So what's the biggest early-season road trip? Is it the Pittsburgh Penguins travelling to Philadelphia and New York? The Chicago Blackhawks heading to Los Angeles and Phoenix?
Neither. The biggest one goes through Anaheim, where the agents for Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are to sit down with Ducks general manager Bob Murray.
The Ducks start the season in Vancouver and Calgary before returning to California. That's when the face-to-face meetings are to take place. Murray talked with reporters on Sunday, saying it is his "biggest priority" to re-sign both men, who will be unrestricted free agents next summer.
"I love those guys," Murray told Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register. "They're winners.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to sign them."
Murray declined a follow-up request, not a surprise because he's tried to be as quiet as possible about this process. The agents -- Gerry Johanssen and Steve Kotlowitz for Getzlaf; Pat Morris and Mark Guy for Perry -- were similarly tight-lipped. But according to various sources, here's where things stand:
The Ducks opened talks with Getzlaf and Perry last summer and, while both players were told Anaheim was willing to discuss long-term extensions, Getzlaf preferred to wait and see the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement; Perry's negotiations went further, but Ducks owner Henry Samueli made it very clear he was not willing to explore the bonus/back-diving structure of a Zach Parise-type deal.
One year removed from winning the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP, Perry could certainly argue he deserved just that.
Now the rules are different. The maximum length of a contract is eight years and the lowest-paid season of any long-term deal must be within 50 per cent of the highest. What hasn't changed is that both players will get multiple big, big offers if they hit free agency. And I'm betting that Getzlaf gets more goals in 48 games than he did in 82 games last season (11).
Here are the issues:
The calendar. Will the length of the lockout hurt Anaheim? Both players are so close to free agency. Do they just see what's out there? Do they want to stay? Neither's given any indication otherwise. They're going to play for a coach who loves to unleash his scorers. Getzlaf is particularly attached to the community, having moved his family (two children) into the area and built a new home.
The only thing I would wonder with Perry is that his parents live in Ontario. They're very close. Would he want to play somewhere where they can see him more often or watch his games in an easier time zone? I have no insight into this other than learning over the years that it can matter.
The bigger issue may be competitive. Since winning the Stanley Cup in 2007, the Ducks are 1-2 in playoff series and have missed the post-season twice. The team's salary history tends to be middle of the pack. If that's where the Ducks want to stay, it will be difficult to build a Cup contender with two players eating a massive percentage of payroll.
Which leads us to...
What is going to be the new contract structure for prime unrestricted free agents? Penguins GM Ray Shero made it known that, in 2014, when Evgeni Malkin is 28, the CBA changes mean Malkin's annual salary may be larger than teammate Sidney Crosby's. Both Getzlaf and Perry are about to turn 28.
You can argue who is better, but that's irrelevant. It's all about market forces. If everyone's allowed to make an offer, the numbers will be enormous. Agents have argued -- and some teams agree -- that we're going to have even more contracts in which players earn $10 million in a season. The possibility exists here.
It may not be next year, though. One source made a good point, that maybe it's better to wait for a couple of seasons (when the hope is that escrow decreases) to ask for the biggest number.
Which leads us to...
Did Samueli get what he wants from the CBA? This is probably the biggest question. He wanted major changes. Anaheim's market size prevented the Ducks from qualifying from revenue-sharing in the prior CBA, a situation that no longer exists. That was a big win for him, but how does he feel about the overall picture?
Murray's quote shows hope that his boss is ready to step up and deliver. In about two weeks, we'll know where everyone stands.
1. After Brian Burke's Saturday media conference, one source came up with an actual sensible reason for the timing of the change. It sounds like the Toronto Maple Leafs new ownership disagreed with Burke's CBA philosophies -- the unwillingness to use bonuses, back-diving contracts and offer sheets among other things. It's about using your resources to the fullest extent. In the new deal, there are further limitations, but still advantages to being a financial powerhouse (bonuses, for example, were not touched). If this is true, we're going to see a change in the way Toronto does business.
2. Outside the organization, another theory is that Burke was unsure about including Nazem Kadri in any potential Roberto Luongo trade. Reason? What if Anaheim decided to move Perry or Getzlaf? It's harder to do it without Kadri in return. It comes down to priorities -- if you do decide to trade him, who is your first choice?
3. Interesting development on the first day of Washington Capitals practice as Alexander Ovechkin lined up on right wing. Rookie head coach Adam Oates told reporters that the captain suggested the idea in a head-to-head meeting and believes the responsibilities of his defensive system will make it easier on Ovechkin to play there. I'm intrigued to see this. It's certainly time for a diversification of his game.
4. Reaction to Philadelphia's interest in Luongo? Lots of jokes, but as one exec said: "No one should be surprised because they are in everything big." And it's been written here several times, but other organizations will tell you nobody's got "bigger ones" than the Flyers.
5. If the Flyers were to buy out Ilya Bryzgalov after this season, it would cost approximately $23 million US over 14 years. Not saying it will happen, just a statement of fact.
6. There were a couple of teams who thought the Vancouver Canucks would have to waive Luongo before the season if they couldn't make a trade. But with a $70.2-million cap this season and $64.3 million the next, they have more room to breathe than some potential trade partners expected.
7. Very tough for Wade Redden and Scott Gomez. During negotiations, the players considered whether to push for a buyout period now or wait until after the season. They decided to wait, worried that there wouldn't be enough jobs for those immediately cut loose. I didn't research Gomez, but did talk to a few teams about Redden. He easily would have found a job.
8. Gomez grievance? Had a few questions about it and, if you're the agent (in this case, Ian Pulver), maybe you pursue it to show the client you are trying. But just like the Montreal Canadiens did with Georges Laraque, history says you can send a guy home as long as you pay what's owed.
9. Adding Cam Barker gives Vancouver eight NHL blue-liners. The New Jersey Devils also have eight and the Buffalo Sabres nine. Pittsburgh has seven, but the Penguins are loaded with prospects at this position. The question here is, do these teams believe you can't have enough defencemen during this shortened season or will they talk trade with others (Detroit, Edmonton) looking for help? Now that Anton Volchenkov is healthy, opponents believe the Devils, in particular, are searching for a partner with a forward to trade.
10. Denial I: Oilers GM Steve Tambellini said "nothing there" to several rumours indicating he is willing to part with forward Ales Hemsky to add a defenceman. Anyone acquiring Hemsky needs to pay a pro-rated $3.5 million this year because Edmonton has already taken care of his $1.5-million signing bonus. He is owed $5 million in 2013-14, including a $500,000 bonus.
11. Denial II: Heard the New York Rangers were poking around Chicago's Niklas Hjalmarsson, but both teams said, "No sale."
12. Wonder if Phoenix is sniffing around Toronto's Matthew Lombardi. He skated there during the lockout and apparently has good chemistry with some of the Coyotes. Maybe there's a fit. Probably wouldn't cost a ton and might be a good change for everyone.
13. Some interest in San Jose Sharks prospect Brandon Mashinter. He's a banger having a down year offensively in the AHL, but might get a shot in an energy role somewhere. Heard the Carolina Hurricanes considered him, but getting Kevin Westgarth probably eliminates the need.
14. St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong said that, at the end of last season, he and coach Ken Hitchcock asked their players: "Was this the start of a foundation ... or a cute one-year story?" I love that stuff.
15. I'm terrified to address the restricted free agents in this blog because it could change and I'll look like a doofus. There are a lot of variables here, especially with with such a short turnaround. In a vacuum, you look at Jamie Benn, Dmitry Kulikov, Ryan O'Reilly, PK Subban and see four guys who could help anyone. Good, young and talented.
16. Subban/Montreal looks like the 2013 version of Drew Doughty/Los Angeles. Kings started somewhere around three years and $9 million, Doughty held fast and ended up at eight years, $56 million. I'm not saying Subban will get that. I'm saying there is serious standoff potential here. Same agency, too (Newport). Montreal is thinking short-term, Subban not so much. Subban doesn't strike me as a guy who'd be afraid and Canadiens rookie GM Marc Bergevin must look strong in his first real challenge.
17. There are creative things opponents could do with offer sheets. You're not going to outbid Montreal. However, the Canadiens are buying out Gomez to alleviate cap issues. Remember what the Sharks did with Hjalmarsson and Antti Niemi? You could, in theory, weaken an opponent. The Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche haven't been cap spenders in recent memory, so the margins are even tighter for them. But even though the "second contracts" were not specifically addressed in the CBA, teams seem determined to hold them down. They aren't eager to invite the wrath of their peers -- or the league -- right now.
18. Would that change if someone gets desperate after a bad start to this shortened season? As much as fans embraced the first day of training camps, this is not the year for a team to fall on its face.
19. Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman had a couple of good lines last week when he met with the media in New York City. Asked how much time he'd had to learn the new CBA, he replied: "You mean, how to circumvent it?" After we finished laughing at that one, he was asked if he was satisfied the $64.3-million cap next season would ease a potential Tampa squeeze ($58 million committed to 15 players). He said: "Yes, and I appreciate your concern for the Lightning."
20. Yzerman and Nashville Predators GM David Poile added they'd been told nothing about another obstruction crackdown. Good thing for Yzerman since no one in the NHL hated the last one more than he did.
21. Let's play some cap circumvention. Hockey Night In Canada producer Brian Spear came up with a couple of ideas, so I ran them past NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly. First, NBA-style sign-and-trades. Basically, a basketball free agent wants to leave his team for somewhere else, but still wants the extra year you get for staying put. Voila! Original team signs him and trades him. Can this happen in the NHL?
22. Daly's answer: Yes, provided the player was on a team's reserve list as of the most recent trade deadline. Therefore, anyone acquired on that date is ineligible.
23. Second, a player says, "I'll sign a one-year deal with your team as a free agent provided I get eight years next summer." In essence, this guy gets nine years where he should have received seven.
24. Daly's answer: You can do this, but we better not find a paper trail. Google "Joe Smith" and "Timberwolves." NBA commissioner David Stern crushed Minnesota for that one.
25. One coach was asking about travel and days off. In the new CBA, players are to be given four days off per month -- two at home and two on the road -- to be set in advance and not "altered absent compelling circumstances." Here was his question: "Let's say we play Saturday in Vancouver and Tuesday in Dallas. If we fly out after beating Vancouver, but land early Sunday morning, does it count as a day off if I don't schedule anything until Monday?" The answer is yes, as long as you fly out right after that game. If you wait until the next day to travel, it does not count as a day off.
26. You know who this is bad for? Owners of The Roxy.
27. The new agreement also includes a rule that players will have a minimum of nine hours off "overnight between the time they arrive at the team hotel on a road trip and the time the players are obligated to report the next day for practice or another work-related activity or meeting." That one's right out of the Canucks playbook and is part of the NHL and NHL Players' Association's fight against the sleep drug Ambien.
28. CBC's Jean-Francois Belanger attended the KHL all-star Game Sunday in Chelyabinsk, Russia. His report can be found at the 10:30 mark of The National. KHL president Alexander Medvedev's quote that he backed down because of the Olympics is telling. Thing is, the damage may be done. I think the NHL and its players want to go, but what's happened over the last week ensures that league commissioner Gary Bettman will have to fight for guaranteed contract protection beyond the 2014 Sochi Winter Games. It complicates things.
29. Sunday was a big day for fans. In Tampa, there was a full team autograph session. In Anaheim, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau answered questions from the crowd. There were 6,000 in St. Louis. Teams can't let this momentum stop for at least another six days.
30. Katie Moore's funeral will be held today in Cambridge, Mass. Condolences, best wishes and full support to Dominic and to both families. There's a saying I remember in moments like this: "No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see the possibilities -- always see them for they're always there."
Follow Elliotte Friedman on Twitter @FriedgeHNIC
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