NHL Lockout 2012: 6 Players Who Have Most to Lose

Erik Cotton@https://twitter.com/ErikCotton2Correspondent ISeptember 16, 2012

NHL Lockout 2012: 6 Players Who Have Most to Lose

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    As the current NHL CBA gets closer and closer to expiring, you start to think about who has the most to lose once it does. The league should be ashamed that they're in this position again. Not only do the fans suffer, but so do the players.

    The fact that the NHL is on the verge of its third lockout in 18 years should be a direct reflection on the person who runs things. 

    Commissioner Gary Bettman is seen as public enemy No. 1 in many hockey cities, and for good reason.  If nothing else, he has failed miserably in taking preventative steps to ensure that there wasn't another work stoppage.

    In the real world, when you fail to do your job correctly, you get fired. In the NHL, it means you get to speak in front of TV cameras with the most smug smile in professional sports.

    But enough about Bettman. 

    Let's take a look at six players who have the most to lose if there is no hockey played this season.

    All of the players we're about to discuss share something in common. They're all set to be unrestricted free agents in 2013. They have the most to lose simply from a money and security standpoint.

1. Jarome Iginla

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    Contract years tend to bring the best out of players, for obvious reasons. It's their chance to prove they're worthy of a huge payday.

    Jarome Iginla, however, is not the type to only amp up his game just to get another high-paying deal. He has brought his A-game virtually every night throughout his 15 years with the Calgary Flames. For him, the lockout is less about money and more about opportunity. 

    The Flames have struggled the last few seasons. This would certainly seem like it'll be the last contract of the 35-year-old's career. Even with the additions of Dennis Wideman and Jiri Hudler, few would consider the Flames a Stanley Cup contender.

    Taking all of these things into account, no one could blame Iginla for wanting to leave Calgary and sign with a championship-caliber team. Yet what if there's no season? Iginla won't have the chance to prove to prospective teams that he's still one of the best power-forwards in the league. 

    It's hard to picture him leaving Calgary, regardless. But no season may mean less outside interest if it's his goal to win a Cup.

2. Alexander Semin

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    At the complete opposite end of the spectrum, we have Alexander Semin.

    Unlike Iginla, Semin would be a player many would foresee having a big year just so he can get paid. His work ethic has often been a topic of conversation. That's the main reason he didn't receive more attention this summer after his deal with the Washington Capitals was up. The Caps didn't seem the least bit interested in bringing him back. If they were, there's no way it would have been at the dollar amount he was looking for.

    Semin is coming off of a 2011-12 season that saw him score only 21 goals, his lowest total since his rookie campaign. The fact that a 28-year old whose had three seasons of 34 or more goals eventually signed a one-year deal should speak to the question marks about his play.

    Even though the Carolina Hurricanes gave him $7 million for that one year, Semin had to be discouraged by the lack of a long-term offer. 2012-13 is his chance to convince NHL teams he's worth spending big money on for multiple years.

3. Ryan Getzlaf

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    One of two players from the Anaheim Ducks we will talk about is Ryan Getzlaf.

    Despite struggling for much of last year, Getzlaf is still considered one of the best young players in the league. He won a Cup in 2007 at only 22 years old and led the Ducks that postseason with 17 points in 21 games.

    2008-09 saw him post career highs in assists (66), points (91) and PIM (121). How many free-agent centers will be available with numbers like those on his resume?

    The answer is one, and it's Getzlaf. 

    As Collin Insley of TheHockeyWriters.com points out:

    He is in a contract year, so there will be added motivation to do well, but this coming season will be the most important of Getzlaf’s young career. He’s at a cross-roads and he’s in complete control of whichever path he’ll take. He has all the tools. All he has to do is use them (and consistently).

    Season or not, Getzlaf will undoubtedly get big money next summer. But will teams look at him as an organizational centerpiece if he doesn't have a chance to get back on track?

4. Cory Perry

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    Corey Perry is the other member of the Ducks we're going to discuss.

    Like Getzlaf and his team as a whole, Perry had, by his standards, a disappointing season last year. He was coming off of a brilliant 2010-11 in which he led the league in goals (50), and finished third in points (98). He won the Hart Trophy in June of that year as he led the Ducks to the fourth seed in the West.

    His numbers dipped to 37 goals and 60 points in 2011-12. He's as ready for a bounce-back performance as Getzlaf is. They both combine size, skill and a mean streak like few others in the NHL.

    Perry has had at least 27 goals and 104 PIM in each of the last five seasons. Those numbers will make him the most sought after RW on the market. Both Perry and Getzlaf are entering free agency for the first time and rightfully looking to cash in. This will be the biggest payday of their careers.

    But, will they be "undervalued" if there's no hockey come October? 

    Probably not, but they can solidify their positions even more by having a chance to dominate on the ice this year.

5. Alexander Edler

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    The only defenseman in this discussion is Alexander Edler of the Vancouver Canucks.

    Edler, unlike the first four players we mentioned, is coming off by far his best season as a pro. 2011-12 saw him set personal bests in goals (11), assists (38) and points (49). 

    He emerged from the shadow of former teammate Christian Ehrhoff, who had departed via free agency to the Buffalo Sabres. Edler stepped into the role as Vancouver's No. 1 defenseman and he didn't disappoint.

    His situation is unique to this group because he's got the momentum of a career-year behind him. The cancellation of the 2012-13 season would severely damage his chances of being overpaid.

    It's customary in the NHL for players to get more than they're worth, especially with defenseman, because there's such a small number of elite ones that ever become available.

    Again, it's not a question of whether he'll get top dollars or not. 

    The question is how can you expect to "blow" a team away in free agency if your last game was 14 months ago?

6. Tuukka Rask

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    To some, Tuukka Rask has lucked his way into his position with the Boston Bruins.

    No one could've predicted that Tim Thomas would decide to take a season off because of "personal reasons." That makes Rask the starter by default. With that said, it's a position he's actually outplayed Thomas for before.

    Rask seized the starting role in 2009-10, when he finished with a 1.97 GAA and .931 save percentage. He has the talent to succeed as a starter.

    The Bruins re-signed him in June to a one-year, $3.5 million deal almost out of necessity.  There was no one on the open market as good or as affordable as Rask.

    Yet if the lockout wipes out the season, what do the Bruins do if Thomas wants to come back? 

    Rask has a lot going for him if there is hockey. He's on one of the better teams in the league, and he's been in this situation before.

    He would be looking at a big payday come next summer if he plays like he's capable of. All he wants is the opportunity.

    And all we want, Mr. Bettman, is some hockey.