Early Storylines Emerging for the 2014 NHL Offseason

Allan Mitchell@@Lowetide_Featured ColumnistMarch 26, 2014

Early Storylines Emerging for the 2014 NHL Offseason

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    As the regular season winds down, NHL teams begin to show signs of offseason changes. The rumors in nonplayoff cities are feeding the fanbase, and some of the things making news could impact the entire league.

    Managerial and coaching changes, possible trades and free agency are all being discussed in NHL cities. Teams appear to be preparing for significant turnover at the draft and via trade.

    Here are 10 early storylines emerging for the 2014 offseason.

10. James Reimer Should Leave Toronto

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    What's the Issue? Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry says Toronto Maple Leafs' goalie James Reimer is struggling because of lost confidence. Cherry says Reimer should leave Toronto and establish himself elsewhere, as Toronto can't justify two starting goalies.

    Possible Solutions: Reimer is a restricted free agent this summer, so GM Dave Nonis won't deal him unless there's full value in return. Reimer is a good young goalie.

    When Will We Know? He might fetch a good return on draft weekend.

9. Jarome Iginla Will Return to Boston

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    What's the Issue? Jarome Iginla is a free agent at the end of this season. 

    Possible Solutions: Darren Dreger from TSN reported this week that the Boston Bruins and Iginla are a good fit for next year. There is desire on both sides to get a deal done.

    When Will We Know? Boston has cap issues, but this deal looks like it'll happen well before the free-agent window opens for Iginla.

8. Vancouver Canucks GM Change?

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    What's the Issue? The Vancouver Canucks are suffering through a dismal season, and the window of opportunity for the veteran group appears to be closing.

    Possible Solutions: As Ed Willes of The Province writes, this could be a good time for the Canucks to put a fresh face on the problem. Willes tells us there are good things on GM Mike Gillis' resume, but the fanbase is sour about the season.

    When Will We Know? Bumping the GM upstairs and finding a replacement can happen at some point after the season ends and well before the draft. The Canucks are still in a playoff race, so nothing is imminent.

7. Paul Maurice: Will He or Won't He?

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    What's the Issue? The Winnipeg Jets improved their record under interim coach Paul Maurice. As Steven Whyno of The Canadian Press (via The Globe and Mail) reports, the entire NHL is impressed with the team's performance since Maurice arrived on the scene.

    Possible SolutionsKen Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports there are family issues and other things involved in the process of hiring Maurice long term.

    When Will We Know? Maurice is a perfect fit for the Jets. Signing him to a contract extension is job one for the Jets, and it should be a done deal well before the draft in June.

6. Changes in Buffalo

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    What's the Issue? The Buffalo Sabres have to decide how to frame their rebuild. Do they go scorched-earth like Edmonton, or retain some of their veterans for the long road ahead?

    Possible Solutions: Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal tells us to expect the Sabres to sign coach Ted Nolan to an extension and buy out Ville Leino. After that, the draft offers the club a chance to begin the process of remaking the roster.

    When Will We Know? Buffalo could have two of the top five picks and four of the first 31 selections at this year's NHL draft. June 27-28 in Philadelphia will see the Sabres as a major player.

5. Dallas Eakins' Future with the Edmonton Oilers

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    What's the Issue? The Edmonton Oilers are not a very good hockey club. Coach Dallas Eakins arrived with big expectations, and as Eric Duhatschek tells us in The Globe and Mail, things are not getting better as the season winds down.

    Possible Solutions: The Oilers could fire Eakins, meaning the club would have its sixth head coach in seven years. The more likely scenario has the team tweaking the coaching staff behind Eakins, and adding veterans on defense and at center over the summer.

    When Will We Know? Once the regular season ends, the Oilers will get to work on changes. A coaching adjustment could happen any time, but adding veteran players will have to wait until the draft and free agency.

4. Jim Rutherford to Step Down as General Manager in Carolina

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    What's the Issue? According to Chip Patterson of the News & Observer (subscription required), Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford is going to step down from the position at season's end.

    Possible Solutions: As Patterson indicates, vice president of hockey operations Ron Francis is likely to succeed Rutherford. Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos will make the final decision. Jason Brough of NBC Sports also reports on TSN's Darren Dreger tweeting out some big names from Carolina who might be in play this summer.

    When Will We Know? If the Hurricanes are going to make a move, it will no doubt take place long before the NHL entry draft in Philadelphia. The announcement could come as soon as April.

3. George McPhee in Washington

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    What's the Issue? George McPhee is in the final year of his deal as GM of the Washington Capitals, and there are no reports about an extension. 

    Possible Solutions: As reported by Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, there's a good chance he'll receive a handshake from the Capitals. The decisions made by the organization after Jaroslav Halak's brilliant goaltending display in April 2010 spelled the end of the championship window for McPhee's Capitals.

    When Will We Know? If Washington plans to move on from McPhee, it will be shortly after the season. The team will have a lot of work to do over the summer.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins' Forward Depth

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    What's the Issue? Pittsburgh's top-heavy roster has forced the team to go with inexpensive complementary forwards. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are the best one-two punch in the game, but it comes at a price. 

    Possible Solutions: GM Ray Shero may have to look into trading players like James Neal, Paul Martin and Marc-Andre Fleury. The cost of Pittsburgh's top five players is over $32 million dollars—close to half of next year's projected cap. 

    When Will We Know? The Penguins may trade one of their big guns at the draft, allowing them to add two or three players via free agency.

1. PK Subban's New Contract

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    What's the Issue? The Montreal Canadiens signed PK Subban to a "bridge" contract during intense negotiations in early 2013. The move gave Montreal two low-cost seasons, but the Canadiens did not buy any seasons into Subban's free-agent years. 

    Possible Solutions: TSN's Bob McKenzie—via the Toronto Sun—reports that the Subban camp will be asking for $8 to $9 million per season. Montreal has put itself in a tough position. As an RFA, and a rare impact defenseman, Subban is an ideal player who could receive a massive offer sheet from another NHL team. 

    When Will We Know? The Canadiens will be very aggressive through the negotiation process, but the last contract was difficult to hammer out. The longer this goes on, the greater the chance Montreal will be faced with matching a massive offer sheet or letting its best player go.