With negotiations still going on in New York City and a deal still a possibility before the Jan. 11 deadline, it's time to start looking at what the New Jersey Devils have to offer in 2013.
If a deal is reached this week, there will be a week of training camp followed by a 48-game season. The last time the NHL had a 48-game schedule was in 1994-1995, the year that the Devils won their first Stanley Cup.
Many of New Jersey's star players have kept busy during the NHL lockout and have even dominated their respective leagues. If they can play to the level they have performed at since the lockout began, the Devils may be able to make another run at the Cup.
Lockout pending, here are five players to keep an eye on for the 2013 shortened season.
When the New Jersey Devils acquired Marek Zidlicky at the trade deadline last season, many fans had mixed thoughts over giving up prospects and draft picks for an aging defenseman. In Lou We Trust did a great job summarizing that emotion shortly after the deal was made.
However, as the season went on and the playoffs came around, Zidlicky became the go-to defenseman on the blue line and helped the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final. The 35-year-old had eight points in 22 regular-season games and added another nine points during the playoffs.
That hot streak continued into the beginning of what should have been the 2012-2013 season, as Zidlicky recorded 25 points (3 G, 22 A) in 25 games with HC Kladno of the Czech league (h/t In Lou We Trust). He returned home in December and will be ready for the start of the NHL season if it happens.
The Devils have some of the best depth on defense in the NHL, but a Zidlicky point streak during the 2013 season would truly benefit a team that will be without some key scorers from last season.
Bobby Butler was one of the few off season acquisitions New Jersey made this summer, but up until now, the 25-year-old winger has failed to prove himself at the NHL level.
Butler has only recorded 16 goals and 37 total points in 94 games since coming into the league in 2009, and a majority of those games played came last season for the Ottawa Senators. His signing was based on pure potential, but the low-risk, high-reward deal seems to be working out so far.
Since being assigned to the AHL in September, Butler has been dominating the minors, as he leads the Albany Devils with 14 goals and 21 points. He was named AHL Player of the Week on Dec. 16th and has stepped up since Adam Henrique went down with injury.
Butler isn't going to score 30 goals this season, but if he can get anywhere near 15-20 goals this season, it will be considered a successful signing by Lou Lamoriello.
This comes as no surprise considering he is one of the biggest names in the NHL, but Ilya Kovalchuk makes this list for other reasons.
For one, the New Jersey Devils are officially Kovalchuk's team. With Parise signing in Minnesota and Henrique potentially out for the beginning of the season, there is no doubt that the team will rely heavily on Kovalchuk for offense.
The 100 million dollar man is also coming off back surgery after suffering a number of injuries in the playoffs, but he seems completely healed considering his success in the KHL. Kovalchuk currently ranks fourth in the KHL with 39 points in 32 games (17 G, 22 A), and his SKA St. Petersburg squad is atop the KHL standings with 83 points.
Although there are other worthy players on the team, Kovalchuk will likely become the team's next captain and will have to lead the Devils through the 2013 season and beyond. Despite going to the Cup Final last year, the pressure will be at an all-time high for Kovalchuk to succeed.
This is why the Devils invested all this money in Ilya Kovalchuk, and this season will be the test to see if he was worth it.
Of the New Jersey Devils players who have played elsewhere during the lockout, none have really suffered as bad as Anton Volchenkov.
Volchenkov missed six weeks after fracturing his ankle in the KHL and has yet to record a point in 10 games this season. He doesn't seem to have rebounded from his injury and is playing very similar to how he performed against the Florida Panthers in the playoffs.
Despite having a number of quality defensemen on the roster, the Devils still need Volchenkov to be a top-four player on the blue line. He is undoubtedly the team's most physical D-man and has led all Devils defensemen in hits over the past two seasons.
Nobody is expecting him to be an offensive weapon, but the Devils' success will depend on how physical Volchenkov is on a bad ankle.
One of the bright spots in the Devils' future is Jacob Josefson, but his success all depends on whether or not he can stay healthy.
The 21-year-old forward only played in 41 games last season due to two separate injuries, but he came back strong toward the end of the season and the playoffs. He is expected to be a starting center this year once the lockout ends, and he has been performing very well in the AHL while the work stoppage goes on.
With Adam Henrique expected to miss the beginning of the projected season, Josefson will likely be the second-line center unless Patrik Elias moves back from the wing position. This is a huge opportunity for Josefson, but the Devils will go only as far as Josefson takes them this year.
Losing key free agents in the offseason means the Devils will have to rely on unsung heroes in 2013. Josefson can be one of those guys as long as he stays on the ice.