There are lots of unsigned players on the free-agent market, both unrestricted and restricted, and they will be among the first players to work out contracts under the new rules enforced by the latest CBA.
The trade market will also heat up, as teams prepare for a lockout-shortened season in which the playoffs are a realistic possibility for nearly every team.
Now that general managers have the option to buy out two players after this year, we could see even more trades than usual from now until the start of the 2013-14 season.
For all the latest rumors surrounding free agents, trades and everything else involved with the NHL, check back to this article daily.
When Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas decided to leave the NHL and retire over the summer, the team moved on and is now ready to have Tuukka Rask become the starting goaltender of the present and future.
Thomas is in the final year of his contract with a salary cap hit of $5 million, but his actual salary is $3 million. As long as he's committed to staying in Colorado and not playing at all this year, Thomas has very little, if any trade value.
As of now, subject to usual "could change mind later" qualifiers, TIm Thomas is not interested in ending his self-imposed hockey exile.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 6, 2013
Said to be content/happy living with his family in Colorado, Thomas not interested in fulfilling final contract yr with BOS/any other team.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) January 6, 2013
If Thomas were to change his mind, he would have tremendous value to the Bruins as trade bait. Until that happens, the Bruins are stuck with his $5 million cap hit. Although, the Bruins can suspend Thomas and not have to pay him his salary if he doesn't join the team this season.
Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban is the most talented restricted free agent who hasn't signed a new contract yet.
Here's the latest update on Subban's contract situation, according to TSN:
The 23-year-old defenceman, who earned US$875,000 in the final year of his entry-level contract last season and remains a restricted free agent, is thought to be seeking a long-term deal with the club.
General manager Marc Bergevin calls getting pen to paper with Subban a priority. He is one of the team's most popular players with fans and one of the Habs' leaders in average ice time.
The Canadiens know how important Subban is to their success, and very rarely do you find a defenseman with his kind of mobility, strength and offensive talent.
Dallas Stars superstar Jamie Benn could become the first player to sign a huge contract under the rules of the new CBA.
Mike Johnson of TSN explained Benn's situation in a recent column from Sunday:
"Benn has a lot of leverage in this," said Johnson. "He's the key to that entire lineup... They have to re-sign him and he knows that."
As a franchise cornerstone type of player, Benn deserves a yearly salary of at least $5 million. Even though he's only 23 years old, Benn has already played three full seasons in the NHL, and scored 20-plus goals in each of those years.
New York Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto is one of the top restricted free agents that needs to be signed before regular season games begin later this month.
Here's the latest update on his contract situation, according to ESPN's Katie Strang:
#NYR Re: Del Zotto's contract situation, agent Don Meehan plans on talking with him today and then meeting w/ Rangers GM Glen Sather— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) January 7, 2013
Del Zotto led all Rangers defensemen in scoring last season with 41 points (10 goals and 31 assists) in 77 games.
He's an important part of the team's blue line, and his improvement last year after a disappointing 2010-11 season was encouraging for Rangers fans.
Del Zotto is a good player, and is just 22 years old, but giving him a yearly salary above $3 million in his next contract wouldn't be a wise decision by general manager Glen Sather.
Rumors involving Roberto Luongo and the Toronto Maple Leafs will likely become the biggest story involving a star player who could be on the move.
Back in October, Sportsnet.ca reporter John Shannon was confident that the Vancouver Canucks goaltender would make a move to Toronto post-lockout.
I do not know who or what he will be traded for, and believe it or not, I don’t think general managers Mike Gillis and Brian Burke know either. The rules of any new collective bargaining agreement will dictate the actual transaction.
Now that we have a CBA, a trade involving Luongo could happen any time after the deal is ratified, and TSN's Bob McKenzie (via Spector's Hockey) has the latest Luongo-to-Leafs update:
@tsnbobmckenzie says there is no deal in place which would ship Roberto Luongo from Canucks to Maple Leafs. Leafs are interested, though.— Spector's Hockey (@SpectorsHockey) January 6, 2013
No one will be surprised if the Leafs make a major goaltending upgrade by acquiring Luongo, but it may take time because he is an elite player, and the Canucks have to make sure they get the most value in return.
Following the Glendale City Council's vote to pass the Coyotes' arena-lease deal in November, a deadline of January 31 was set for Greg Jamison to buy the franchise, according to Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports.
Jamison's attempt to buy the Phoenix Coyotes from the NHL may finally be nearing completion, according to John Shannon of Sportsnet.ca:
On heels of the tentative CBA deal, good news from Phoenix...the Jamison Group is on verge of announcing purchase of Coyotes from NHL.— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) January 6, 2013
Regardless of your opinion on the Coyotes and whether you think they should be relocated to a place like Quebec City, it would be nice to see the franchise have a solid ownership group for the first time in years.
With strong ownership, the Coyotes may have a chance of being successful on and off the ice in the Phoenix area.
The next challenge for Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland following the lockout is to strengthen his team's depth as much as possible before the trade deadline.
Gregg Krupa of The Detroit News recently reported one trade possibility for the Red Wings:
Their line mate, Linus Omark, is similarly hot, with 12 goals and 31 assists in 29 games. Currently the property of the Oilers, Omark may be on the trading block and the Wings may have some interest.
Omark is a quality left winger who is just 25 years old. He scored 27 points (five goals and 22 assists) in 51 games during the 2010-11 season, but injury limited him to only 14 games last year.
The Red Wings would be wise to make an offer for Omark, and since the Oilers have plenty of talented young forwards, it would be surprising if Edmonton was unwilling to part with him for the right price.
The Pittsburgh Penguins need help on the blue line after last year's first-round playoff series against the rival Philadelphia Flyers.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Sergei Gonchar could reunite with his old Pittsburgh teammates:
The veteran defenceman, going into the final year of a contract paying him $5.5 million per season, will be targeted for a trade by the Pittsburgh Penguins once a collective bargaining agreement is reached.
Whether Gonchar’s former team waits until whatever date is set for the trade deadline or a makes a pitch before the season begins isn’t known, but league sources say Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero has interest in bringing back the 38-year-old.
Gonchar wouldn't be an inexpensive addition, but since each team has two buyouts as a result of the new CBA, the Penguins could make room for a possible Gonchar return. Although, any buyouts cannot take place until after the 2012-13 season.
The good news for the Senators is that the Penguins have a surplus of quality young defensemen who could be made available in a potential trade involving Gonchar.