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Latest free agent buzz

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Mikhail Grabovski’s new one-year contract with the Washington Capitals injected a welcome jolt of excitement into an otherwise stagnant NHL free agent market.

With training camps opening in less than three weeks, several notable restricted and unrestricted free agents remain unsigned.

St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, New York Rangers center Derek Stepan, Toronto Maple Leafs pivot Nazem Kadri and Ottawa Senators blueliner Jared Cowen still haven't re-signed with their respective clubs.

Left winger Brenden Morrow, right winger Damien Brunner and defenseman Hal Gill are among the UFAs still seeking new teams.

A recent story on Pietrangelo's status reported talks between his agent Don Meehan and Blues GM Doug Armstrong were “ongoing” but no closer to an agreement.

The Pietrangelo camp is reportedly seeking a long-term, $7-million-per-season contract, while the Blues prefer something less than $6 million per. Despite the lack of progress, the Blues have no intention of shopping him.

The Rangers remain tight-lipped about their negotiations with Stepan. On Aug. 8, assistant GM Jeff Gorten said there were no updates on contract talks with the 23-year-old. Judging by the silence since then, little has changed.

Having led the Rangers in scoring last season, Stepan is seeking a significant raise over the $875,000 per year he earned on his previous contract. Given the Rangers limited cap space ($2.2 million), talks could drag on a while.

Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons suggested Kadri's high sense of self-belief was behind the 22-year-old center's stalled contract talks with the Leafs.

Kadri subsequently claimed he was being reasonable and taking the Leafs limited cap space ($4.9 million) into account. With training camp approaching, he admitted his contract impasse is becoming a distraction.

Kadri's status will provide fodder for the hyperactive Maple Leafs rumor mill, especially if he's still unsigned when training camps open in September.

The Ottawa Citizen recently reported talks between the Senators and Cowen were “heating up,” with the two sides swapping several potential contract scenarios.

It was subsequently reported the Senators tabled an eight-year, $28-million offer to Cowen, with both sides hoping to get a deal in place prior to training camp.

That offer provides Cowen with long-term security, but also takes him past his eligibility age for unrestricted free agency. If the 22-year-old blueliner develops as anticipated, the average cap hit ($3.5 million) on that offer would be worth less than his true value as the deal progresses.

Brunner reportedly seeks a three-to four-year deal worth $3.5 million per season. SI.com's Allan Muir doubts offensively challenged clubs like the Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers or Nashville Predators would bite at that asking price.

As for Morrow, Muir speculates a team “leaning heavily on kids” (Edmonton or Florida) could have interest in his leadership skills.

The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle recently interviewed Gill, who became a free agent when the Predators bought out the final season of his contract. The 38-year-old isn't considering retirement and hopes to sign with a new club soon.

Despite his size (6-foot-7, 243 pounds), experience and leadership skills, Gills is also slow-footed and in recent years has been hampered by injuries. At this stage, his best hope for a contract could be a training camp tryout.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays 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 The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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