Playing Fact or Fiction with Top NHL Rumors at 2013-14 Training Camps
For hockey fans, the start of the 2013 NHL season is finally here.
But despite all 30 NHL training camps now being in full swing, there are still a number of teams faced with uncertainty regarding important situations within their respective lineups.
As always, there are big-name contract holdouts, veterans in search of new homes and goaltending battles worth monitoring, so needless to say, it will be an interesting stretch for much of the hockey world.
With that in mind, let's play fact or fiction with the biggest rumors circulating during the first week of training camp.
Simon Gagne Will Find a New Home
Recently, Simon Gagne was said to be headed back to Philadelphia for yet another kick at the can with the team he broke into the league with in 1999, but as of yesterday, the Flyers seem to be heading in another direction.
But according to TSN, Gagne may be on the verge of agreeing to return to his home province of Quebec to play for the Montreal Canadiens, who appear to have at least one spot up for grabs in their top nine.
Unfortunately for Gagne, he's been unable to stay healthy for much of the last three seasons, so it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if the former All-Star remained unsigned by the time opening night rolls around.
However, Gagne's still got the ability to contribute when healthy, so a team in need of a veteran sniper could certainly use his services at the right price.
Gagne will find a home, and the Canadiens make sense, given how many younger players that are set to be slotted into prominent roles up front. Something around a one-year deal worth $1.5 million makes sense, at least on paper.
Alex Pietrangelo Won't Be at Camp for the Blues
As the top rearguard in St. Louis, Alex Pietrangelo is a vital part of his team, so his continued absence at training camp is a major concern for fans of the Blues.
As of now, Pietrangelo and the Blues remain at standstill in negotiations, so there's clearly some disagreement between the team and player on the value and term of the former No. 4 overall pick's new deal.
It's almost impossible to think that Pietrangelo would end up anywhere in St. Louis, because so much of the team's long-term development is based upon the continued development of the 23-year-old.
He's big, mobile and smart, and any team would love to have Pietrangelo, so the Blues have to recognize that and get a deal done before this gets ugly.
The Blues have too good of a young core to let Pietrangelo, a NHL Second Team All-Star in 2011-12 go, so they'll get a long-term deal done by the end of camp.
Tim Thomas Will Be in the NHL This Season
Virtually all summer, former Vezina and Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas has been said to have been mulling a comeback to the NHL after sitting out last season.
And, according to many sources, such as CBS Sports, the Florida Panthers have extended a training camp offer to the veteran stopper, but it remains unclear whether Thomas is interested in entertaining that option.
That's because, according to Thomas' agent, the Cup-winning goaltender is only interested in returning to the NHL as a starter, which seems a tad unreasonable after taking a full year off for the 39-year-old.
There's no doubting his potential in the right situation, but as of now, Thomas' chances of being handed a No. 1 job appear to be remote.
I doubt Thomas will come off of his demand to be given a starting role right off the bat, and if that's the case, the former University of Vermont star will probably continue to stay at home, unless a team is hit hard by injuries midseason.
Derek Stepan Will Be with the Rangers by the Time the Season Starts
As the New York Rangers' unquestioned No. 1 center, Derek Stepan's continued absence has to be very troubling for Glen Sather and company, even if they aren't showing it.
That's because, after Brad Richards' decline in 2013, coupled with Derek Stepan's emergence as a rising star in the NHL, the former Wisconsin Badger's presence in the Rangers lineup is nothing short of critical.
But, as things stand now, the Rangers and Stepan's camp remain far apart on a new deal, and that's why the 23-year-old continues to be a no-show at training camp.
After notching 44 points in 48 games last season, Stepan appeared to be on the verge of establishing himself as a standout pivot in this league, and there's no reason to think that he won't do just that this season, whether it's in New York or elsewhere.
Stepan is far too important to the Rangers for Sather to let him go, so even if the skilled center has to accept one of the two-year bridge deals that have become popular with restricted free agents, he'll remain in New York.
Ilya Bryzgalov Will Have a Contract Offer Before Training Camps End
Like Tim Thomas, Ilya Bryzgalov apparently received a training camp invite from the Florida Panthers, but as of now, the former Vezina Trophy nominee has yet to accept the offer.
And as is the case with Thomas, that's probably because the Russian stopper believes he's capable of starting in the NHL and wants a legitimate contract offer rather than a tryout.
But, unfortunately for Bryzgalov, he's simply played his way off of teams' radars due to his inconsistent play with the Flyers, and his at-times bizarre behavior off the ice, so he'll have to prove himself once again in order to earn a job in the NHL.
He's certainly still capable of being a No. 1 goaltender, but whether he'll ever truly receive that opportunity again remains to be seen.
Bryzgalov may well find his way back into the NHL by season's end, but like Thomas, he'll have to wait for a team in need of midseason help in goal in order for that to happen.