The NHL on TSN has identified six urgent matters facing teams now that the lockout is over. Some are certainly more glamorous than others, but all will impact the rosters that teams put on the ice this season.
Trading Roberto Luongo
The Canucks are expected to explore this, although buyout provisions could also be in play for Vancouver. Luongo was 31-14-8 with the Canucks last season with a 2.41 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. His 259 wins since 2005 are second only to Miikka Kirusoff's 273.
"Getting assets for Luongo to repair the holes in their lineup is imperative," said TSN Hockey Analyst Bob McKenzie. "Ultimately, I think Luongo will be traded. I know the Toronto Maple Leafs are interested and the Florida Panthers have some interest as well, but the prices aren't where Vancouver wants to get them so that's a work in progress."
McKenzie also noted that the Edmonton Oilers were worth watching on the Luongo front.
TSN Hockey Analyst Mike Johnson also pointed out that the Canucks did not have to make a trade before the season starts. They can run with him during the season and look for trade partners as the standings take shape.
"I believe the Florida Panthers are going to do everything in their power to get Roberto Luongo," said TSN Hockey Analyst Darren Pang. "The Panthers know he wants to be there."
That's important because Luongo has a no-trade clause, which could give Florida an edge.
The NHL Trade Deadline is not known at this point for the 2012-2013 season, but it is expected to fall close to the first week of April.
Signing Restricted Free Agents
The list of unsigned RFAs is impressive. It includes Jamie Benn (Dallas), Ryan O'Reilly (Colorado), Michael Del Zotto (NY Rangers), P.K. Subban (Montreal) and Dmitri Kulikov (Florida).
"Benn has a lot of leverage in this," said Johnson. "He's the key to that entire lineup... They have to re-sign him and he knows that."
But when, and for how much?
Canvassing the Trade Market
There are several good and expensive players scheduled to hit the unrestricted free agent market this summer. Under the new CBA and its lower cap ceiling, their current teams may not be able to afford them and could look to make deals before the trade deadline. Players on this list include Nicklas Backstrom (Minnesota), Alexander Edler (Vancouver), Mike Smith (Phoenix), Joffrey Lupul (Toronto), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim), Corey Perry (Anaheim), Mike Ribeiro (Washington) and Jarome Iginla (Calgary). The rumor mill will be churning, especially if the Ducks feel like they won't be able to re-sign Perry and/or Getzlaf.
Filling Out Rosters (Unrestricted Free Agents)
There are a lot of unsigned players still available to teams. Most of them are venerable veterans of the NHL such as Tomas Holmstrom, Jason Arnott and Daymond Langkow. These are experienced players who might help a team with playoff aspirations – especially in a short season and on a short deal.
Evaluating Top Prospects
Teams will be inviting top prospects to their abbreviated training camps, but NHL general managers do not yet know the rules concerning junior eligible players. Can you keep them for up to 10 games as before? Does a decision have to be made at the end of training camp? This much we know - many of the top prospects will be getting a hard look from their NHL clubs. Jonathan Huberdeau will go to the Panthers camp; Dougie Hamilton will be at Boston's camp; Alex Galchenyuk will be at the Canadiens camp; Mark Scheifele will be at Jets camp, and so on.
Making Waiver Decisions
Players with prohibitive contracts who cannot be moved in a trade could simply be waived. See Wade Redden. This threat could cause some players to waive no-trade clauses as well.