With the NHL facing another lockout, teams are scrambling to make moves before the labor stoppage prevents them from doing so. The deadline for the NHL and the NHL Players Association is tomorrow (September 15th). With no new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, owners and players are prepared for a labor stoppage, meaning no NHL hockey this year.
The Washington Capitals signed restricted-free agent defenseman John Carlson to a six-year, $23M deal today. The Dallas Stars extended the contract of goaltender Kari Lehtonen with a five-year, $30M pact.
The Florida Panthers also sent Jacob Markstrom, their top goaltending prospect who was expected by many to play in the NHL and possibly ascend the throne as Florida’s new franchise goaltender, down to the American Hockey League so that Markstrom will get professional experience this year.
The Columbus Blue Jackets, who finished with the worst record in the NHL last year, flooded the Springfield Falcons, their AHL affiliate, with 20 players, preserving the opportunity for these young players to get some seasoning and experience and continue their development, something they’d miss out on if they were kept in the potentially locked-out NHL this year. And the development of players like Ryan Johansen, Tim Erixon and John Moore, some of the Blue Jackets’ top prospects, is key if Columbus wants to pull themselves out of the NHL’s cellar.
The Stars also sent 26 players to their AHL affiliate Texas Stars, and the Blues sent 24, again, with the hope of preserving the chance that these young players will get to see professional hockey action this year and continue their development. Dallas sent several of their top prospects, including goalie Jack Campbell, defensemen Jamie Oleksiak, Jordie Benn, Brendan Dillon and Patrik Nemeth, as well as forwards Scott Glennie (the former 8th overall choice in the 2009 Draft), Alex Chiasson, Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith down to Texas. All were expected to see time in the NHL this year.
St. Louis followed Florida’s, Dallas’ and Columbus’ suit, sending 24 players down to the AHL, including Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko, two youngsters who were expected to become regular top-six forwards with St. Louis this year. The New York Islanders sent Nino Niderreiter, the 5th overall pick from 2010, down to the AHL as well.
There’s no doubt about it. NHL franchises are preparing for a long stretch without hockey, and are doing everything to preserve the future of their young players by letting them season in the AHL, as evidenced by the flurry of players being sent down to the top affiliate league of the NHL. The scariest part about this is the warning bell that has been sounded for NHL fans- that the NHL, for the second time in less than 10 years, may not have a season.