Hockey will finally return to North America.
The NHL and the NHL Players' Association have finally reached an agreement that should keep the league in business for the next 10 years. Commissioner Gary Bettman announced the news on Sunday morning (via NHL.com):
Don Fehr and I are here to tell you that we have reached an agreement on the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement, the details of which need to be put to paper. We have to dot a lot of I's and cross a lot of T's. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the basic framework has been agreed upon.
With the news of the lockout ending, many players will now come back to the league after spending time playing in other places around the world.
Here is the latest buzz on some of hockey's top names.
Scott Gomez, Montreal Canadiens
Most hockey players will finally get on the ice after a long absence, but Scott Gomez will not be one of them.
Arpon Basu of LNH.com reported that the veteran player will sit out the entire season:
Bergevin says #Habs have sent Gomez home and will be bought out next summer— Arpon Basu (@ArponBasu) January 13, 2013
General Manager Marc Bergevin will likely buy out the contract during the summer and Gomez's career with the Montreal Canadiens will be over.
While Gomez loses a chance to play during the year, at least he gets paid a lot of money to do nothing over the next few months.
Ilya Kovalchuk, New Jersey Devils
Is Ilya Kovalchuk going to stay in the KHL?
The rumors started flying that he might on Tuesday, according to Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy:
Ak Bars Kazan faces SKA in Kontinental Hockey League action on Tuesday. Pavel Datsyuk had played for Kazan during the NHL lockout, but won't appear in the game, apparently on his way back to the Detroit Red Wings. Ilya Kovalchuk had played for SKA during the NHL lockout and ... is in the lineup.
The KHL has been making a full-court press to keep any and all NHL stars that have played in Russia during the lockout. (Hey, All-Star Game gotta eat.) Unless they're destined to play for the Islanders, they're all returning to the NHL.
But don't start sweating yet, Devils' fans—as Tom Gulitti of The Record notes, there's no reason to think Kovalchuk won't be coming back:
@tsnbobmckenzie That is what Lou Lamoriello told me yesterday as well. Said he had no reason to think he wasn't coming back.— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) January 8, 2013
Roberto Luongo, Vancouver Canucks
One of the first personnel moves that could be made after the lockout might be a trade of Robert Luongo.
The goalie lost his starting job in the playoffs last season and it is likely that Cory Schneider remains the starter for the Canucks.
General Manager Mike Gillis told Jim Morris of the Toronto Star that resolving this issue will be important:
It will become a priority for us. We’ve got two very good goaltenders. We are very happy with both of them. We’ll have to wait and see what comes our way now that you can begin discussing specifics with teams. It’s probably a very different landscape today than it was before because of the new CBA. We haven’t seen the details of that yet, which may affect everything we do.
While he does not necessarily say there will be a trade, Morris continues that this type of move is the likeliest scenario, with the Toronto Maple Leafs being the best fit.
It seems that Luongo's tenure with the Canucks will soon be over as he tries to find a new place where he can play regularly.
Andrew Ference, Boston Bruins
After spending time playing for HC Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic, Andrew Ference returned home for the holidays, mainly in hope that the lockout would soon be over.
Fortunately, he got his wish and is now ready to return to his Boston Bruins.
The defenseman also sent an apologetic message on Twitter to his fans:
From my grandparents to our B’s fans, I am deeply sorry that we had to miss so much hockey. All we can do now is play our hearts out for you— Andrew Ference (@Ferknuckle) January 6, 2013
This is the type of message that people will like to see, as well as get people excited for the upcoming season.
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins
One of the more interesting stories over the past few days is the journey of Kris Letang.
The defenseman signed with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL just two days ago, which was announced via the league's Twitter account:
Kris Letang is introduced as the newest member of SKA St. Petersburg. twitter.com/KHL_hockey/sta…— KHL_Hockey (@KHL_hockey) January 4, 2013
While he still has the option to remain overseas, Jesse Spector of the Sporting News implies that Letang will return after his short trip:
Dude got a free trip to St. Petersburg. And a jersey. RT @afetherolf: Good job Kris Letang, signing in the KHL like two days ago. Hilarious.— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) January 6, 2013
The timing was not perfect, but the Penguins player is likely very happy he gets to return to work.
Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
A few stars that were playing in other parts of the world had already returned earlier in the week in hopes that a deal would get done.
Henrik Lundqvist was one of those players who announced that he was returning on New Year's Day on Twitter:
But now It's time to make a move. Time to return to NYC and hopefully I'm coming back for the right reason like I said..— Henrik Lundqvist (@HLundqvist30) January 1, 2013
In addition to the goaltender, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin of the Boston Bruins also returned early, according to Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington.
If this becomes a trend, the NHL will return in full force as it looks to make up for lost time.
As for the rest of the league, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers summed up everyone's thinking in one tweet:
Finally, fans will be able to watch one of the most popular sports in America after too long of an absence.