A consequence of the expiration of the NHL collective bargaining agreement, and implementation of a player lockout, is all contract negotiations between teams and players have come to a halt.
In other words, free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, have to wait for a new CBA to get new deals.
Though this summer’s UFA market has been pretty much picked clean, several recognizable names remain.
Up front, the notable centers are Jason Arnott, Brendan Morrison, Daymond Langkow, Dominic Moore and Jochen Hecht, with Mike Knuble, Petr Sykora, Brian Rolston, Jason Blake, Andrew Brunette, Tomas Holmstrom, Kristian Huselius and Andrei Kostitsyn available on the wing.
Sean O’Donnell, Jaroslav Spacek, Kurtis Foster, Brett Clark, Jim Vandermeer, Mike Commodore, Chris Campoli and Cam Barker are the impact defensemen.
Remaining goaltenders include Dwayne Roloson, Marty Turco, Brent Johnson and Dan Ellis.
Age was one reason why many remained unsigned. Roloson, Knuble and O’Donnell are over 40; Rolston, Blake, Brunette and Holmstrom are 39; Spacek is 38; Arnott, Turco and Morrison are 37, while Langkow, Sykora, Clark, Johnson and Hecht are 35. All are on the downside of their careers – some more than others.
But decline in performance wasn’t limited to ageing players. Huselius (33), Commodore (32), Ellis (32), Vandermeer (32), Foster (30), Campoli (28), Kostitsyn (27) and Barker (26) remain in their prime, but their recent play factored into why they’ve gone unsigned.
Huselius suffered a groin injury early in 2011-12, which sidelined him for all but two games. His plans to remain in Europe this coming season (made well before the lockout) killed whatever interest there might have been from NHL clubs.
Frequent injuries – including multiple concussions – likely dampened interest in Hecht among NHL GMs.
Moore, 32, took time off to be with his wife, who is battling cancer. Earlier this summer, there was talk of the San Jose Sharks re-signing him once he was ready to return to action.
Holmstrom was still mulling retirement. He recently said if he did return, it would be with the Detroit Red Wings, the team with which he has played his entire NHL career.
A few of these unsigned players did get occasional mention in this summer’s rumor mill.
In August, there were reports out of Vancouver claiming the Canucks had interest in Arnott as a third line center. It remains to be seen if they’ll pursue him once the lockout ends. There was talk of the New Jersey Devils re-signing Sykora and Clark was mentioned as a possible defensive pickup by the Red Wings.
It is normally this time of year the remaining UFAs sign to one-year, bargain contracts, ink tryout contracts in hopes of earning a job in training camp, drift to Europe or retire.
For many of this year’s UFAs, the lockout threatens their hopes of squeezing another year or two out of their fading NHL careers. If and when a new CBA is reached, it’s believed there will be a two-week training camp, with no pre-season games. That will make earning a tryout contract more difficult, giving players less time to prove their worth.
Though the UFAs belong to the NHLPA and stand united with their peers, they are among those who stand to lose the most to a lockout.
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.