As if the off-season wasn't long enough already.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced today that if the league and the Player's Association can't come to an agreement on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement by the time the current one expires on September 15th, the NHL will lockout its players.
That leaves just 37 days from now for the two sides to overcome what has been called a "meaningful gulf" by PA head honcho Donald Fehr, and the players have yet to deliver a counter-proposal to the one the league put forward mid-July.
The last NHL lockout in 2004-05 caused the Flames to lose a few important members of the team that came so close to Lord Stanley's mug they could practically see their reflections in its gleaming surface, and while the team is nowhere near the same pinnacle this time around, another work stoppage could still affect the team's current makeup significantly by causing players who played in the NHL full-time last season to lose a year from their contracts and become (or get closer to becoming) free agents.
If the league chooses to proceed the same way this time around in the case of another lost season, some notable players could find their time in Calgary to be very limited when play resumes.
Jarome Iginla is just one of the Flames' current roster players who could become a UFA or an RFA in the summer of 2013 without actually having played out the last (or only) year of his contract. Others include:
Lance Bouma (RFA)
Mikael Backlund (RFA)
Chris Butler (RFA)
T.J. Brodie (RFA)
Other players like Miikka Kiprusoff, Derek Smith, Cory Sarich, Jay Bouwmeester, Blair Jones, Lee Stempniak, Matt Stajan, Tim Jackman and Mike Cammalleri would have just one year left remaining on their respective contracts when play resumes if the 2012-13 season were to be cancelled. While that may not such a bad thing in the cases of Sarich, Babchuk, and Stajan, I don't much like the idea of being cheated out of some or all of my remaining time to watch players like Kipper, Iggy, Bouw, Backlund, Brodie, and Cammy.
Needless to say we'll all be hoping for the best when the league and the player's union try once more to meet somewhere in the middle next week. Regardless of what it means for the Flames, another work stoppage would be the third under Bettman's reign, and that just won't fly for many fans of the game who can and will get their hockey fix elsewhere from another league.