In case you've been out celebrating the birth of the world's greatest nation and missed this morning's news, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, two of Uncle Sam's favorite hockey-playing sons, have joined forces in Minnesota, signing identical 13-year, $98 million contracts with the Wild.
With the pair of big-ticket players now officially off the free agent market, and alternative options alarmingly low, contending teams looking to make a splash will most likely have to do so via trade.
Though players like Matt Carle and Alexander Semin, both fine players in their own right (as long as you don't watch TSN) still have yet to find homes, organizations such as the Flyers, Red Wings, Rangers, Maple Leafs and Penguins seem to be in an arms race for names such as Nash, Ryan, Luongo and Weber.
So who's next?
-The ambiguity surrounding the Rick Nash sweepstakes is expected to quickly come to a head now with Parise gone to the Wild. Nash though, who comes with a salary cap hit of $7.8 million for the next six seasons, won't be cheap.
Blue Jackets general manager Scott Howson has come under fire for his handling of the situation thus far, being unable to find the right fit first at last season's trade deadline and then at the NHL Entry Draft late last month. To his credit, Nash's limited list of teams he'd be willing to play for have hampered Howson's ability to find a suitor with the right assets.
For instance, the Carolina Hurricanes, since acquiring Jordan Staal on draft day, have repeatedly inquired about Nash, but have been told that they are not currently on his list of desired destinations.
The New York Rangers have been the team most connected to Nash, but their unwillingness to part with young phenoms Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh and playmaking center Derek Stepan have quelled most rumors that a deal would be imminent.
However, Aron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reported yesterday that Howson has not asked for any of those three players in return for Nash, allowing for speculation about a deal built around Blueshirts' defenseman Michael Del Zotto to run wild.
Along with the Rangers, Howson is also speaking to the Flyers, Sharks, Penguins and Red Wings about acquiring Nash's services. The Flyers, in a classic Yankees-Red Sox bidding war move, may have joined the fray in an attempt to press the Rangers into overpaying for him. So far though, Blueshirts general manager Glen Sather has remained steadfast in his refusal to include his top young players in any deal.
-In fact, the Flyers may be more interested in a different, more affordable disgruntled scorer. Anaheim's Bobby Ryan, the subject of early-season trade rumors last Fall, has repeatedly voiced his displeasure with the way the Ducks have handled him and would prefer a fresh start in a new city.
His destination of choice? Philadelphia, just minutes away from his hometown of Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Ryan's price tag, both in cap hit ($5.1 million through 2014-15) and via trade, is significantly less than that of Nash's. He would also be an attractive replacement in Philadelphia for James van Riemsdyk, who was dealt to Toronto last week in exchange for Luke Schenn.
But would bringing Ryan into the fold make the Flyers that much better? Sure, he'd replace Jaromir Jagr on Claude Giroux's wing to form one of the best duos in the League. But if it'll cost them a young, budding star such as Brayden Schenn or future shutdown center Sean Couturier along with a high draft pick, it may end up doing more harm than good for a team who wasn't exactly defensively sound last season.
For all the talk about the poor job Howson is doing in Columbus, Anaheim's Bob Murray sure has escaped a fair amount of scrutiny for his handling of Ryan. So far, the Flyers have been rumored to be most aggressive, but other potential landing spots include Detroit, New York, Boston and Carolina.
-The Flyers, despite losing out on Suter, are also interested in Predators captain Shea Weber, a restricted free agent. Though Weber is free to sign an offer sheet with another team, which will likely cost that team their next four first round picks if Nashville does not match the offer, a trade is more likely if he is to be moved.
Of course, David Poile, Predators general manager, has turned all of his attention to retaining his captain since being spurned by Suter. Prying Weber away from him will not be easy, nor will it come without a steep price.
-Roberto Luongo continues to be the crown jewel of the goaltending market, but there's been no distinguished chatter between Vancouver general manager Mike Gillis and other teams since draft day. The Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks continue to be the most interested, and desired destinations for Luongo, who has a no-trade clause in a contract that runs through 2021-22.
Luongo has reportedly requested a trade back to Sunrise. But wouldn't it be interesting to see him in Blackhawks red singing along to Chelsea Dagger, instead of hearing it in his sleep like he has for the past four years?
Buckle up, folks. After a lackluster draft and first few days of free agency, the trade market is officially open for business.