The subject of core players often sparks heated debate amongst fans as the term "core" is often difficult to agree upon.
I interpret a "core" to be a group of players who are showing or have shown themselves to be worth keeping on the team long-term and building around.
Looking at Capgeek, two things become immediately apparent: Lou is going to have to have a busy couple of summers re-signing guys (Kovalchuk, Greene, Larsson, Volchenkov and Tallinder are the only guys on the current roster signed beyond next season); and there will be, at some point in the very near future, a changing of the guard, so to speak.
As fans we've grown accustomed to names like Patrik Elias and Martin Brodeur, but the reality is that despite what they may have left in the tank, they're both on the downslopes of their respective careers and no one could really fault them if they retired when their current contracts expire (this year for Marty, next for Elias). While it's certainly a possibility that one or both could re-sign or even sign elsewhere, I think it's safe to say that neither will be around forever and are pretty much excluded from any conversation about the team's core.
So who is this team's core? Looking forward, who does Lou need to lock up to create the foundation for a hopefully successful future?
Ilya Kovalchuk isn't going anywhere for a while, and has shown more than adequate skill and desire to be considered part of the core.
Zach Parise is arguably the best player on the team and with all doubts about his knee seemingly erased at this point, he's exactly the kind of guy you can build a team around.
Travis Zajac is, for better or for worse, the team's number one Center. That may not always be the case throughout his career as prospects grow and free agents are brought in, but as it stands I think he's absolutely part of the core.
Adam Larsson is showing that he belongs in the NHL and, at 18, that's frankly more than a little amazing. He's absolutely a building block for the defense. Even if he doesn't hit the ceiling he could, he's good enough early enough that he could have a long, solid career.
Andy Greene was given a vote of confidence by Lou this past off season and, regardless of one's personal feelings about him, he remains pretty consistent while eating big minutes. No one will ever confuse him with Nicklas Lidstrom, but we know what we're going to get with him and what we get is a guy quietly doing what needs to be done.
Mark Fayne has DeBoer's confidence, at least, as he's been getting top 4 minutes and tough assignments and seems to be doing well with it, if one can judge a defenseman's prowess solely by how rarely one hears his name called during a broadcast.
Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson are still trying to find their ways in the NHL, but are still very young (21 and 20, respectively) and it's not hard to see their potential while watching them play. Will they ever reach it? Are they part of the core?
As it stands, that leaves the team with two Centers, two Left Wings, one Right Wing(?) and three defensemen. Not a terrible situation as, if it works out, that's five of your top six forwards and half of your defense.
But what do you think? How do you define a "core"? Is Nick Palmieri part of the core? Did I miss someone, or do you disagree with someone(s) on this list?