At this point, most people around the hockey world have conceded that the NHL lockout will last for the entirety of the 2012-13 regular season.
This means not only will teams lose money, employees will be out of a job for an entire season and fans won't be able to watch their favorite teams play, but a lockout season also counts towards the years on a player's contract.
As a result, players like Joffrey Lupul, Matthew Lombardi and Tim Connolly will become free agents on July 1, 2013.
For the Toronto Maple Leafs, this is both good news, as well as bad news.
Lombardi and Connolly's combined $8.25 million will come off the books, freeing up some room on the depth chart at center and enough cash to sign a more prominent free agent (say, Ryan Getzlaf or Travis Zajac).
The bad news?
Joffrey Lupul's contract will expire and the Maple Leafs won't have had the chance to capitalize on his career year in 2011-12 on the trade market.
While some people may be against the thought of trading Lupul at all and would be more inclined to re-sign him, it's important to remember a few things.
First, he's not a center. Secondly, he has a nasty injury history and hasn't played more than 70 games since the 2008-09 season. Finally, he's never even come close to the point-per-game pace he set last year.
Yet, had there been hockey this season and had Lupul been doing well, there would surely have been a team willing to take a gamble and give up a solid prospect or first-round draft pick to acquire his services.
Unfortunately, now Toronto will be faced with the tough decision of re-signing what could be a player who had nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan season, or letting him walk for nothing and running the risk that he maintains his 2011-12 success.
This season was going to be one that helped Brian Burke and his management team greatly with making that tough decision.
It would have given him the opportunity to capitalize on Lupul's trade value or lock him up long-term if he showed that he could continue to thrive.
Now we just have to hope for the best.
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