With NHL training camps starting next week, the status of unsigned restricted free agents such as Drew Doughty of the L.A. Kings, Luke Schenn of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins and Zach Bogosian of the Winnipeg Jets is not only attracting more media attention, but making fans of those clubs nervous.
Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star noted progress in Schenn’s negotiations with the Maple Leafs “took a vacation” and while neither side has expressed concern, McGran considered it “a little unsettling” that Leafs management hasn’t come to terms with the blueliner.
With promising defenseman Cody Franson now in the Leafs lineup, McGran wondered if the front office was “playing hardball” with Schenn.
He also suggested Schenn may be waiting to see how Doughty fares in his discussions with the Kings. Both are represented by Don Meehan of Newport Sports who is known as a tough negotiator.
GM Brian Burke, meanwhile, told the Toronto media on Tuesday he wouldn’t discuss negotiations, but expressed optimism over getting Schenn re-signed before training camp.
Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek also touched on the status of these unsigned players, noting Bogosian had been a subject of trade rumors throughout much of last season and this summer.
The silliest of those rumors had the Jets shipping Bogosian to the Montreal Canadiens as part of a deal for overpaid center Scott Gomez. That one likely had its genesis in the wishful thinking of some Habs fans unhappy with Gomez’s sub-par performance last season.
Marek explained the reason the Jets didn’t trade Bogosian was because “he could turn into one of the biggest blueline studs in the league.”
While Bogosian’s development has been slower than anticipated, he still possesses the potential to blossom into a star. He’s also only 21 and most NHL defensemen at that age still have several years ahead of them until they reach their prime.
The same can be said of Schenn and Doughty, especially the latter, who was a finalist for the Norris trophy in 2010.
The expectation remains these players will be re-signed by the start of training camp next week, but the possibility exists one, or more, will stage a contract holdout in hopes of pressuring management into giving them better deals.
Holdouts used to be more common under the last CBA, but it’s a tactic rarely used by restricted free agents under the current one.
That’s not just because missing valuable pre-season or early season play could hamper their performance when they eventually return to action. If they remain unsigned by Dec. 1, they’re ineligible to play for the remainder of the season.
However, one player who might go the holdout route is Phoenix Coyotes center Kyle Turris. His status as an unsigned RFA has been overshadowed by the others.
ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside reported Tuesday league sources claimed Turris was seeking either a three-year deal worth a little more than $4 million per season, or a two-year deal at slightly more than $3 million per.
Burnside believes the cash-strapped Coyotes won’t pay Turris’ asking price and while his agent suggested there’s plenty of time to get a deal done you can’t rule out the possibility of the 22-year-old center remaining on the sidelines when training camp opens.
If Turris, who only netted 25 points last season, is truly seeking that much, he’s dreaming in technicolor. If he’s unwilling to come down from those numbers he’s likely headed for holdout country.
BRUINS WOULD DEAL D
If the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins decide to make a trade later in the season, they might use one of their defensemen as trade bait.
James Murphy of ESPN.com recently responded to a reader’s e-mail regarding blueliner Johnny Boychuk’s inconsistent performance last season.
Murphy suggested Boychuk could be moved if he doesn’t have a solid start to this season. He pointed to Boychuk’s UFA status next summer and noted the 27-year-old would find himself pressured to keep his spot with Matt Bartkowski and Steven Kampfer waiting in the wings.
Perhaps one reason for Boychuk’s inconsistency was a broken left arm, which sidelined him for 10 games early in the season. Confidence could be another issue, as last season was only his second full season in the NHL.
Given his big shot and physical game, the Bruins would likely find considerable interest in Boychuk if they were to shop him around this coming season, but it is premature to consider him a trade candidate.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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 and Kukla’s Korner.