Finally, I'm able to write a hockey article where I wouldn't be forced to use the names "Bettman" or "Fehr".
The NHL and NHLPA have agreed on a 10 year labor deal, which ends the lockout that was currently taking place. It marked the fourth time during Commissioner Bettman's reign that a work stoppage had commenced., the last of which was the complete cancelation of the 2004-2005 season. But, on January 19th, we will be able to sit down and finally watch some regular season NHL action. I think I speak for everyone when I quote LeBron James on this one: "It's about damn time".
So, with the conclusion of said lockout, we can finally focus our attention on the actual teams. I will focus on the three teams in the Metro NY area, the Islanders, Devils, and Rangers.
The Islanders are faced with the same daunting task as they are almost every year- how do we stop ourselves from being as terrible as last year? GM Garth Snow made an attempt to bolster the team when he traded the second round pick from the 2013 draft for veteran blueliner Lubomir Visnovsky. At the time, this was seen as a steal of a trade for the Islanders, as Lubo was, and is a great offensive threat. However, in more recent news regarding the 36 year old defenseman, Visnovsky has stated that he'd rather stay in the KHL than come play for the Islanders. This follows his futile attempts of reversing the trade and getting sent back to the Anaheim Ducks. At 36 years of age, this is somewhat understandable due to the fact that he does have a wife and children and he doesn't want to uproot his life to play for a team that generally isn't good. However, the constant attempts with little to know explination from Lubo himself make it appear that he doesn't want to play for the team. Many sources have speculated that he won't be able to leave to the KHL seeing as he still has an NHL contract and there is an agreement between the KHL and NHL that disallows players to leave to the other while that player has a contract. Only time will tell if we see the deadly Powerplay combination of Mark Streit and Lubomir Visnovsky this season, however short it may be.
Key acquisitions- Lubomir Visnovsky, Brad Boyes
Key losses- P.A. Parenteau, Al Montoya, Lubomir Visnovsky (?)
The Devils are the defending Eastern Conference Champs, but they may be poised for a down year this season. They've already lost cornerstone player Zach Parise to free agency, but they also are dealing with a KHL hopeful in Ilya Kovalchuk who would like to stay with the KHL. As I had previously discussed regarding the Visnovsky situation, the one troubling part to this is that the President of the KHL has stated that he doesn't believe that they have to honor their agreement since this is a new labor agreement within the NHL. He has also said that if any players want to stay there, that the Russian league will help those players. If this happens, and Kovalchuk is allowed to stay in Russia, then I believe that the Devils may be poised to be at the bottom of the division, below the lowly Islanders, with or without Visnovsky. Their scoring threats will have both been eliminated and they have not made any significant additions to their team. Plus, going into a shortened season with an extremely old core of Brodeur, Sykora, and others does not help their chances. Players like Adam Henrique and Adam Laarson would have to step up and become top-flight players quickly, but it's not like either are bad players whatsoever. However, with that all said, I would expect Kovalchuk to return to New Jersey and continue to score goals, but I wouldn't be 100% surprised if he did not.
Key losses- Zach Parise, Ilya Kovalchuk (?)
As an Islander fan, it's very hard to for me write anything positive about this team. However, I think the Rangers are poised for big things this year. They are coming off a first place finish in the regular season, and have added talented goal scorer Rick Nash for practically nothing. They have virtually no holes, other than potential chemistry issues with the arrival of Nash who has always been "the guy" in small-market Columbus, but in terms of offense they now possess a deadly front line of Richards, Gaborik and Nash. On defense they have guys like Dan Girardi and Marc Staal. Between the pipes you have the reigning Vezina Trophy winner in Henrik Lundqvist who has been a model of consistency for years. The only way this team doesn't compete for a Stanley Cup is if Nash has issues gelling with his new teammates, or staggering injuries which are fairly common in shortened seasons.
Key additions- Rick Nash
Key losses- Ruslan Fedotenko, Brandon Dubinsky, Tim Erickson
So there we have it. A quick blurb about each metro team. I am more than excited to be covering the Islanders this season, and another great writer Chris Marcotrigiano will be covering the Rangers. Whatever fan you are, now you can finally root for your team and hope that they can make it far on their quest for the Cup.