The 2013 NHL season is no longer an 82 game marathon, but instead is a 48 game dash to the finish line.
Will teams that had multiple players skating in Europe fair better? Will veteran squads win because they will have fresh legs all season long? Only the next few months will tell.
Here are my Eastern Conference power rankings.
1. Pittsburgh Penguins – A healthyEvgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby will lead Pittsburgh deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs. The addition of veteran goalie Tomas Vokoun gives Coach Dan Bylsma a solid option if Marc-Andre Fleury falters.
It took a long 16 hour negotiating session in New York yesterday, but the NHL and NHLPA hashed out an agreement in principle around 6 a.m. today.
The NHL did not announce the start date of the season or the number of games each team will play, but it is expected to be a 48 or 50 game season starting on either January 15 or January 19 with teams only playing within their respective conferences. The Bolts had January 15, 17 and 19 as scheduled home games, thus it is a good bet that they will open the season at the Forum.
The new CBA still has to be drafted and ratified by both sides. It is for ten years with an eight year opt-out.
Another Tampa Bay Lightning player has signed a lockout contract with an ECHL team. Forward BJ Crombeen will play for the Orlando Solar Bears, presumably making his debut on Saturday night at the Amway Center in Orlando. Crombeen has practiced with the Minnesota Wild affiliate.
Crombeen is a member of the NHLPA negotiating committee. (Photograph/Linda Hamilton)
The veteran right wing joins Bolts forward Nate Thompson as the second player to sign with an ECHL team. Thompson is playing with the Alaska Aces.
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Tampa Bay Lightning forward and player representative Adam Hall has signed a lockout contract with Ravensburg in the German second division. (Photograph/Linda Hamilton)
According to Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune, Hall will make his debut on Friday versus Rosenheim. Hall spoke about his decision to play overseas:
Via the Tampa Tribune:
"I'm looking forward to the opportunity. It'll be great to play and keep that competitive edge. You have to do whatever you can, whether it's here in Tampa or guys going back home or finding other places to train or play. Guys just need to find the best places to train."
Tampa Bay Lightning center Nate Thompson has signed a tryout contract with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces. He joins Montreal's Scott Gomez and Washington's Joey Crabb on the Aces training camp roster. (Photograph/Linda Hamilton)
Gomez, like Thompson, signed a tryout contract, while Crabb signed a standard deal.
Thompson, an Alaska native accumulated 29 goals and 35 points in 147 games during his two years with the Bolts. He also represented the United States at the World Championships last spring. He is entering his eighth season and has played 265 career NHL games
Thompson, Crabb, Gomez and Anchorage's Brandon Dubinsky (Blue Jackets) h...
Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman has signed a contract with Barys Astana of the KHL. The big Swede is the first Bolts player to decide to play in Europe during the lockout. The 21 year old blue liner had five goals and 18 assists in 61 games with Tampa Bay last season. (Hedman photograph/Linda Hamilton)
Teams in the KHL can sign up to three NHL players at a maximum of 65% of their NHL salary during the lockout. Barys has also signed Winnipeg Jets center Nik Antropov.
Should the lockout continue, expect Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis to take their talents overseas. Both have had preliminary talks with European teams.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have assigned 18 players to Syracuse (AHL) as they prepare for the pending lockout. All of these players did not have to clear waivers to be sent down.
The players that were assigned are: Forwards Brett Connolly, JT Brown, Cory Conacher, Danick Gauthier, Richard Panik, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Alex Hutchings, defensemen Mark Barberio, Radko Gudas, Dmitry Korobov, Charles Landry, Dan Milan and goalies Dustin Tokarski, Riku Helenius and Pat Nagle.
The players union seems steadfastly united as 250-300 members are expected to meet in New York, today and tomorrow. Lightning players planning on attending are Adam Hall, Nate Thompson, Mathieu Garon, BJ Crombeen, Brian Lee, Matt Carle and Marc-Andre Bergeron.
The NHL and the NHLPA have plans to meet this morning at 10:00 a.m. despite still remaining far apart. If the two sides don’t reach an agreement, the lockout will officially start at midnight on Sunday.
The Lightning players are preparing for a work stoppage. In that case, they will not be able to enter the Tampa Bay Times Forum or any other team facility.