With their season officially set to "off" mode, the Detroit Red Wings face no small amount of uncertainty as they set their sights on the 2010-11 season.
New contracts, possible retirements, front office positions and the team's status as perennial Cup contenders are all up in the air.
Though it's tough for Red Wings fans and players alike to start thinking about next year, instead of the next playoff series in early May, the amount of unknowns facing the Wings makes now the best time to start.
What follows is a list of 10 burning questions facing the Wings this offseason. Some they can answer, but others won't be settled until after the season begins in October.
As always, feel free to disagree, reinterpret, or add to the list!
Oh, yeah, in case you missed it, Jiri Hudler is a Red Wing again.
Technically, he never really wasn't a Wing. His decision to leave the team last summer for a $10 million, two-year contract in the KHL, however, threw many, including GM Ken Holland, for a loop.
The recent dissolution of Dynamo Moscow, Hudler's KHL team, forced them to buy out his contract and, automatically send him back to Detroit to honor the two-year, $5.75 million contract awarded to him last summer.
Before his decision to leave, Hudler was set to have a break-out year in 2009-10.
After scoring a career-high 57 points in 2008-09, Hudler figured to be second only to the likes of Zetterberg, Datsyuk, and Franzen when it came to go-to forwards.
The Wings are going to be expecting him to be just that as he rejoins the only NHL team he's ever known.
Maltby's No. 18 isn't bound for the rafters of Joe Louis Arena, but still, it would be a shock to see a new player don this number once Maltby leaves Detroit.
As one of the premier pests in the league over the past 14 seasons in Detroit, Maltby has played no small part in Detroit's four Stanley Cup wins during his tenure.
Still, his worth, measured in his ability to fore-check hard, physically punish opponents, and score the occasional, yet often clutch goal has declined steadily over the past few seasons.
With younger players like Darren Helm and Justin Abdelkader proving ready to assume this role, Maltby's value to the team may indeed have been exhausted.
Though he's a unrestricted free agent this summer, it would be a shock to see him leave Detroit for another team.
If he isn't suiting up for a 15th season in Detroit this summer, it will be because he's decided to put a respectable end to an extremely solid career in the NHL.
If there ever was a personification of what someone meant when they referred to, "Detroit Red Wings hockey," Stevie Y is it.
Upon his retirement in 2006, the front-office job he had hoped for was immediately given to him.
As the Wings VP of Operations, he was largely, and by his own estimation, supposed to be assuming an apprenticeship position. The management team he was joining could probably teach every other front office in the league a thing or two about running a hockey team.
Still, Yzerman made his mark early in his management career. He was the one responsible for convincing GM Holland that signing Pavel Datsyuk to a seven-year, $47 million contract in 2007 was a steal.
This season, Yzerman faced the biggest challenge of his post-playing career as GM of the 2010 Canadian Olympic team. In typical Stevie Y fashion, he settled for the only outcome he found acceptable, a gold medal win in February.
In early April, rumors popped up that the Tampa Bay Lightning were in the market for a new GM, and Yzerman was the man they wanted.
Things got a bit more serious once it was announced Red Wings owner Mike Illitch had given the Lightning permission to talk to Yzerman about the opportunity.
Yzerman is ready and very much willing to assume a GM position in the NHL.
However, with the impending long-term extensions of Holland and Assistant GM Jim Nill, it seems quite clear that this opportunity is not going to develop with the Red Wings.
As the most beloved player in Detroit Red Wings history and a valuable member of the Wings' current brain trust, losing Yzerman will be a tough thing for the organization to stomach.
Still, Yzerman's readiness and desire to lead an NHL team from the GM's chair seems to suggest his flight from the Red Wings' nest is forthcoming.
When he signed Todd Bertuzzi last summer to a one-year, $1.5 million deal, Holland said he hoped Bertuzzi could contribute at least 40 points in the regular season and be an able contributor in the playoffs.
Having posted 44 points in the regular season and 11 points in 12 playoff games, clearly Holland got a solid return on his investment.
Bertuzzi has said repeatedly that he and his family would like to stay in Detroit, and the Wings have expressed similar interest.
However, in a salary cap league, even seemingly no-brainer signings aren't as inevitable as one might think.
In Bertuzzi, the Wings have a big, veteran forward, who is certainly past his prime as a premier power forward, yet still a valuable secondary offensive contributor.
If Bertuzzi accepts, say, a two-year, $2.5 million deal with incentives, it's likely Big Bert would end his career in the NHL as a Detroit Red Wing.
If he's looking for bigger money and/or longer term, Bertuzzi may be hiring movers yet again this summer.
True, the Red Wings suffered from an unprecedented amount of injuries to key players for most of the 2009-10 season.
However, with the parity now present in the NHL, particularly in the Western Conference, one has to wonder if the Red Wings will now be just another team fighting for a playoff spot next March.
A healthy Wings team should make a playoff spot relatively certain.
Still, will the Wings begin training camp in September by talking about what needs to happen in the playoffs in April, as they have for the better part of two decades?
Given the way this season went, it'd be surprising if the Wings continued to make those kinds of assumptions.
Part and parcel to the preceding question is the idea that the Wings' guaranteed Central Division championship may be a thing of the past.
Even if the Wings remained healthy this season, wrestling a divisional championship away from the Chicago Blackhawks may had been too tall an order to deliver on.
Understand, the Chicago Blackhawks have ascended quickly to become one of the very best teams in the league, and they're here to stay for a while.
Even if the playoffs are a lock moving forward, getting past the Blackhawks is going to be a regular and difficult task for the Red Wings, if they plan to once again emerge as the class of the Central Division.
Among the few bright spots for the Wings during the first half of the season was the collective emergence of players like Darren Helm, Justin Abdelkader, Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller.
The fact that all four of these young players (at 26, Drew Miller is the elder statesman of the quartet) proved their worth to the team this season is encouraging for the Wings' future.
However, all four are restricted free agents, and that makes keeping them in the fold a tricky task.
All must be given qualifying offers by the Wings, in order for Detroit to retain negotiating rights. This will not make them immune to offer sheets from other teams though.
As other teams have had their eyes on Helm and Abdelkader for a while, and with former castoffs Miller and Eaves having significantly upped their value, offer sheets for some of these players are almost certainly forthcoming.
With veterans such as Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby coming close to retirement, Holland would do well to do all he can to keep this quartet in red and white.
On the face of it, this is a pretty stupid question.
When even no-nonsense, battle-hardened coaches like Mike Babcock acknowledge you as the reason your team made the playoffs, you can rest assured your job is safe.
Additionally, though his first trip to the playoffs ended abruptly, just five games into the second round, Jimmy Howard provided ample evidence that his progression as a Detroit's new franchise goalie is going nicely.
However, to those that would toss out any questions about Howard's readiness to become the undisputed starter in Detroit, I have two words for you: Steve Mason.
True, Mason is six years younger than Howard, but even considering his age, no one would have guessed that he'd follow up his 10-shutout, Calder Trophy-winning season with an absolutely abysmal sophomore campaign.
Mason provides a warning against using a very good rookie campaign as conclusive evidence that your questions in goal have been sufficiently answered.
Nevertheless, the support Howard has around him in the form of experience and veteran leadership is infinitely greater than that around Mason.
Betting on Howard continuing his rise as a rock-solid starter is safe enough. Still, we won't know for sure until the puck drops in October.
Tomas Holmstrom is far from the league's best player.
But when it comes to playing within a few feet in front of the crease, there is no one better.
Holmstrom's specialized role has kept him a valuable part of the Red Wings success throughout his 13 seasons with Detroit.
As he's set to become an UFA this summer, Holland will have to think hard about just how much he's willing to spend to keep Holmstrom in front of the opposition's net.
It's tough to imagine Holmstrom playing for another team. In fact, it seems almost impossible.
Look for The Demolition Man to return to Detroit next season, likely for two more years to finish out his brilliant, if not significantly bruised, career.
Honestly, the answer to many of the preceding questions really depends on the answer to this one.
Even at 40, Nick Lidstrom is still Detroit's most important player.
His outstanding physical conditioning and nearly non-existent injury history means his decision to keep playing will be based much more on his mental state than his physical one.
Short of the NHL introducing a new defenseman award or inventing a different way to win, Lidstrom has absolutely nothing left to prove in the NHL.
With six Norris Trophies, four Stanley Cups, and a Conn Smythe, Lidstrom has accomplished more in his 18 years with the Wings than any other team—let alone player—has in that same stretch.
As Lidstrom is set to become an UFA, the only certainty is Lidstrom will not be playing for any other team in 2010-11.
If he decides to continue his NHL career, he has only to name his price and terms to stay with the Wings.
However, if he decides to retire, the Wings will have at least $7.45 million to spend on a replacement.
Even with double that, Detroit won't come close to replacing their iconic captain and one of the very best hockey players of all-time.
Henrik Zetterberg has said that, if need be, the Wings will resort to praying in order to keep No. 5 in Hockeytown.
I, for one, am not taking any chances; I'm already down on my knees.