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Slow summer market

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

It's been a month since this summer's NHL unrestricted free agent market opened, yet a number of notable free agents remain unsigned.

An unnamed NHL executive told the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch the reason is many teams spent heavily in the opening two days of free agency, leaving little for those players still available.

Garrioch also spoke with “a high-profile agent” who suggested some teams have to move money if they wish to sign free agents.

This is a direct result of the decline of this year's salary cap to $64.3 million. Had it remained at last season's $70.3 million or rose as it had in every season during the previous collective bargaining agreement, those notable players currently available would've been signed by now.

The Detroit Red Wings are one club that must shed salary to re-sign a couple of key forwards (Gustav Nyquist and Joakim Andersson) and possibly bring back right winger Daniel Cleary.

Garrioch claimed the Wings are still looking for blueline depth and noted former Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey is available, suggesting the 32-year-old could sign a one-year deal for less than his $4.5-million cap hit last season.

Hainsey, who's also been linked to the Carolina Hurricanes, could be a good fit with the Wings, but signing him probably wouldn't leave enough cap space for Cleary.

Former Maple Leafs center Mikhail Grabovski is still on the market, though not for much longer. His agent last month claimed Grabovski narrowed his list to three teams and would make his decision sometime in August.

The Washington Capitals need experienced depth at center. Despite management's reported disinterest in this summer's free agent market, they remain linked to Grabovski in the rumor mill.

Former Bruins goalie Tim Thomas reportedly hasn't made much progress in his search for a new NHL team.

ESPN Boston's Jimmy Murphy recently cited an “NHL source” claiming teams were interested in Thomas, but “other dominoes” had to fall first before the 39-year-old would be signed.

In other words, those clubs must clear some cap space or evaluate their current tandems during training camp to decide if they should bring Thomas aboard. Either way, the former Vezina and Conn Smythe winner could be waiting a while.

Former Flyer Ilya Bryzgalov is another netminder who hasn't had much luck finding a new NHL home this summer.

Bryzgalov is currently training with Swedish Hockey League team Farjestad, but isn't expected to sign with them.

Defenseman Ryan Whitney was a frequent target of trade speculation throughout last season. Now that he's an unrestricted free agent, however, his name rarely comes up in the rumor mill.

The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson recently suggested Whitney might be a good fit with the Hurricanes or New York Islanders if he's willing to accept a one-year contract.

Whitney, who's coming off a six-year, $24-million contract, was hampered by injuries throughout that deal and there was concern last season over the decline in his skating ability. He could be forced to go through a training camp tryout before receiving any serious contract offers.

Veteran winger Steve Sullivan, who split last season between the Phoenix Coyotes and New Jersey Devils, recently confirmed he's had informal talks with several teams, but retirement is also in the cards.

Long-time Anaheim Ducks star Teemu Selanne hasn't given any indication yet if he'll return for another season. Ducks GM Bob Murray, however, recently said he wanted the 43-year-old winger to play only if he is 100 percent committed toward another season.

If Selanne does return, it'll only be with the Ducks.

Rumor Roundup appears weekdays only on Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website,, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

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