 million to $72 million, a jump of at least $5 million from last season.  Although there has been no real talk of a supposed lockout again, the fear of a lockout by hockey fans will remain until a deal can be reached.

Like the NBA, there is a slight chance hockey fans could lose 10 to 15 games at the start of the season. But in the end, the sport cannot afford to lose another year wasted on the disagreements of individuals.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

On Friday night, the 2012 NHL Entry Draft will be held at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center. Arguably the most exciting days in the life of a hockey enthusiast, the draft is basically an introduction to all the elite raw talent that will one day be the stars of the NHL. Equally as important to all the teams and GMs, the draft has the potential to replenish your farm system and set your team up for a bright future ahead. However, mistakes could cost you, as we’ve all come to see tantalizing prospects turn into busts over the years.

An interesting story coming from the draft this year will be the No. 1 selection, which the Edmonton Oilers once again hold for the third straight year. The Oilers have a great amount of skill up front with the youth they’ve drafted in previous years, so it will be interesting to see if they take Nail Yakupov, the dynamic Russian forward who is hands down the best player available, or address their needs at defense and opt for someone such as Ryan Murray or Jacob Trouba. The local Islanders, Rangers and Devils will be selecting with the 4th, 28th, and 29th picks, respectively.

Restricted Free Agents

It’s undeniable that the two most talked about players approaching the market are going to be Devils forward Zach Parise and Predators defenseman Ryan Suter.

Both are gifted superstars that will no doubt make a huge difference on any team. The main difference has to be the fact that Parise, although he might entertain offers, has a great chance to stay with the Devils (he stated last week that he will NOT sign with the Rangers), whereas Suter will most likely be leaving Nashville.

The Predators and GM David Poile already have their hands tied with franchise cornerstone Shea Weber also up for unrestricted free agency, as well as other small pieces such as Paul Gaustad, Colin Wilson, Hall Gill and Alex Radulov all due for new contracts. After attempting to bolster their roster with trades for a run at the Cup, Poile and the Preds have a lot to ponder going into the offseason. Expect Suter to sign with a team like the Red Wings, who are looking for a smooth-skating defenseman to ease their transition into the post-Lidstrom era.

Trading For Rick Nash/Roberto Luongo

Last season we almost saw Rick Nash heading to the New York Rangers at the trade deadline for a package of players that included the likes of Chris Kreider.

Luckily for the Rangers, the deal never fully took hold — and we all know how that Kreider kid turned out. It has been said that some GMs wouldn’t even trade Nash for Kreider straight up right now. The sweepstakes for Rick Nash hasn’t changed much. It was reported recently that nearly 10 teams are interested in the services of the Columbus superstar. Although the price is steep (at least two or three players plus a draft pick), Nash is the quintessential power forward in today’s NHL. Physically empowering, with leadership and an array of skills, Nash would be an improvement on any team willing to part with a few of their players.

The situation with Roberto Luongo is a bit trickier. Luongo, who has been viewed as one of the best goalies in the NHL for the past decade, has not brought the Canucks the Stanley Cup they were so close to winning just a year ago. In fact, this past postseason it looked as if backup Cory Schneider was the better goalie and in the end gained more confidence from coach Alain Vigneault.

It has been speculated that Schneider is more than ready to be a No. 1 goaltender, so the decision seems to rest with either trading Luongo or splitting the valuable time in net between both. If the Canucks were looking to trade Luongo (who stated he would be open to it), the 10 years at an annual cap hit of $5.33 million could make it potentially difficult to find suitors, especially since the Canucks would still expect something as equally valuable in return.

Will Coyotes Stay Put?

It looks to be as though the Coyotes will be staying in Phoenix after all. Earlier this month, Glendale’s City Council approved a lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena, the home for the Coyotes. The agreement, which is for 20 years at approximately $325 million, is with former San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison, and clears one of the major obstacles for Jamison to buy the Coyotes from the NHL.

The National Hockey League has owned the Coyotes for three years now and it seems at last that we might not see them moving to Hamilton, Quebec or Seattle. However, there are still roadblocks ahead as the Goldwater Institute, a conservative government watchdog group, has filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Glendale City Council’s vote to approve a lease agreement for Jobing.com Arena. Their lawsuit claims the city did not make two exhibits in the proposed deal available to the public before the vote and that the deal will only result in the use of taxpayers funds.

Either way, Jamison, who recently attended a meeting with Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly, has stated that he is currently working on a final agreement with the league to buy the team and both sides said they hoped to have approval from the NHL board of governors within a couple of weeks.

What big moves are you hoping for this offseason? Be heard in the comments below!