The lower salary cap has slowed free agency to a crawl, but even teams like the San Jose Sharks that seem idle have no problem keeping busy. Every team has had its prospect development camp as they work on their rosters beyond 2013-14.
San Jose is not in an enviable position. After years of selling draft picks and prospects to make failed Stanley Cup runs, the talent in the system is depleted at just the wrong time.
The Sharks have maybe one more run with the current core. Nine current projected starters will be free agents next summer, with five being unrestricted. It is possible that they will either be unable to or choose not to re-sign four of those players, leaving too many holes for the current prospect pool to fill.
The depth roles can be filled by low-cost veterans over the season, or by career reserves like Nick Petrecki for a few games that have multiple injuries at one position. Only a true prospect can fill the kind of major roles that could be vacated by Dan Boyle, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton.
A true prospect is someone with virtually no NHL experience but the very real potential of filling a No.1 role in net or playing on one of the top two lines and pairs.
If a player is not listed on the current roster they are not in line for an invitation to training camp this September. Such prospects are probably too far away to make anything more than a cameo appearance in 2014-15: Mirco Mueller, Sena Acolatse, Freddie Hamilton, Travis Oleksuk and Sebastian Stalberg.
However, there are five players to watch that might make an appearance in 2013-14 and have a chance of filling a significant role the next season: