No one took advantage of this summer's free agent market quite like the Lightning. Under new ownership, the team added big offensive names such as Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi with Barry Melrose at the helm of the team. Despite that, their defense is still lacking depth. They'll definltey be better but by how much remains to be seen. -- Jenny Reisinger Cohen, FOXSports.com
But what about...?
Teams in the NHL didn't take a page from the Green Bay Packers' playbook by forcing players to make decisions about their future. Teemu Selanne took his time before signing a deal with the Ducks and Joe Sakic said he never felt any pressure from the Avs to retire before signing a deal with the team. And up in Toronto, the Maple Leafs are still waiting to hear from Mats Sundin. At least none of these teams and players went through a bitter public divorce like the Packers vs. Brett Farve.
Can the Sharks do it this year?
In the past few years, the Sharks have been picked to make it far in the playoffs. Then they fall short. This season, they've added a new coach, Todd McLellan, who has never helmed a team before but did win the Stanley Cup as an assistant with the Red Wings. Plus, Joe Thornton is returning and Rob Blake was a offseason acquisition so the team may be strong enough to finally go far this season.
Will European league contracts affect the NHL?
The Predators suspended Alexander Radulov after he signed a deal with a Continental Hockey League (KHL) team, ignoring his contract with the NHL organization. There are several ifs involved with what this can mean to the NHL in the future. If Radulov is left out of Nashville and if the NHL and KHL don't reach a deal soon, there could be some big trouble brewing for the Toronto-based league.
Will free agent contracts pay off?
It seems GMs lost their mind on the first day of free agency this summer and they may regret it once the season starts. The Maple Leafs were the worst overspending offenders, signing Jeff Finger and Niklas Hagman to contracts much higher than their expected market price. Then the Blackhawks inked a deal with Brian Campbell and the Rangers nabbed Wade Redden. Sure, they're good, but these average D's will get a yearly salary in the same neighborhood as Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom.
Who won't be returning to postseason play?
In the West, the Predators may be turning off the lights at the end of the regular season. With a surging Blackhawks team that has the potential for a strong showing, Nashville may run out of luck in time for the playoffs. As for the East, the Rangers are looking like the New York Strangers with Sean Avery headed to Dallas, Jaromir Jagr shipped off to Europe, and Brendan Shanahan still unsigned. Can they survive the losses?
Is going to Europe again a good idea?
As in years past, the league started the season in Europe with games in Prague and Stockholm, but why? Is anyone in the U.S. even paying attention? There may not be much interest here, but playing in front of hockey fans in Prague and Stockholm is definitely a better choice than last year's opening games in London. If this plan proves to be successful, expect to see games next year in Europe, but only in countries with rich hockey history.
Which near-miss team will make the playoffs?
Playoff spots came down to the very last games of the season with the Hurricanes and Blackhawks just missing the cut. For the 'Canes, it's all about staying healthy enough to have a fighting chance. And the young Chicago squad may just get that little more experience they need to get into the playoffs this season. Of course, offseason acquistions D Brian Campbell and G Cristobal Huet will also give them a big boost.
Will Toronto be better this year?
The Maple Leafs have failed to even make it to the playoffs in the past three seasons. The team brought in Curtis Joseph during the offseason, but with the possibility of losing its biggest player, Mats Sundin, the Leafs may still miss the playoffs -- and that's without taking into accout all the uphevel in the personnel office.
Can Detroit win the Cup again?
In addition to bringing back the core of their Stanley Cup winning team, the Wings also signed Marian Hossa during the offseason. The move left some fans scratching their heads -- did the Wings really need another big name? -- but if it works out, Hossa could easily help the team lock up another championship.