The puck is about to drop on the 2013 season.
The pursuit of the Stanley Cup should be compelling, given the unfamiliarity of a 48-game regular season. Patterns of preparation that have been long established will have nothing to do with the way this season plays out.
The lockout has reduced each team's schedule to 48 games. Teams have pinpointed a fast start as a big key to success this season. That may or may not be the case.
However, players who will be free agents prior to the 2013-14 season must come out of the gate flying.
Free agents will not be able to sign long-term deals like the ones that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signed last year. Instead of being able to sign 13-year contracts, terms will be limited to seven years if a player signs with a new team and eight years if they sign with their existing team.
Don't look for Jarome Iginla on this list even though he is the highest-paid player who is scheduled to become a free agent. He does not face a make-or-break season. He is an established commodity whose consistency is his calling card.
(All contract information is courtesy of CapGeek.com. All 2013 salaries are prorated.)