The 2012-13 NHL season is nearly a week old, and while injuries start to shape the immediate future for some clubs, a trio of franchises are still short a core player because of restricted free agency.
Jamie Benn, P.K. Subban and Ryan O'Reilly remain unsigned, and fans of the Dallas Stars, Montreal Canadiens and Colorado Avalanche are left to ponder what their team could be but won't be until the burgeoning stars sign a contract.
O'Reilly was playing for Metallurg Magnitogorsk in the Kontinental Hockey League but has left the club to return to the United States. The KHL team released a statement saying O'Reilly left because of a minor injury and because his agent is negotiating with the Avalanche, but TSN's Bob McKenzie reported Thursday there has been no progress made between the two sides.
Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reported the Avalanche have offered two contracts to O'Reilly -- one for five years and $17 million and the other for two years and $7 million. O'Reilly has earned a reputation as one of the top two-way centers in the League despite not turning 21 years old until next month, and he led Colorado with 55 points (18 goals) last season.
Benn finished last season with 26 goals and 63 points, and assumed the role of No. 1 center and franchise player for the Stars in his third full NHL season. With the additions of veterans Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney, Dallas could boast one of the best top-six forward groups in the NHL … but Benn leaves a big hole at this juncture.
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TSN's Bob McKenzie provided a glimmer of hope Thursday afternoon when he tweeted, "Hearing RFA Jamie Benn is getting closer to a new deal with the Dallas Stars. Not done yet but sounds like it's headed in right direction."
Subban has been a high-profile player from the time he became a regular on the Montreal blue line during the 2009-10 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has 21 goals and 74 points over the past two seasons, and has logged heavy minutes for the Canadiens.
More has been written by various media members over the past couple of days about the prospect of the Canadiens actually trading their franchise defenseman, who turns 24 in May.
"I hope [a trade] is not the case. I want to play for the Canadiens," Subban told Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette. "I want to help the team. With the young players we have in the organization right now, we still have a great opportunity to win.
"But for my style of game and for what I do for the team, the amount of minutes I play and for what I bring to the table, I have to be fairly compensated."
Drew Doughty was the last high-profile RFA to not have a contract signed at the start of a season, but he only missed training camp time before inking a seven-year, $56 million pact with the Los Angeles Kings just before the start of last season.