The board of governors gathers next week in Pebble Beach, Calif., and traditionally that's where the league gives teams a clearer projection for where the salary cap might stand for next season.
That's going to be of particular interest to the San Jose Sharks, who have had ongoing discussions with their big three UFAs -- Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle. There's only so much money and cap space to go around, especially with new extensions kicking in next year for the likes of Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. So the Sharks want to be fair to their three core veterans, but also have to fit all three deals into the reality of their cap situation.
To the credit of the both management and the players involved, none of this has been a distraction at all. The Sharks are on fire so far this season with Marleau and Thornton especially consistent and dynamic once again in their production. Boyle is coming on after missing time with a concussion.
All three players want to re-sign and stay put, and management wants them back.
But there's still the business of making it work on all three fronts with whatever cap space they have to manage with.
Boyle has the added wrinkle that he's a 35-and-over contract, which carries its obvious risks in the CBA. So you're looking at either a one-year or a two-year deal in his case, most likely.
Another wrinkle in the process has been that Marleau has yet to hire a new agent after the passing of the venerable and well-liked Don Baizley. It's unclear whether Marleau would look to do his own deal, like some veteran players have done, or hire a new agent.
Numbers have been exchanged in the case of Boyle and Thornton, but not so yet on the Marleau front for the above-mentioned reason.
GM Doug Wilson has kept his team among the league's elite for a decade and even retooled the team on the fly, and he's also avoided some of the front-loaded, mega-long-term deals that have dragged down other organizations. This is another intriguing challenge for Wilson, getting three players he really likes, who all want to stay put, under the same roof past this season.
I mentioned last week that the Vancouver Canucks had a conversation with the Washington Capitals about Martin Erat -- who has asked for a trade -- but the Canucks after some thought decided to pass. Ditto for the Ottawa Senators, who initially showed a bit of interest but ultimately decided Erat wasn't a fit. ... The name of winger Jamie McGinn is making the rounds of late, one source telling ESPN.com that Avalanche head coach/executive Patrick Roy has mentioned his name in conversations with a few teams in an attempt either to land a defenseman or a veteran checking forward. ... While the Panthers are willing to move some of their veteran forwards, such as Tomas Fleischmann or Scottie Upshall, the more intriguing name making the rounds is that of young blueliner Dmitry Kulikov, who is RFA after the season. There is perhaps fear he'll want big money or go to Russia next season, which is why he's being made available, but he's certainly worth a gamble in my books for teams looking to upgrade their blue line.
Team Canada will max it out
Nothing official yet, but expect Hockey Canada to announce its Olympic roster on Jan. 7, taking full advantage of the extended deadline the IIHF, NHL and NHLPA negotiated last week.
Zero surprise there, from the Steven Stamkos situation to other heated positional battles, Team Canada wants all the time it can use to evaluate.
Team USA remains slated for Jan. 1. There had been internal dialogue among the Team USA brain trust as to the merits of moving it later after the IIHF announcement of the extension last week, but within the same day it was agreed to stick with the plan to announce it on NBC at the conclusion of the Winter Classic.
Both Team USA and Team Canada brain trusts will hold meetings in California this weekend ahead of next week's board of governors meeting, once again fine-tuning their respective player lists. The Team Canada management team is also expected to take in the Kings game on Saturday night.
Second Toronto arena update
The plan to build a new NHL arena in Markham, Ont., north of Toronto continues to face hurdles but also remains alive.
A few things that need to be said here:
1. As far as any kind of communication between the NHL and the group leading the charge to build a rink in Markham, the message from the league has been a consistent one: DON'T BUILD A RINK BUILT ON THE EXPECTATION OF GETTING AN NHL TEAM. Which is usually when I would stop in my tracks in building a rink, but I digress.
2. There are still holes in this financing plan for the rink, no matter what anybody connected to it says. It's been improved in terms of protecting the taxpayer, but there's still holes in it as far as I can see.
3. And, finally, and perhaps most importantly, one should not assume a second NHL team in the Toronto area (it remains a possibility within the decade) must go to this current group in Markham. Those are two different conversations, two different realities. I'm not saying the group in Markham won't ever achieve its goal, but what I'm saying is that I'd lay down better odds of a second team in the Toronto area as a general development not associated with this current group.