For fans in Montreal, Edmonton, and Columbus, it's time to dream of next year.
With the Canadiens, Oilers, and Blue Jackets mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, the ugly reality of 2011-12 can be pushed aside and replaced by plans for future glory.
A host of other teams will join the elimination list within a few days - it's as good as over for the Leafs, Islanders, Hurricanes, Lightning, Wild, and Ducks.
You can bet they're already sizing up this year's crop of unrestricted free agents.
We've compiled the roster of available free agent forwards, with goalies and defensemen still to come.
As in most years, it's a long list that includes a tiny handful of stars (Zach Parise), a lucky few in line for a nice payday (Brandon Prust), and a potential bargain or two (Keith Aucoin).
It's filled out with plenty of grunts and grinders (Arron Asham, Tanner Glass), some whatever-happened-to types (Trent Hunter), a few guys who likely won't be back (Kristian Huselius), and a boatload of minor-leaguers.
The list will be corrected and updated between now and July 1, when the 2012 free agent market opens shop for the summer.
- 2012 NHL Free Agent Forwards: Centermen and wingers scheduled to become unrestricted NHL free agents on July 1.
- NHL Free Agent Center: Here's your guide to NHL free agents, the rules of the market, and the NHL salary cap.
Photo: Jarret Stoll and Shane Doan are among the veteran forwards who could be looking for work this summer. (Harry How/Getty Images)