NHL Storylines: 5 New Year Headlines to Watch out For

NHL Storylines: A general view of construction of the hockey II arena in preparation for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea. Mandatory Credit: RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Storylines: 5 New Year Headlines To Watch Out For As We Transition Into 2017 (Olympics, Free Agency, Trades, etc.)

During a time when most people are looking the events of the past year, I thought why not look ahead to the upcoming months of potential NHL storylines instead.

Toady, I’d like to break down five of the hockey world’s most intriguing stories heading into 2017, complete with my opinion on each of the five topics. Let’s not waste any time and get right into it!

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May 30, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference before game one of the 2016 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks at Consol Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Does the NHL go to the Olympics in 2018?

It’s something we’ve been rambling about for months, and by the end of January we will have our answer: Will the NHL be going to the Olympics in 2018 (held in Korea)? Some people say that the NHL might skip the prestigious tournament next year and return in 2022. Why would the NHL do that? There are a few reasons, and many of them revolve around the transportation to Korea and what it costs, insurance costs, and the inconvenient time zones.

In the end, I think the league goes. The Olympics (especially in untapped markets) grow the game like no other tournament, and the players love it too much not to go. What’s the point in not going if stars like Jonathan Toews, Alex Ovechkin, and Sidney Crosby go anyways?

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Jan 30, 2015; Raleigh, NC, USA; St. Louis Blues defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk (22) watches the play against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The St. Louis Blues defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

What happens to key UFA’s Bishop, Shattenkirk?

The 2017 free agent market is looking like the least enticing in a while, but there are a still a few big names out there in the Lightning’s Ben Bishop and Kevin Shattenkirk of the Blues, and it’s looking like they’re on the move. Bishop’s stellar play has fallen off a cliff this season with the Lightning, and it looks like youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy is ready to take the role as the number one goaltender.

That being said, it’s only been a few months since Bishop was a Vezina nominee for the second time in three years and there are still many teams that would be willing to spend $6M plus on the goaltender. It’s not a matter of if Bishop will go, it’s when.

Shattenkirk is in a similar situation. The Blues simply don’t have enough cap space to keep both Shattenkirk and youngster Colton Parayko, who also needs a new deal. What happens to these to UFA’s? Do they hit the open market or get moved before the trade deadline?

Mar 29, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals center <a rel=

Do the Capitals go trigger-happy on the trade market if they fail to win a cup?

It’s never been said out loud, but it’s become evident that the Washington Capitals can’t keep their current group around for much longer. T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Andre Burakovsky, Karl Alzner, and Dimitry Orlov all need new contracts this summer and will all likely be commanding hefty raises on their next deals.

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It doesn’t help that Washington only has $347 (yep, that’s $347 dollars) in cap space as it is. In other words, it’s cup or bust in DC. If GM Brian McLellan wants to keep both Alzner and Orlov, he will need to let go of Willams and may even be forced to move Burakovsky, who has been struggling this season, as a casualty to the cap.

If Washington bombs out in the early rounds of the playoffs, McLellan might decide to shake the entire roster. Sure, the Caps have been contending for years, but if there’s no championship at the end, then what’s the point?

Oct 13, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; General view of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign at Las Vegas Blvd on the Las Vegas strip before the NBA preseason game between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 13, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; General view of the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign at Las Vegas Blvd on the Las Vegas strip before the NBA preseason game between the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Lakers. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Who does Vegas name as its head coach?

Perhaps the biggest hockey-related storyline of 2016 was the announcement that the NHL will be adding their 31st franchise in the summer of 2017. With a logo unveiled and most of its front office hired, the conversation now shifts to who the Golden Knights will hire to lead the coaching corps.

There are many candidates, including former Flames bench boss Bob Hartley, recently dismissed Gerard Gallant, and well-regarded AHL head coach Travis Green.

It’s anybody’s guess who gets the gig, but I’m going to go with Gallant. It was a terrible move by Florida to let him go, players love him, and he’s only one year removed from leading the once-mediocre Panthers to an Atlantic Division title.

Mar 1, 2016; Buffalo, NY, USA; Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid (97) and Buffalo Sabres center Jack Eichel (15) during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

What will McDavid, Eichel’s mega-contracts look like?

Kids are taking over the NHL, and that’s a good thing – for us fans, I mean.

We get to watch world-class hockey that has never been more fast-paced and exciting. But everything comes with a price, and in this case, teams will have to break the bank as more players than ever will be commanding long-term deals worth more than my wildest imagination.

Two teams that have it the worst are the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres, who have been blessed with two of the brightest players in the game in Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. Their entry-level deals aren’t up until July 2018, but they’ll be locked up way before that, likely in the summer of this upcoming year.

Eichel will no doubt get a deal upwards of $8M per year, while McDavid will likely become the highest played player in the NHL. These ‘mega-deals’ will most certainly pave the way for Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine contract’s the year after.

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