Despite the continued up and down CBA negotiations, I remain confident that we will have hockey in December for a number of reasons.
When that happens, it will be a great relief for players and fans as the focus shifts from Gary Bettman and the negotiations back to the game we love.
But the signing of a CBA will not be the end of contract woes for all players, as the following 15 veterans will have to put up huge seasons to justify their salaries and avoid an onslaught of criticism.
Roman Hamrlik is a solid veteran who brings great experience to the Washington Capitals. Many would question whether that experience is worth $3.5 million, though.
The 38-year-old had a career low 13 points last season. If he plans on proving his worth to the team, 13 points will need to remain his worst season.
Roberto Luongo is still one of the best goalies in the league, and is easily worth his $5.33 million cap hit and the $6.714 million 2012-13 salary. The sticking point for Luongo is in the length of his contract, which extends until 2022 when he'll be 43 years old.
Whether the remainder of his career is spent with the Vancouver Canucks or a team willing to trade for him, he'll need to keep up his stellar play and then some to justify the length of this contract.
Joe Thornton's career is far from over, but the dominant player we've witnessed over the past decade is on the decline.
When Thornton signed the most recent three-year, $21 million contract extension prior to the 2010-11 season, he was coming off a fifth straight season of 80-plus points. He has since produced just 70 and 77 points respectively.
Last year, despite making the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season, the Sharks finished with their lowest point total since 2002-03. Thornton isn't solely to blame, but his drop in production did contribute to the team's decline. He'll need to get back above one P/G to help San Jose keep this playoff streak alive. More importantly, as the team's highest paid player and captain, Thornton will need to show that he can lead the Sharks through a successful playoff run.
As I mentioned on the previous slide, Joe Thornton isn't solely to blame for the team's decline. Line-mate Patrick Marleau has been heading in a similar direction, as his 2011-12 season produced the lowest point and goal totals in four years.
The question is who's the chicken and who's the egg? Is Marleau's lack of production a result of Thornton's decline or vice-versa? Or both?
As the second highest paid player on the team, many questioned whether Marleau was worth the money even at the top of his game. At $6.9 million, most would agree that 30 goals and 64 points does not suffice.
Surprise, another San Jose Shark. It's not a good sign for the team when the three highest paid forwards make this list.
Personally, I think Martin Havlat is one of the most dynamic players in the league. The problem is that he's hardly healthy enough to showcase his skills.
Since being traded to the Sharks prior to the 2011-12 season, Havlat has played just 39 games, picking up 27 points.
$5 million should bring a team much, much more.
As a Vancouver Canucks fan and writer, I have nothing but respect for Sami Salo. But he's at the end of his career.
During his 13-year NHL career, Salo never played a full 82-game season. He's nearing 40 years old, fragile and tired.
Unless Steve Yzerman and the Tampa Bay Lightning know something we don't know, they're going to be disappointed with the $7.5 million investment they made in the Finnish(ed) veteran over the next two seasons.
Last year, Jaromir Jagr joined Claude Giroux and the Philadelphia Flyers after a three-year stint in the KHL. He started strong, but injuries and fatigue seemed to get the better of him as the season progressed.
Still, the Dallas Stars liked what they saw enough to offer the star $4.5 million.
He'll need to stay healthy and increase his production for that contract to pay off.
Over the summer, the Florida Panthers signed Filip Kuba to a two-year, $8 million contract.
This is a hard signing to judge.
Kuba has been fairly consistent throughout his career, but has never really shown he's worth $4 million per season. But that said, Dale Tallon was widely criticized for picking up Brian Campbell's contract, and we all know how that's turned out.
Maybe Kuba will have a similar fate.
With a $10 million salary and a $7.727 million cap hit, Vincent Lecavalier is one of the highest paid players in the NHL.
When Lecavalier signed the 11-year, $85 million extension with the Tampa Bay Lightning in the summer of 2008, he was coming off a 92-point season. The previous year, he scored 52 goals and 108 points, earning him the Richard Trophy.
Since signing that contract, Lecavalier hasn't exceeded the 70-point mark. His 49 points in 64 games last season was his lowest total since the 2001-02 season.
Whether finding his own stride, or feeding of Steven Stamkos', Lecavalier will need to figure something out to regain his elite status.
The New York Islanders are getting desperate. The last time they made the playoffs was in 2007, and the last time they made it past the first round was in 1993.
Jonathan Tavares will be an elite player before we know it, but the team needs some experience as well. But is Lubomir Visnovsky the man for the job?
It all depends which Visnovsky we see. Will it be the superstar who led all defenders with 68 points two seasons ago, or the aging veteran who followed that up with just 27 points in 2011-12?
It's not his $3 million in salary that's ridiculous, but his $5.6 million cap hit. Luckily, he's on a team that has nothing to lose.
Over the offseason, the Anaheim Ducks signed Sheldon Souray to a three-year $11 million contract.
Last season, he had 21 points in 64 games with the Dallas Stars. The year before, he had 19 points in 40 games with the Hershey Bears in the AHL. The year before that, he had 13 points in 37 games with a minus-19 rating with the Edmonton Oilers.
Nothing from the past three years would suggest he's worth an average of $3.67 million per season.
Ed Jovanovski looks and plays like a player hanging on to his career by a thread. The problem is, he's not paid accordingly.
Jovanovski has come back strong after a poor season before, and he'll need to do it again. Thirteen points simply is not worth $4.25 million.
With just 385 regular season games and eight full seasons in the NHL, many would question whether Ilya Bryzgalov is a true veteran in the NHL.
I think everyone can agree that some major changes are needed in Bryzgalov's game to keep this contract from becoming a Scott Gomez (spoiler).
It's hard to imagine a general manager who wouldn't take a $7.5 million cap hit and pay $6 million in salary for a player who can score 50 goals in two consecutive seasons. Of course, the problem is that we're now five seasons removed from that elite status, and its getting worse. Last season, Dany Heatley put up just 53 points in his first season with the Minnesota Wild.
With the additions of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to the team, Heatley will have more than enough talent around him to turn this pattern around and perform like the $6 million player he is.
With just two goals in the last 67 games, it's hard to imagine that Scott Gomez brings a cap hit of $7.36 million, and even harder to imagine that he once had 84 points in a single season.
To say he needs a "huge" season to justify his contract might be hoping for too much. But if Gomez could put up even 40-50 points like an average second-liner, Montreal Canadiens fans will be thankful.
Follow Riley Kufta on Twitter for more work and news around the NHL.