At this stage, remaining UFAs like Kris Russell will have to accept short-term deals for average annual salaries considerably less than what they made last season.
The number of NHL unrestricted free agent signings slowed to a trickle since the opening-day frenzy on July 1. Over the weekend, defenseman Luke Schenn became the most recent notable player to ink a new contract, reaching an agreement with the Arizona Coyotes on a a two-year, $2.5-million deal.
Several notable players remain available in the UFA market. Among those yet to land new contracts are defensemen Kris Russell, James Wisniewski and Kyle Quincey and forwards Jiri Hudler, Radim Vrbata, Sam Gagner, Brandon Pirri and Matt Cullen.
Sportnet’s Luke Fox recently reviewed the status of the top remaining UFAs. He noted Russell, 29, was linked earlier this month to the Boston Bruins, Florida Panthers, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks. However, it’s since been reported the Leafs made no offer to Russell and had no interest in him.
Fox also claimed the Canucks “kicked the tires” on the 32-year-old Hudler, while the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t given up on bringing back Cullen (who turns 40 in November) next season.
Arizona Sports’ Craig Morgan reports Vrbata’s agent said he’s spoken with four teams. Morgan believes the Arizona Coyotes could be among them. The 35-year-old previously played six seasons with the Coyotes.
At this stage, leverage has shifted away from the remaining free agents and toward the GMs. Those players can forget about inking lucrative, long-term contracts. As Schenn’s signing indicates, they’ll have to accept short-term deals for average annual salaries considerably less than what they made last season.
LIGHTNING MAY NEED TO MAKE A TRADE TO SIGN RFAs
Entering this week, the Tampa Bay Lightning still haven’t re-signed restricted free agent forwards Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and defenseman Nikita Nesterov. It’s expected GM Steve Yzerman could make a trade to free up some salary-cap space to retain the trio, especially Kucherov. The 23-year-old sniper could receive over $6 million annually on a long-term deal.
Goaltender Ben Bishop ($5.9-million salary-cap hit), forward Valtteri Filppula ($5-million annually) and defenseman Jason Garrison ($4.6 million) were mentioned as possible trade candidates. They’re not the only ones, however, who could hit the trade block.
CBS Sports’ Chris Peters suggests Ryan Callahan could be among those Lightning players who should be on alert. SI.com’s Allan Muir, meanwhile, believes blueliner Braydon Coburn could attract some interest.
Callahan, 31, is entering the third season of a six-year, $34.6-million contract with an annual average salary of $5.8 million. However, he carries a full no-movement clause and is recuperating from recent hip surgery, which adversely affects his trade value.
Muir suggests the New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche as teams in need of defensive help who could benefit from the addition of the 31-year-old Coburn. However, he admits moving his contract won’t be easy.
Coburn is starting the first season of a three-year deal worth $3.7-million per season. While healthier and more affordable than Callahan, he has a full no-trade clause. If he won’t waive it, Yzerman will have to look elsewhere for trade options.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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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