The NHL's biggest storyline for 2013

Updated: January 17, 2013, 10:49 AM ET
By Craig Custance

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The conversations started in April. They continued in May. Then extended into June and July.

Ducks GM Bob Murray and Nashville GM David Poile have commiserated often over the course of the last year because no two general managers in the league can quite relate to each other as well as those two. Poile spent most of last season simultaneously trying to construct a team that could win a Stanley Cup and at the same time keep its three franchise potential free agents -- Pekka Rinne, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber -- from leaving.

The results were mixed. They did get Rinne signed but the Predators lost in the second round of the playoffs, lost Suter in free agency and then had to pay a huge price to match Shea Weber's offer sheet with the Flyers.

This year, it's Murray's turn.

The Ducks GM quietly addressed a big need on defense this summer by adding size and toughness with the signings of Bryan Allen and Sheldon Souray. Goalie Jonas Hiller looks fantastic this week and is ready to pick up where he left off last year. Bruce Boudreau called Bobby Ryan one of the best-looking players in camp, the distractions of last year's trade rumors behind him. These are all nice stories.

But like Nashville, the focus in Anaheim this season will be on the stars who can hit free agency in July. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry both had negotiations this summer with the Ducks and couldn't strike a deal. Murray expects the agents for both to visit Anaheim in the near future to meet with their clients and evaluate where things stand.

It's a situation that will linger early in the season and grow in intensity if the April 3 trade deadline approaches without new contracts for Getzlaf and Perry.

Nashville had to deal with it, and one comment from Poile during their many conversations stands out to Murray.

"You're going to have some tough decisions to make," Poile told Murray.

Without a doubt.