It is a question on the minds of every player, coach, general manager and owner in the NHL not to mention millions of its fans.
With 11 days remaining on the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and its players and no talks scheduled between commissioner Gary Bettman and union boss Donald Fehr, the league is on the verge of its first work stoppage since losing the entire 2004-05 season.
So how does the dark cloud hanging over the 2012-13 season impact the mindset of new Capitals coach Adam Oates and his players?
Im coming in every day acting as if its business as usual, said Oates, who was hired on June 26 to replace Dale Hunter.
Oates NHL career ended the same year as the leagues last lockout in 2004. He was in the prime of his career as a player during the NHLs work stoppage in 1994-95 when the season was reduced to 48 games because of a labor dispute.
Its tough, he said. Its only ever happened a couple times. Im sure Ill be talking to Capitals general manager George McPhee every day because there will be a lot of guys in camp and wed need to decide what would happen on a day-to-day basis. But as of right now, Im acting as if its going to get resolved.
McPhee said rookies are scheduled to report on Sept. 16, one day after the current CBA expires. If there is a lockout, rookie camps will be canceled and teams will need to decide whether their young prospects should be returned to their junior teams or play in the AHL.
For the Capitals, forwards Marcus Johansson and Stan Galiev, goaltender Braden Holtby and defenseman Dmitry Orlov would be eligible to play for the AHL Hershey Bears in the event of a lockout.
Oates said he understands the anxiety that comes with the uncertainty of a work stoppage and is hopeful his players will not have to experience what he did back in 1994.
Every day youre calling teammates waiting to hear, he said. Its very similar to what guys are going through now. You go through every feeling a little uneasy, a little, Oh well, itll get resolved, a little curious, then Man, I kind of miss it.
You go through the whole spectrum. Youre wondering whats going to happen. Whos right? Whos wrong? Is everybody going to figure it out? Its easy from the cheap seats, right?
Caps center Nicklas Backstrom arrived in Washington Monday night after an 8-hour flight from Sweden. He was on the ice at Kettler on Tuesday with nine other teammates, all hoping the NHL would resolve its dispute with the players.
I was going to come here ready to play, Backstrom said. If theres going to be a lockout, I want to get ready the same as I always do. If there is going to be a lockout well see.
Alex Ovechkin and Michal Neuvirth have said they will consider playing in Europe if there is a work stoppage. Backstrom said he has not yet considered that option and will not as long as there is hope for an agreement.
I havent even thought about it, he said. Well see what happens. A decision is going to come and well see what I have on my mind then.
On Tuesday Backstrom was joined on the ice by Ovechkin, Mike Green, Mike Ribeiro, Marcus Johansson, Wojtek Wolski, John Carlson, Mattias Sjogren, Neuvirth, Orlov and Galiev.
McPhee said he is not surprised to see so many players skating more than two weeks before they are required to report.
Everybody is sort of operating on business-as-usual and its nice to see them here, McPhee said. Id like to see them all here soon."
Carlson is the only member of the Capitals who remains unsigned and McPhee seems unconcerned that a deal is not yet in place for the 22-year-old restricted free agent.
Well keep talking, McPhee said. We like him a lot as a player and a kid and expect him to be here a long time.
McPhee said that until he is told otherwise he plans on managing the way he would before any other NHL season and that he is not interested in adding any more pieces to the Caps' puzzle.
We like our team, we like the mix, we like the group and wed like to get going here, he said.
I dont want to talk about a lockout or a work stoppage. Were prepared to get going here. If it changes, well adjust. We have to be ready to go.