10 Biggest Storylines Entering 2013 NHL Training Camps
NHL training camps cannot begin until the league and the NHLPA sign a memorandum of understanding on the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, this process is expected be completed on Saturday.
MOU still in works. "Should" get done today. Over 100 hrs invested in legal work and counting this week alone. Coaches very eager.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) January 12, 2013
There are plenty of fascinating storylines to watch as training camps commence and teams can finally start practicing with their coaches and teammates.
Let's look at the top 10 storylines to monitor at training camps around the league as teams prepare for the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season.
When Will P.K. Subban Sign a New Contract with the Montreal Canadiens?
P.K. Subban is one of the league's brightest young stars, and the Montreal Canadiens' first order of business during training camp will be to re-sign their franchise defenseman.
Even though Subban is a restricted free agent, he has a lot of the leverage in negotiations because the Canadiens cannot afford to start the season without him.
Obviously possible contract with Subban can't be announced until players agree to CBA. But 4 years/22 million is the info that I have.— Rod Francis (@InRodWeTrust990) January 11, 2013
There's a report in MTL saying PK Subban has agreed to a 4yr, $22M deal. His agent tells me that's not true. Said: "No deal has been done."— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) January 11, 2013
A four-year, $22 million deal would be worth $5.5 million per season, which is a fair amount for Subban and the team.
The Canadiens need to make sure they extend the 23-year-old star long-term, but Subban should also make sure he doesn't sign for too many years in his second contract. If Subban signs a four-year deal, he would be able to sign his next contract as an unrestricted free agent. He could earn a major payday at that time.
Montreal needs to get Subban signed as soon as possible to prevent a team from extending him an offer sheet that would be expensive to match.
Which Junior Hockey Prospects Will Make Their NHL Rosters?
There are a lot of junior hockey prospects who have been invited to training camps and will compete for a spot on their NHL rosters.
In a shortened season that will test the physical fitness of every player on a nightly basis, head coaches will need all the depth they can get.
With many veterans battling injuries, expect a lot of the top junior league prospects to earn a spot on their NHL rosters in training camp.
Here's a list of the top prospects who will participate in training camps.
|Prospect||Position||NHL Team||Will he make NHL Roster?|
|John Gibson||Goalie||Anaheim Ducks||Gibson just won the gold medal with Team USA at the World Junior Championships. If he plays well in camp, he could make the team. Early prediction is he will make it.|
|Dougie Hamilton||Defense||Boston Bruins||Adam McQuaid's injury should ensure Hamilton makes the roster. He will not improve if he keeps playing against OHL competition.|
|Ryan Murphy||Defense||Carolina Hurricanes||Carolina needs defensive depth and Murphy is ready for NHL action. He should make the roster.|
|Mikhail Grigorenko||Forward||Buffalo Sabres||Grigorenko has dominated the QMJHL this season, and the Sabres would be smart to keep him in the NHL.|
|Alex Galchenyuk||Forward||Montreal Canadiens||Galchenyuk has the offensive talent to contribute right away. He should make the Canadiens roster.|
|Jonathan Huberdeau||Forward||Florida Panthers||There's no chance Huberdeau fails to earn an NHL spot.|
|Ryan Strome/Griffin Reinhart||Forward/Defense||New York Islanders||Strome is ready for the NHL, but Reinhart may need another year in the WHL. However, the Islanders' lack of defensive depth may force the team to keep him.|
|Morgan Rielly||Defense||Toronto Maple Leafs||Rielly needs another year in the WHL, but with Jake Gardiner recovering from a concussion, the Leafs may keep Rielly in the NHL for a while.|
|Mark Scheifele||Forward||Winnipeg Jets||It would be shocking if Scheifele went back to the OHL. He's ready to become an NHL star.|
Rick Nash Heightens Expectations of New York Rangers
Rick Nash is now a member of the New York Rangers, and his addition has made them the Stanley Cup favorites among many journalists and fans.
The star winger shouldn't have a tough time adjusting to the Rangers. As one of the league's top power forwards, Nash will thrive as part of the Rangers' physical style of hockey.
Nash will have to play more defense than he did with the Columbus Blue Jackets, but goal scoring will be his primary role in New York.
He should have plenty of opportunities to score if he plays alongside Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik on the Rangers' first line, and according to ESPN's Katie Strang, these three players have already practiced together.
#NYR Preview of this year's first line? Richards centering Nash and Gaborik today— Katie Strang (@KatieStrangESPN) January 10, 2013
With another elite scorer in Nash and a deep roster of young and experienced players, the Rangers have the best team on paper heading into the new season.
Injuries Could Be a Common Occurence During Training Camps
Injuries could be a common occurrence at training camps throughout the league, because players who are out of shape will be more likely to suffer injuries.
There are a lot of players who decided not to play overseas during the lockout, and if they didn't skate or work out regularly over the last few months, training camp will be a real challenge for them.
Players returning from injuries, such as New York Rangers winger Marian Gaborik (shoulder), and players who have just recovered from injuries, including Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom (initial worries of a concussion ruled out via Washington Post), will have just a week's worth of practices to get ready for an intense shortened season.
Teams that go through training camp without any important players getting hurt will be much more likely to start the year strongly. Conditioning will be a major part of each team's practices before the first regular season game.
Veteran Free Agents Are Still Available
If injuries happen during training camp and/or teams find out they don't have enough depth, there are a number of veteran free agents still available on the market for general managers to sign.
Will these players want to accept very small salaries—possibly for the league minimum—after making millions of dollars throughout their careers?
Some of the may have to if they want to extend their careers and not be forced to retire.
Whether teams need Stanley Cup winning experience, toughness, leadership or penalty killing, there will be free agents available who can provide some needed depth to many teams when the lockout officially ends.
Here are five free agents who could be coveted during training camps.
|Player||Age||Position||What Can He Provide a Team?|
|Jason Arnott||38||Forward||Stanley Cup champion, leadership, bottom-six depth, penalty killing|
|Dominic Moore||32||Forward||Speed, toughness, penalty killing, leadership|
|Daymond Langkow||36||Forward||Playoff experience, center depth, leadership|
|Chris Campoli||28||Defense||Third pairing defenseman, penalty killing, playoff experience|
|Pavel Kubina||35||Defense||Defensive depth, penalty killing, Stanley Cup experience|
Will Zach Parise and Ryan Suter Quickly Settle in with the Wild?
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were the top free agents on the market last summer, and they both chose to sign with the Minnesota Wild.
If the team is to make a playoff run, the Wild need Parise and Suter to have a strong start to the season.
Minnesota finished 30th in goals scored a year ago, and since Parise and Suter are two of the best offensive players in the league, the Wild should turn this weakness into a strength this season.
Parise has never played in the Western Conference before and will have a lot of new teammates to get used to, including first line center Mikko Koivu.
Suter will have to play without a No. 1 defenseman as a partner for the first time in a few years after leaving former Nashville Predators teammate Shea Weber. Suter has also never been the top defenseman on his team in his NHL career.
The Wild need these two superstars to settle in quickly, because in a competitive Northwest Division where every team made substantial improvements in the offseason, Minnesota cannot start the year poorly and make the playoffs.
The Post-Nicklas Lidstrom Era Begins in Detroit
For the first time in 20 years, the Detroit Red Wings won't have Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line. The future Hall of Famer and seven-time Norris Trophy winner retired in May after a great career that included four Stanley Cup championships.
Now the Red Wings must find a new No. 1 defenseman to help replace Lidstrom, and this will not be an easy task.
Top prospect Brendan Smith will play a large role on the blue line, and his performance at both ends of the ice will greatly impact the team's success this season. Kyle Quincey will also need to play well for Detroit to win games consistently.
Lidstrom's departure also creates the need for a new captain. Veteran forward Henrik Zetterberg, who has a lot of experience as an alternate captain, will likely wear the "C" this season. The alternates will likely be defenseman Niklas Kronwall, who wore an "A" last year, and forward Pavel Datsyuk.
Even with Lidstrom gone, head coach Mike Babcock still has plenty of leadership in the locker room. The biggest problem he has is the depth and talent on the blue line.
Carolina Hurricanes Face Big Expectations
The Carolina Hurricanes will be expected to make the playoffs this year, which is an exciting challenge for a team that hasn't qualified for the playoffs since the 2008-09 season when they made the Eastern Conference Finals.
General manager Jim Rutherford needed to add some forward depth to his team in the offseason and bolstered his roster by signing star winger Alexander Semin and acquiring top center Jordan Staal via trade.
The Hurricanes also have a legitimate No. 1 goaltender in Cam Ward, but he needs the defensemen in front of him to play better than they did last season.
Top defensive prospect Ryan Murphy will be at training camp and has the potential to be a future star like current Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk.
With a lot of new players and high expectations, the Hurricanes will have just one week of practices to get used to each other and develop team chemistry.However, they do have enough talent to earn a playoff spot, especially since the Southeast Division is wide open this season.
Hurricanes fans finally have reasons to be excited about their team again, and it wouldn't be surprising if Carolina was one of the most improved teams in the NHL this year.
How Quickly Will Nail Yakupov Fit into the Edmonton Oilers' Top-Six?
Several of the Edmonton Oilers' top-six forwards played in the AHL during the lockout, where Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were able to earn some more experience playing with each other.
One notable top-six forward that didn't play in the AHL was the team's most recent No. 1 overall draft pick Nail Yakupov, who played for Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the KHL during the lockout.
Yakupov is an elite goal scorer with great speed and is expected to be a top candidate for the Calder Trophy this season.
He will have plenty of talent around him whether he plays on the first line with Nugent-Hopkins alongside him at center or on the second line with Sam Gagner in the middle.
Developing some chemistry with his new linemates will take time, and for the Oilers to start the season strongly and compete for a playoff spot, they need Yakupov to make a quick transition to the NHL.
What Does the Future Hold for Roberto Luongo?
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo will be the most talked about player in training camps once teams can start trading players.
With Cory Schneider set to start the season between the pipes, the future of Luongo and his gigantic contract are still uncertain.
The Canucks could easily acquire a roster player and a draft pick in exchange for their star goalie, but with top prospect Eddie Lack currently battling an injury, head coach Alain Vigneault won't have a reliable backup to start the season if Luongo is traded before the opening game.
There's no question that the biggest storyline in training camps will be what the Canucks decide to do with Luongo.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL columnist at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter.