Now that the Sochi Winter Olympics have come to a close, with Canada again bringing home the gold medal, the NHL will resume play with an action-packed schedule and a trade deadline a little more than a week away. With less than seven weeks remaining until the end of the regular season, here are the top storylines to watch:
1. Who will make the biggest splash on trade deadline day?
There isn't much time for general managers to wheel and deal before the March 5 deadline, so don't be surprised if conversations really begin to heat up with the NHL players back on North American soil. The market is taking shape, separating the buyers from the sellers. Penguins GM Ray Shero has never been shy at the trade deadline, and with top winger Pascal Dupuis on the shelf, he may be an aggressive shopper. St. Louis is a team to keep an eye on as well, with the Blues remaining the odds-on favorite to go after a goaltender like Buffalo's Ryan Miller. The Bruins also would like to shore up their blue line to address the absence of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg, who is out for the season with a torn ACL.
2. Where will Thomas Vanek land?
With the Islanders a whopping 12 points back of the last wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and star center John Tavares done for the rest of the season with a knee injury suffered at the Olympics, the team will be looking to move Vanek. The 30-year-old winger, who rejected a lucrative long-term deal from the Islanders earlier this month, surely will be one of the most coveted rental players on the trade market. Though there will be no lack of interest for his goal-scoring ability -- Vanek has recorded two 40-goal seasons -- his $5.75 million cap hit may be prohibitive to some, even pro-rated for the remainder of the season.
3. Will Ryan Miller remain with the Buffalo Sabres?
With the Sabres in dead last with a dreadful 15-34-8 record and Miller set to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent this summer, he is the top target for playoff contenders looking to bolster their goaltending. This will be the first significant test of Tim Murray's tenure as Sabres general manager, the enormous pressure to fetch a solid return for their franchise player. Goalies can be difficult to move, and Miller does have a limited no-trade clause, so he has some say in where he could end up.
4. Will the Rangers move captain Ryan Callahan?
This was the most buzz-worthy development heading into the Olympic break, and you can bet the rumors and speculation will only intensify as the deadline nears. Callahan emerged from a disappointing U.S. Olympic performance unscathed -- a relief for the Rangers, who have seen him suffer numerous injuries because of his rugged, physical style of play -- which means he may still be on the block. A source told ESPNNewYork.com on Sunday that no progress has been made toward a contract extension for the 28-year-old captain, so this one may go down to the wire. The Rangers are currently second in the Metropolitan Division with 23 games left to play. Trading their captain would be a risky move, but GM Glen Sather has never been afraid to be bold.
5. When does Steven Stamkos return to the ice?