By Alex Siegel
On the morning of January 6, 2013 hockey fans all over the world heard the news they had been waiting for all winter. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the National Hockey League Players Association’s Executive Director Donald Feher came together to announce that after tense negotiations for the past four months, the NHL and the NHLPA have created the framework for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that would end the NHL lockout.
Just the day after the announcement of a new CBA, the NHL board of governors unanimously voted in favor of the agreement. On January 12, the players union voted 98% in favor of the agreement, thus ending the 113 day lockout. The parties have agreed on a $60 million salary cap and a $44 million salary floor for this season, and sources say that the salary cap will increase to $64.3 million for the upcoming 2013-2014 season.
As of now, players abroad have begun to return back to their NHL teams and training camps are underway. The 2013 season will consist of 48 games, 18 against teams within the division and three games against each of the 10 other conference opponents. Due to the limited amount of time, teams will not be able to play opponents out of their conference until the Stanley Cup Final. Unfortunately, due to the length of the lockout, many hallmark moments of the hockey season have been cancelled including the All-Star game and festivities and the Winter Classic.
The shortened schedule leaves no room for error for teams. Each organization has 48 games, and all of them are important. As it currently stands, there is a 15-way tie for first place with half of a regular season left to play. This shortened schedule leaves many Washington Capitals worried. Losing streaks that have occurred in the past will be unacceptable if the Caps hope to make the playoffs. The new coaching staff and the players must quickly adapt to each other with the little time they have in order to give themselves the best chance of winning a Stanley Cup.
The Caps have also been busy in the offseason, electing longtime Caps Captain Adam Oats as the new head coach to replace Dale Hunter. Alongside Oats will be another long time Caps leader on the blue line in Calle Johansson, who will be working primarily with the Capitals’ defensemen. In addition to the new coaching staff, Caps General Manager George McPhee was able to sign many free agents to the Caps roaster including:
Defenseman Garrett Stafford from Montreal
Forward Joey Crabb from Toronto
Defenseman Jack Hillen from Nashville
Forward Ryan Stoa from Colorado
Forward Wojtek Wolski from Florida.
The Caps also were able to pick up a few new players in trades this offseason including defenseman Jordan Henry from Calgary and the much-needed
Mike Riberio from Dallas, who will be able to add a sizzle at the center position for the Caps’ second line of forwards.
Unfortunately, while playing in other leagues during the lockout, many NHL stars have been subjected to injury and their statuses are as follows:
Blue Jackets D Ryan Murray (No. 2 overall pick 2012 draft) is out for the season after he had shoulder surgery.
Kings C Anze Kopitar (25 goals, 76 points last season) will miss 2-3 weeks with sprained knee.
Devils C Adam Henrique (Underwent thumb surgery November 29) is hoping for a return in February.
Despite his delayed return, Devils Ilya Kovalchuk returns to practice ready to play.