NHL training camps are slated to open in a month’s time and several quality players remain available via unrestricted free agency.
Right winger Shane Doan is still unsigned, though the reasons are well documented. He continues to field offers from rival teams, but holds out hope of re-signing with the Phoenix Coyotes if the sale of the team to Greg Jamison goes through.
Other notable forwards include Mike Knuble, Brian Rolston, Kristian Huselius, Andrei Kostitsyn, Jason Arnott, Daymond Langkow, Dominic Moore and Jason Blake.
Available defensemen include Michal Rozsival, Carlo Colaiacovo, Pavel Kubina, Jaroslav Spacek, Scott Hannan, Kurtis Foster, Brett Clark and Chris Campoli.
Goaltenders Dwayne Roloson, Antero Niittymaki, Dan Ellis, Ty Conklin and Brent Johnson also remain unsigned.
It’s not unusual for quality players to still be available at this time of the summer. Following the June draft and the frenzy of signings in the opening weeks of free agency in early July, most GMs tend to take a breather by mid-summer to re-evaluate their rosters, as well as get in some much-need vacation time.
Once the calendar turns to September, most of the remaining talent either signs for bargain prices, accepts training camp tryouts, decides to continue their playing careers in Europe or succumb to the inevitable and retire.
This summer, however, the ongoing collective bargaining negotiations pose an additional problem for the remaining free agents.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said last week the league will once again lock out the players if there’s no new deal by the Sept. 15, the expiry date of the CBA, which is also the same date many training camps are scheduled to begin.
Defenseman Mike Mottau recently told CSNNE.com’s Joe Haggerty he’d like to re-sign with the Boston Bruins, but feels nothing will get done until a new CBA is in place.
As Haggerty suggests, Mottau and the remaining unsigned UFAs could be stuck in contract limbo while CBA talks continue.
It’s not just the free agent market that could be affected by the CBA talks. Activity in the trade market has dropped off considerably. That’s not unusual for this time of year, but it could remain stagnant between now and Sept. 15 if the league and the NHLPA are no closer to a new agreement.
Talk of the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers pursuing Calgary’s Jay Bouwmeester, or of the Pittsburgh Penguins chasing Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan, would ring hollow if the threat of a lockout increases in the coming weeks.
When a new CBA is signed, most of those notable remaining free agents will find themselves quickly signed to new contracts.
If the agreement results in a decrease in the salary cap without a rollback of players’ salaries, it would spark a significant amount of player movement in the two weeks leading up to the start of the season, as teams which find themselves over the cap scramble to shed salary.
For now, however, the free agents and the rest of the hockey world wait and watch.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla’s Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.