No American Hockey League team will lose star power like the Barons following reports the NHL lockout will end this week.
Four potential future NHL All-Stars are among as many as 10 players that might be invited to Edmonton's training camp later this week, although some will return to Oklahoma City after the Oilers make final cuts before opening a shortened NHL season.
Young stars Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall played with Edmonton last season and are the Oilers foundation for the future. Rookie defenseman Justin Schultz, who has dazzled in his pro debut, also will be a cornerstone building block.
Evidence a new collective bargaining agreement is imminent: Eberle, Hall and Schultz were held out of the Barons' road game Sunday afternoon at Chicago. Nugent-Hopkins will return to Edmonton from Russia, where he was captain for Team Canada's bronze medalist at the world junior championships.
“All season it's been: ‘Are the guys going to go or are they going to stay?'” said Barons general manager Bill Scott. “We enjoyed having them, that's for sure. More than anything this gives us some stability.”
Other Barons expected to be invited to Edmonton's training camp include: forwards Teemu Hartikainen, Magnus Paajarvi and Chris VandeVelde and defenseman Colten Teubert. Forwards Mark Arcobello and Anton Lander might be invited.
In addition to the Fab Four, Hartikainen, possibly Teubert, might stick with Edmonton when the Oilers open the regular season.
To fill roster spots, the Barons are expected to recall forwards Tony Rajala, Philippe Cornet and Ryan Martindale from Stockton in the ECHL, possibly defenseman Taylor Zahn, who has played in OKC this season.
Scott also will try to sign a few free agents, whether it's players that sign two-way contracts with Edmonton/Oklahoma City or sign AHL-only deals.
“We've had our eyes on a lot of different guys in the ECHL and Central Hockey League as well as guys over in Europe,” Scott said. “We're going to do everything we can to find the best players still available to maintain and upgrade our defense.”
Whoever the Barons sign won't match the Fab Four's offensive production.