Two of the highest profile restricted free agents this summer would certainly be Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty, both of whom will see their entry-level contracts expire.
How time flies. Wasn't it just yesterday in June 2008 that they went 1-2 in the NHL entry draft?
In any case, their respective NHL teams will work to make sure they never get to restricted free agency.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, a source told ESPN.com Saturday, will approach Stamkos' representation "within the next couple of weeks" to kick-start contract talks with the NHL's leading scorer.
The Los Angeles Kings, meanwhile, have been drafting and analyzing different contract extension models, which they'll present to Dougthy and a number of their other free agents in the not-too-distant future, another source said Friday.
Interestingly, both young superstars are represented by the same player agency firm, Don Meehan's Newport Sports.
In both cases, I think the hope was that the process would have begun over the summer, but I believe the Ilya Kovalchuk saga postponed things as teams around the league kept a close eye on how that all turned out and the implications of the CBA amendment regarding long-term contracts.
Kings have eyes for Iginla?
Sticking with the Kings, it's well understood around NHL circles that since Los Angeles didn't spend the money it had budgeted for Kovalchuk last summer, there is indeed room in the budget and under the salary cap for an important acquisition before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. I believe Jarome Iginla is among the list of players the Kings have in mind.
That would go along with the character-type guys the Kings have added over the last two years, players like Ryan Smyth and Willie Mitchell. At this point, I don't see any indication at all that the Flames would even entertain the thought of moving him. But I bring all this up given the stories out of Calgary this week regarding a possible rift between the Flames captain and the head coach (which was denied by both in the papers).
Iginla is signed for two more seasons at $7 million per year and also has a no-movement clause, so he controls his fate.
Of course, Smyth also had a no-movement clause in his contract, but the Kings persisted for almost a year before getting him out of Colorado in the summer of 2009. Food for thought ...
Leafs refuse to rush Kadri
As the Maple Leafs continue to work the phones in the search of scoring help, some Toronto fans and media wonder why the team doesn't just call up highly touted prospect Nazem Kadri from the AHL.
On Saturday, the team instead called up forward Christian Hanson.
I asked Leafs GM Brian Burke on Saturday about the feeling from some fans and media that they should call up Kadri.
"No, we will not rush Kadri," Burke said. "He's still very much on a learning curve. Look up how many games [Ryan] Getzlaf and [Corey] Perry played in the AHL [when Burke was GM in Anaheim]. Bobby Ryan spent parts of two seasons in the AHL. So I don't rush guys. I want to get Kadri ready to play 10 years in the NHL, not 10 games."
Crosby holds players-only meeting
The Penguins, 5-5-1 before Saturday night's game in Carolina, held a players-only meeting Friday night after lossing to Philly. I spoke to a Pittsburgh player about it Saturday, and he said the message was that everyone needed to get on the same page, that the team has very high standards and the effort through Friday night was not nearly good enough. In my books, that's big-time leadership from captain Sidney Crosby. Most teams wouldn't bat an eye at a .500 start, but Crosby wants to nip something in the bud before it snowballs.
Coach's challenge debate
You saw Scott Burnside and I debate it in our Friday Faceoff video, but the idea of a "coach's challenge," like in the NFL, is garnering attention in hockey circles. It's come to light after last Tuesday night's controversial winning goal by Colton Orr in which in the Maple Leafs tough guy bowled over Panthers goalie Scott Clemmensen before the puck was shot in. Panthers GM Dale Tallon then spent the week wondering whether a coach's challenge video review would work well in the NHL to eliminate botched calls like Orr's goal.
A majority of NHL coaches polled by TSN's Darren Dreger this past week supported the idea but with limitations.
Tallon told ESPN.com via text message Saturday that he's "probably" going to table the idea for the Nov. 9 GMs meeting in Toronto.
The problem with the idea is where exactly does it end? Could a coach challenge an off-side call or an icing call? A line would have to be drawn.
Last March at their meetings, interestingly, GMs examined the idea of video replay for four-minute high-sticking calls but ultimately decided it wasn't worth pursuing. Two years ago, one NHL GM tabled the idea of extending the current jurisdiction of video replay so that it included goalie interference when it didn't generate enough support in the group.
But, this leads to a possible alternative to instituting an NFL-style coach's challenge. Why not just expand the powers of video replay with the war room in Toronto? If that were the case, the war room could have called down last Tuesday night to advise that Orr's goal should not have counted.
And here's a third alternative: one NHL referee, who requested anonymity, told ESPN.com via email Saturday that he'd like to see on-ice officials have the ability to watch video in-game (just like NFL referees). So in the case of a controversial play like Orr's goal, at least he could watch the video himself before dropping the puck at center ice.
Finally, here's another thought: There are 1,230 games in an NHL regular season. How many plays like Orr's goal are we really going to see? Is there the risk of overreacting to an one-off occurrence?
Guerin contemplates front-office future
As veteran winger Bill Guerin continues to contemplate his playing future, he spent the weekend alongside Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the GM in Pittsburgh. Guerin was getting a look at whether there's a future for him in either coaching or scouting or player development and perhaps even with the Penguins.
Shanahan looks to change All-Star Game
League executive Brendan Shanahan has spent months polling people all over the industry in the hope of finding some good ideas to improve the All-Star Game. He's talked to players, broadcasters, fans -- you name it.
He's come up with something, although he wouldn't tell me Friday. I don't expect any radical changes but rather some interesting nuances to improve what's there.
His focus has been on trying to find what makes players so competitive, for example, when they play a shinny game at the end of practice or even a ping-pong game between teammates. The players often get hugely competitive even in those settings. So how do you carry those natural competitive traits over to the NHL All-Star Game?
"For some reason, that's missing in the All-Star Game until there's three minutes to go," Shanahan said. "How do we capture those competitive juices?"
Rob Blake, who has yet to be formally announced as an NHL hire by the league office, has helped Shanahan with the project.
Kings honor Norstrom
In a classy move, the Kings honored former standout defenseman Mattias Norstrom in a pregame ceremony Saturday night. Norstrom played 780 games as a King, the second-most ever for a blueliner in Los Angeles behind only Blake. Norstrom was also captain of the team for seven seasons, and, in my view, one of the league's vastly underrated players during his heyday.