Great Players

Whenever the NHL resumes play (and it’s supposed to be very soon now), the league is going to have a different look.
Tim Panaccio says the league will look younger (login info.):

    High-salaried veterans age 31 or older are either going to take enormous pay cuts or simply disappear. Because of the salary cap &#151 expected to be anywhere from $34 million to $38 million &#151 teams that have ample room will look for less-expensive talent to build around in the coming years.

Larry Brooks had a semi-related note on that (login info.),reporting that Rangers defenseman Karel Rachunek has opted to spend another year in Russia.
This is going to be a good sign of what the NHL is going to become: superstars and below average players. The superstars will stay in the NHL because that’s where the money is. But a lot of solid players like Rachunek will opt to play in Europe, either because the money is better, or because they can make comparable money without having to cross the Atlantic.
I’m just not sure an average European player will find it worthwhile to uproot his life to make average money playing in a league less and less people care about, playing an oppressively defensive style of play.
Sure, some players will want to come over to compete, and sure there are plenty of great North American players, but the NHL will no longer be the international talent pool in once was. Teams will no longer have the luxury of choosing players from among the best in the world.
And don’t forget the older players who make too much money for the new NHL. If they can make comparable (or more) money to play close to home, don’t you think they’ll bail on the NHL, too?
It all just points to how much damage the lockout really did to the sport. Stuff that reduced ticket prices and overtime shootouts just can’t fix.
A league is only as good as its players. The NHL is about to take a big hit in the player quality department.