NHL teams worked against the clock to take care of outstanding business before the impending lockout, resulting in a flurry of moves Saturday.
The Boston Bruins were busy again with their third major signing before the work stoppage, signing forward Milan Lucic to a US$18-million, three-year contract that will make him the team's highest paid forward.
Anaheim defenceman Cam Fowler, Buffalo forward Tyler Ennis and Nashville blue-liner Kevin Klein also signed multi-year extensions just as the current collective bargaining agreement was set to expire.
Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane had his new contract announced 30 minutes prior to the collective bargaining agreement expiring at midnight Eastern time Saturday.
Other teams were sending players with entry-level or two-way contracts to the American Hockey League or back to junior. Teams with a lot of young impact players like the Edmonton Oilers were able to stock their minor-league affiliates with top talent.
Edmonton sent 26 players to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons, including marquee forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.
The Toronto Maple Leafs sent 22 players to the AHL's Toronto Marlies, including Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner and Korbinian Holzer. The Leafs also assigned four players to their junior clubs, including Morgan Rielly, the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Other notable players with entry-level contracts being sent to the AHL include Carolina's Jeff Skinner and New Jersey's Adam Henrique.
The 24-year-old Lucic is the third Bruin to receive a new deal with an NHL lockout looming. In less than two weeks, Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli has also given new contracts to forwards Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin.
"We have been winning and we will continue to use this approach. A guy like Milan is a perfect example," Chiarelli said. "He marks the end of three signings that we've done over the course of a couple of weeks. I am very happy to have completed them. I think it shows commitments from Milan and the other players and a commitment from our owners."
Ennis signed a two-year contract worth $5.625 million, according to a person familiar with the contract.
General manager Darcy Regier said the threat of a labour disruption played a key role in getting Ennis signed because the team would've been barred from negotiating with the player in the event of a lockout.
"I think with the uncertainty, what it does is it removed one additional piece," Regier said. "Whenever it is we start, Tyler's signed and ready to go, and it's not something that you're going to be pressed into action and negotiating while you're trying to prepare for a season."
Other teams prepared for the work stoppage by finding inexpensive options for giving young players valuable playing time. Joining Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins in Oklahoma City are forward Magnus Paajarvi and defenceman Justin Schultz.
First overall draft pick Nail Yakupov was assigned to the OHL's Sarnia Sting and blue-liner David Musil sent to the WHL's Vancouver Giants.
Yakupov isn't likely to suit up with his former junior hockey team. The dynamic young forward tweeted Saturday he is on his way to Russia where it's expected he'll join a KHL team.
With the Oilers being a young team many of their impact players are still on entry-level contracts, making it cheap to move a large part of the team to the AHL.
"I talked to Ryan Whitney who played in the AHL during the lockout and he said it was one of the best years of his career," said Eberle on the Oilers' Twitter account.
"It's going to be good to go down there with the guys, hang out and get a winning attitude because we're going to have a good team."
Ottawa's Jason Spezza, Carolina's Erik Staal and Los Angeles's Dustin Brown were among the players who played in the AHL during the 2004-05 lockout.
A move to a lower-level league means a pay cut for most players. Eberle, who is in the final year of his entry-level deal but just signed a US$36-million, six-year contract extension, will make an annual salary of $65,000 in the AHL.
Edmonton star forward Taylor Hall was not eligible to be sent to the Barons because he remains on injured reserve.
Teams were scrambling to sign players and move around pieces prior to the end of the current collective bargaining agreement at midnight Eastern Time.
The Hurricanes topped the Oilers by sending 28 players to the AHL's Charlotte Checkers. Included in that list is Skinner, who won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year in 2011.
Carolina also sent defenceman Ryan Murphy, who was drafted 12th overall in 2011, to the OHL's Kitchener Rangers.
Elsewhere, New Jersey centre Henrique, who was nominated for the Calder Trophy last season, was assigned to the AHL's Albany Devils.
Winnipeg sent 13 players to the AHL's St. John's IceCaps including centre Alexander Burmistrov, while prospect Mark Scheifele was returned to the OHL's Barrie Colts.
The Philadelphia Flyers sent 26 players to the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms, including forwards Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn.
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5 Questions On The NHL Labour Dispute Answered
We here at CBCSports.ca want to guide you through the NHL's collective bargaining process and we want you to get involved. The following is a list of questions and answers to start things off. What do you want answered? Use the comment section below and we'll do our best to get you an accurate response. <em>This Jan.24, 2012 file photo shows Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller, right, making a save on a shootout shot by New Jersey Devils' Zach Parise (9) during overtime of an NHL hockey game in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)</em>
What does it mean to be locked out?
By definition, it means the players are being prevented from going to work, and that translates into no contact with their team. So no team-sanctioned practices, no contact with coaches to talk about team philosophy or line combinations. Probably more important is no contact with trainers about rehabilitating an injury or maintaining off-season workouts. Oh yes, one other thing. No player paycheques. <em>This Feb. 16, 2005 file photo shows a security guard passing stored Boston Bruins goal nets at the FleetCenter in Boston. With a lockout drawing ever closer, the NHL and the players' union are in touch with each other after a day of internal meetings. But no new negotiating sessions are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, one day before Commissioner Gary Bettman has said he will lock out the players. This would be the NHL's fourth work stoppage since 1992. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File)</em>
What do players do in the event of a lockout?
While the answer varies case-by-case. Some players have already maintained they'll pack up and head overseas. For example, Penguins snipers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, have both expressed interest in playing in Europe, whether with the KHL or another professional league. It won’t be easy because of contract restrictions and/or limits on foreign players. These players will be able to collect paycheques but they will risk injury. Then again, there are some who may choose to spend more time with friends and family. They could take extended vacations, travel the globe, or better yet get comfortable on their couch and enjoy playing the simulated version of themselves in the newly released EA Sports franchise NHL 13. What would you do? <em>Jeff Skinner leaves the locker room after a Carolina Hurricanes informal workout at Raleigh Center Ice on Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, in Raleigh, N.C. Skinner was taking his gear, which is normally stored in the lockers, with him as the players will not be allowed to use the Hurricanes facility in the event of an NHL lockout. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman)</em>
Who are Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman?
Donald Fehr: The 62-year-old Kansas native has a deep history in labour relations, beginning as an assistant to the Major League Baseball Players’ Association in the late 1970’s. He was hired as the MLBPA’s general counsel in 1977, spending the next 33 years with the organization. The guy in charge was Marvin Miller, the most influential sports negotiator of all time. During this time Fehr also held the top job as union chief, guiding players through the 1994-95 strike. Despite presiding over the MLBPA during the only year in baseball history where the World Series was not handed out (1994), Fehr’s success can be measured in real dollars. The average player’s salary increased from $289,000 US in 1983 to more than $3.3 million in 2009. After leaving the MLBPA, Fehr joined the NHLPA in an advisor role in 2010, shortly before he was voted into the job of executive director of the organization.To get to know Gary Bettman better, click here for an indepth look at the elusive NHL commissioner as Q host Jian Ghomeshi asks author Jonathon Gatehouse about the man who has ran the NHL's business side for nearly two decades. <em>NHL commissioner Gary Bettman listens as he meets with reporters after a meeting with team owners, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 in New York. The current collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players expires Saturday at midnight. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)</em>
What happens to hockey related jobs?
We've narrowed our definition of hockey related jobs to include anyone employed by the teams. A lockout could have an adverse effect on their staff, as is the case with the Vancouver Canucks organization. Earlier this week the team announced they'll be decreasing staffing to a four-day work week for employees in the event of a lockout, which is equal to a 20 per cent reduction. The scenario will differ for all of the clubs. "The front office people are ones that I worry about and many were casualties in the last lockout. I admire the organizations that were loyal to their employees and paid them in full through the lockout." — Hockey Night in Canada Radio's Gord Stellick during a CBCSports.ca live chat last month. <em>In this Sept. 16, 2004 file photo shows a hockey net lies atop seats under the stands at the Bell Centre, home to the NHL's Montreal Canadiens, on the first day of the NHL players' lockout in Montreal. With a lockout drawing ever closer, the NHL and the players' union are in touch with each other after a day of internal meetings. But no new negotiating sessions are scheduled for Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, one day before Commissioner Gary Bettman has said he will lock out the players. This would be the NHL's fourth work stoppage since 1992.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Ian Barrett)</em>
What happens next?
t’s hard to stay optimistic when the two sides trying to figure out how to divide the pie can’t agree on whether it’s made of blueberries, apples or pumpkins, or even when they’ll meet to talk about the best ingredients. Gary Bettman says since the league made the last offer, they are waiting to hear from the players. Donald Fehr has called this statement a negotiating tactic. No matter who needs to reach out to who, no talks have been scheduled. Many, like HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman, believe it will take more than a somewhat meaningless Sept. 15 deadline to get talks heated up, pointing to the beginning of the season in October, and even the Winter Classic in January as the real pressure points on the two sides. <em>NHL hockey players watch as NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr speaks at a news conference in New York, Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012. With a lockout looking increasingly certain, the NHL players' union meets Thursday followed by an owners' meeting at league headquarters with Commissioner Gary Bettman. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)</em>
How Much Are Canada's NHL Teams Worth?
Let's face it, hockey is Canada's game. So it's not a surprise that Canada's NHL teams are among the most valuable in the game. <a href="http://www.forbes.com/nhl-valuations/#p_3_s_a0_" target="_hplink">Here's how much they're worth according to Forbes magazine.</a> (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Toronto Maple Leafs
The long-suffering Leafs are in Canada's biggest TV and fan market. The Leafs are the league's most valuable team worth $521-million. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
The Montreal Canadiens
The NHL's most successful team, the Montreal Canadiens are worth $445-million. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
The Vancouver Canucks
Last year's Stanley Cup runner-up, the Vancouver Canucks are worth $300-million. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)
The Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames might be struggling this year but they're still worth $220-million. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
The Edmonton Oilers
The Gretzky-fueled glory days are over but the Oilers have a crop of young talent that they hope can be a foundation. The other team from Alberta is worth $212-million. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
The Ottawa Senators
The host of this year's All-Star Game, the Ottawa Senators are the other team in hockey-mad Ontario. They're worth $201-million. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)
The Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets return to Canada was an emotional one. Canada's 7th NHL team is worth $164-million. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)