(Author's note: Yes, it's lame. But it's August.)
Once upon a time, there was a young GM named Bob Murrathy. Murrathy lived on a farm system in the outskirts of the playoff territory with his faithful dog Scoto, where he lived a simple life doing barstool-related chores. It was for the most part a peaceful existence with a dependable playoff crop cycle -- that is until the 2009-10 season.
That winter, the wicked witches of the western conference joined together to cast an evil spell, and Murrathy's home was uprooted from its playoff location in a violent tornado, with he and Scoto both trapped inside. It was a jarring and traumatic experience for the young GM, and he had to quickly assess the situation -- "We're not in the playoffs any more, Scoto".
When the house finally crashed back down to earth, Murrathy and Scoto nervously emerged from the wreckage to see where exactly they had landed...
Turns out they were transported to the magical land of Oz, home of the legendary unrestricted free agents. Specifically, though, they had landed in a small village of MunchFinns, a weird-looking group of people whose crazy language struck Murrathy as bizarre. Undeterred by their jibberish-speak, Murrathy decided to seek their help in returning back home.
First among them he met a Saku Crow -- a smallish center made of straw. Saku Crow suggested that they go meet the Mallard of Oz, the region's problem-solver, because he too had an issue -- though he loved playing hockey, he was desperately seeking relief from a relentless Montreal media. Murrathy agreed to accompany the Saku Crow, and offered him a two-year deal to help ease his worries.
Soon they ran into a Teemu Man, another strange resident of Oz. The Teemu Man was a metallic marvel, still functional after forty years, but he didn't feel complete. He lacked playoff incentives. When the Teemu Man heard about Murrathy's quest to find the Mallard, he enthusiastically offered to join in, so Murrathy gave him a sweetened one-year deal, and they were on their way.
Soon afterwards they ran into a Cowardly Lydman, who was an impressive beast except for some serious insecurities about future employment. Murrathy immediately felt sorry for the Lydman's unnecessary cowardliness and offered to take him along with them, and to ease his fears Murrathy gave the Lydman a comforting three-year deal.
With the Saku Crow, the Teemu Man, and the Cowardly Lydman all finally under contract, the group boldly skipped along the path to the legendary Mallard. Nobody knew exactly what to expect once they got there, but they were excited -- in their minds, he did represent the solution to all of their problems.
After some non-illustrated side-adventures, they finally reached the Mallard's Emerald Palace, and were shocked at what they found there. The Mallard wasn't a MunchFinn at all -- he was a former captain from Murrathy's homeland and had traveled over to Oz by hot air balloon. The Mallard did point out that they had mostly solved their own problems, though -- thanks to Murrathy's help, the Saku Crow did have freedom from the Montreal media, the Teemu Man did have playoff bonus clauses, and the Cowardly Lydman did have job security.
As for Murrathy's request about defeating the wicked witches of the western conference and returning home to the playoffs, the Mallard contemplated it for a while. He agreed that he could help, but...
Actually, I guess that's right about where in the fairy tale we are right now. Your move, Kariya.