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RALEIGH, N.C. — Carolina Hurricanes captain Justin Williams says he is taking a break from the NHL to start this season.

With the start of training camp looming later this month, the 37-year-old forward said Monday that he will “step away” from the sport.

“This is the first time in my life that I’ve felt unsure of my aspirations with regards to hockey,” Williams said in a statement released by the team. “For as long as I can remember, my whole offseason until this point has been hockey and doing what was necessary to prepare for the upcoming season.

“Because of my current indecision, and without the type of mental and physical commitment that I’m accustomed to having, I’ve decided to step away from the game,” he added.

Williams is an unrestricted free agent and three-time Stanley Cup champion whose two-year contract with Carolina expired after last season. He took over the team captaincy last year and led the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference final in their first playoff berth since 2009.

Williams has 312 goals and 474 assists in his 18-year career with Carolina, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Washington. He was a key member of the Hurricanes’ 2006 Cup championship team and also won it twice with the Kings, earning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in 2014.

He had 23 goals and 30 assists while playing all 82 regular-season games last season, then had four goals and three assists during the Hurricanes’ three playoff rounds.

General manager Don Waddell says the Hurricanes prepared for the possibility of not having Williams.

Teams across the league are preparing for their rookies to head off to training camp and various weekend tournaments in the next few days, meaning that the season is finally just around the corner.

For the Avalanche, it’s hard not to be excited about what that means. The team made a few minor free agent additions to go with some major prospect arrivals that should make for yet another step forward this year, something that gives them a major edge over a handful of Central Division rivals who may still be floundering (no one’s looking that closely at you, Minnesota).

While the home game tickets are ready to be downloaded, though, fans who prefer catching the action on their television screens are currently in the dark about what’s going to happen this year — both figuratively and literally.

Altitude Sports Network holds the regional broadcasting rights for Colorado Avalanche games in Denver and the surrounding areas, who are all blacked out from seeing games through a hockey-specific TV app package like NHL TV or Center Ice.

As of this past weekend, though, contentious negotiations with a handful of major cable distributors resulted in the channel going dark — and that could leave Avalanche fans who subscribe to some of the most popular cable providers without an opportunity to watch their favorite team this year. [Mile High Hockey]

Mikko Rantanen is represented by the same agent as fellow Finnish winger Patrik Laine, and the fact that neither of them have signed yet means that they’re probably waiting in limbo for the market to be set (and not by Sebastian Aho).

Rantanen and Laine play vastly different games, and have had vastly different careers up to this point — so it’s reasonable to assume that once the market is set for one, Octagon agent Michael Liut will be able to make his case for both. The deal for Rantanen should be a fairly easy one to get under wraps, to boot; the Avalanche have more than enough space to sign off on just about any deal Rantanen is looking for, meaning that once the market is set it should be smooth sailing.

The problem, of course, is that the final crop of restricted free agents are all in a holding pattern together. The Mitch Marner fiasco in Toronto has been a headache for just about everyone involved, which has set off a chain reaction leaving a whopping 25 unsigned RFA’s. Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, who finished two points shy of Marner last year, is likely waiting for Marner to set the market; Rantanen is then joined by Laine, Matthew Tkachuk, Kyle Connor, Brock Boeser, and Travis Konecny as other big-name free agent forwards waiting on the market value to get their own payday.

All signs point to Rantanen wanting to get things settled before preseason begins, but there’s nothing less certain than an RFA stand-off.

In some minor news, it’s time to wish minor league forward Cody Bass adieu. The 32-year-old officially hung up his skates this past week, announcing via the Colorado Eagles twitter account that he’s retiring from professional hockey following a 12-year career.

Elsewhere around the league, Carolina Hurricanes captain Justin Williams has decided to “step away from the game”. This sounds a lot like the approach we saw from Mike Fisher from a few seasons ago. Williams isn’t retiring, so there is a very good chance that he is set to sit out training camp and the early portion of the season in order to keep his aging body as fresh as possible for a late season push in Raleigh.

He will not join the team at the start of the 2019-20 season

I the business side of things, it sounds as though some players are preparing for a work stoppage. When asked about the escrow payments he sees coming out of his paycheck, Jonathan Toews had this to say:

“All I see is that I’ve signed a contract and to me it’s not exactly being honored. So I don’t care what business you’re in — to me that’s kind of ridiculous.”

That doesn’t sound like a man who is content with the current Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Escrow seems to be a huge problem for the players going. That said, this isn’t a matter of the owners not “honoring” contracts. It’s a much more fundamental business issue

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