The dire warnings of a reduction in the salary cap are echoed by the pronouncements of NHLPA Director Paul Kelly that some players may find themselves out of work as 'cap casualties' in the near future.
No one knows for sure what will happen.
Is the talk of salary cap cutting just a ploy by the owners? Is it their preamble to 'downsizing', so they can dump older players and replace them with younger, hungrier, cheaper ones?
There are signs that the players themselves are jumping off the gravy train. Just as Filip Kuba overrode his agent's advice to test the market and re-signed with Otawa, other players are thinking the grass may not be greener.
In Pittsburgh, Petr Sykora may be an example of what is to come.
March 18, 2009
Sykora wants to stay in Pittsburgh
Penguins right wing Petr Sykora is in the final year of his contract and his "wish is to stay" with the club, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Sykora, 32, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, and according to the paper the Penguins already started talking about a new contract with his agents.
For the time being, however, contract discussions are likely to resume after the season so the team can focus on the playoffs.
The Post-Gazette claims Sykora is looking for a long-term extension, beyond two-years.
"For me ... that would be huge," Sykora told the paper. "You can't really say what's going to happen, but for me the important thing is to stay with the Penguins, have a chance to win the Stanley Cup and have the chance to play with (Evgeni Malkin) or (Sidney Crosby)."
Penguins GM Ray Shero refuses to discuss contract negotiations publicly.
"I'm not going to speculate on any contracts or non-contracts," Shero told the Post-Gazette. "To me, that's probably the best way to go. We're in a playoff fight here."
Sykora is making $2.5 million this season and could see his salary climb around the $3 million range.
Or will Mr Sykora end up inking a deal to stay as a part of the Pingu Posse for the same dollars, and just a one-year term despite his desires?
With talk of Marian Gaborik re-thinking his position, Chris Neil climbing down from his demands, and Martin Havlat saying how much he wants to be in Chicago, there is a decidedly different tone in the air.
The GMs know it. In Ottawa, Bryan Murray was, and is, very cagey about his intentions to sign his UFAs. In Montreal, Bob Gainey seems unperturbed by the fact that half his roster is about to walk. Lou Lamoriello and Ken Holland appear to be losing no sleep over their asset management, knowing full well they have replacements at the ready. Dean Lombardi and Brian Burke are rubbing their hands knowing they have, or will have, cash on hand.
Overall, GMs may be ready to take the hard line this year when it comes time to talk turkey with players in the middle of the deck.
Could we see a wave of players, then, eager to re-up with their current club, and a rash of so-called 'hometown discounts', soon to be renamed 'recession-era reductions'?
As always, our esteemed forum members offer their own unique insights...