The real off-season fun has begun.
Rumour mills are powering up, readying to churn out speculation -- some real and plenty that's bogus -- regarding who will end up where and for how much.
Things will be rather dull in the land of the Flames, though the plethora of restricted free agents -- a list that includes Jarome Iginla, Miikka Kiprusoff, Steve Reinprecht, Daymond Langkow and Jordan Leopold -- will give some news to follow.
But there are no buyouts on the horizon and the chase for unrestricted free agents will be rather limited until those players are signed.
So, we'll take a peek at what may transpire around the loop.
Don't be surprised to see a rebound from the 2003 Stanley Cup finalists. Watch for Calgary Hitmen star Ryan Getzlaf and fellow junior grad Corey Perry to make the jump.
A buyout of Sergei Fedorov has been rumoured but not likely. More realistic is the chance the new owners will chase a couple of UFAs. Is it possible new GM Brian Burke will try to bring in Todd Bertuzzi to give the big guy a fresh start?
The signings of young stars Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk will be closely monitored throughout the league. Defencemen are in short supply, a reason to go the free-agent route. Watch for Braydon Coburn to make the jump.
Watch for nearly a new team in Beantown. Only four NHL players are inked: Nick Boynton, Patrice Bergeron, Tom Fitzgerald and Ian Moran. First work will be to sign key RFAs Joe Thornton, Sergei Samsonov and Andrew Raycroft.
Watch the Bruins, who've said they'll go close to the cap and chase all sorts of UFAs.
Chris Drury headlines the core for a team that must sign key RFAs Maxim Afinogenov and Miroslav Satan. The team is short on the blueline and wants to re-sign Alexei Zhitnik. With Ryan Miller and Mika Noronen in the fold for a lot less money, there are rumblings starting goalie Martin Biron is on the market.
It's expected Jeff O'Neill will not be tendered a qualifying offer, making him a UFA. Oddly, the team has said it won't buy out forward Rod Brind'Amour. The Hurricanes are poised for rebuilding but won't be a big spender, opting first to re-sign RFAs Erik Cole and Justin Williams.
With shrewd moves, the Windy City could again be on top. There's a good young group with oft-injured Eric Daze, Tuomo Ruutu, Kyle Calder and Tyler Arneson. Watch for the Hawks to make a splash in the UFA aisle, perhaps landing Ziggy Palffy.
Unless Joe Sakic or Rob Blake are bought out -- that's unlikely -- the Avs won't be able to keep both Adam Foote and Peter Forsberg. Or maybe not either one. Underachiever Chris Gratton is a buyout candidate, while David Aebischer, Alex Tanguay and Milan Hejduk are RFAs.
Rick Nash needs a deal for a team that has $19 million committed to 14 players. Still, watch for the Blue Jackets to make a move for a defenceman -- perhaps Foote or Adrian Aucoin -- in the hopes of finally reaching the playoffs.
Pierre Turgeon will receive a buyout and so may Bill Guerin. The Stars have said they'll re-sign UFA Mike Modano and also need to ink RFAs Brendan Morrow and Jason Arnott. Sergei Zubov is a UFA and should he go there's a chance they'll bring back Derian Hatcher.
Won't it be fun to watch the Red Wings live with limitations on the league's highest payroll from a year ago? Hatcher, Brendan Shanahan, Ray Whitney, Robert Lang and Darren McCarty could be bought out.
Yet, there's talk they'll try to bring in goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, though he may price himself out of Detroit's cap possibility. The Wings need also to sign Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Steve Yzerman.
The Oilers have plenty of room under the cap, though RFAs Eric Brewer, Ryan Smyth and Mike York will take up some share. GM Kevin Lowe has opined about bringing in a top UFAs such as Scott Niedermayer, Paul Kariya, Doug Weight, Eric Lindros and Mark Messier.
The young core of Roberto Luongo, Jay Bouwmeester and Olli Jokinen are all RFAs but the Panthers have all kinds of cap room to rebuild. Could Messier be on the way to reuniting with Mike Keenan? Florida will be chasing players from all corners.
The Kings are in a good position but they need a goalie to tandem with Mathieu Garon to have a shot at the playoffs. They'll be in the chase for free agents, with the likes of Glen Murray, Ziggy Palffy, Paul Kariya and even Chris Pronger -- should he be available -- discussed.
The time has come for the Wild to add some talent to go with Marian Gaborik. One option out there is the return of Mike Modano, the first overall pick of the Minnesota North Stars all those years ago.
It's hard to believe the Habs will keep Patrice Brisebois and his $3.4-million tag. With RFAs Jose Theodore, Saku Koivu, Michael Ryder, Mike Ribeiro and Andrei Markov, the Canadiens could have some cap trouble. Still, there is talk they'll try to dip into the UFA pool.
Dan Hamhuis, Scott Hartnell, David Legwand and Steve Sullivan are RFAs, while captain Greg Johnson is a UFA the club wants to re-sign. The Preds will have plenty of cap room to add a veteran to help their club build on their trip to the 2004 playoffs.
Scott Niedermayer will be one of the most sought-after UFAs in the game and will likely leave the swamp. Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski are also unrestricted. Meanwhile Patrik Elias, Scott Gomez, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jeff Friesen and Brian Gionta are all RFAs.
With Alexei Yashin, Michael Peca, Janne Niinimaa and Jason Blake, the Isles have $15.5 million committed already. Plus, they have to re-sign RFAs Rick DiPietro and Mark Parrish. It's hard to believe they'll bring in any impact players as UFAs but we are talking about Mike Milbury.
Bobby Holik and Darius Kasparaitis will be given buyouts. The Rangers youth movement will be in full swing but rest assured they'll try to add some vets, with Brian Leetch expected to return.
Buyouts may not happen but it could be this year or bust for the Sens who have a litany of players heading into UFA territory. Marian Hossa, Martin Havlat and Jason Spezza are all RFAs.
John LeClair and Tony Amonte were already bought out and don't be surprised to see Eric Desjardins, Donald Brashear and maybe even Danny Markov bought out, too. World junior standouts Jeff Carter and Mike Richards need deals, as do RFAs Robert Esche and Simon Gagne.
While the rest of the league scrambles, GM Mike Barnett can relax. His team is pretty much in place. All that's left is announcing Wayne Gretzky will become the head coach, then signing RFA defencemen Derek Morris and Paul Mara, and goaltender Brian Boucher.
Players will be lining up to go to Pittsburgh now that the Pens have Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby, with talk of Martin Straka and Alexei Kovalev possibly coming for a discounted price.
Doug Weight and/or Keith Tkachuk could be sent away, while Pavol Demitra could leave via the UFA route. RFA Chris Pronger is expected to receive the $7.8-million max, giving the Blues a chance to retool. It's possible Curtis Joseph could return.
The Sharks are in position to again be a top team in the west, with a solid group that will be in perfect cap position even after re-signing RFAs Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm and Brad Stuart. San Jose will have the option to grab a scoring UFA. D Mike Rathje is the lone UFA.
Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier are RFAs eyeing substantial raises and so is UFA goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.
It'll be a test to see if players are willing to take a bit less to stay with a proven winner in the hopes of winning more than one Cup.
What happens with Owen Nolan, a buyout candidate who will have knee surgery this week, is something to watch. The Leafs could do the same with Ed Belfour in a bid to bring back Curtis Joseph. Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk, Brian Leetch, Tie Domi and Alexander Mogilny are all UFAs who should be signed at a discount or not at all.
The dominos won't fall into place until the team figures out the future of UFA Markus Naslund. Brendan Morrison and Mattias Ohlund are RFAs, as is goalie Dan Cloutier. Questions abound whether or not Todd Bertuzzi wants to remain a Canuck.
Naslund, if he returns, might bring Forsberg with him. Paul Kariya may sign, too.
Alexander Ovechkin, the first overall pick of 2004, said he'll come over from Russia, giving the Caps a cornerstone to build around. And boy, do they need to build.