Hard to believe that the unrestricted free agent market has come to a crashing halt after it’s usual opening days of hyper activity. With the salary cap being set at $64.3 million for this upcoming season, many teams quickly made their moves in an effort to bolster their lineup with players they felt could make a difference. The activity was so chaotic early on that it seems today, a month later, that most teams are finished spending. The biggest reason for the recent silence in signings likely has to do with the cap ceiling this year being reduced to the above mentioned $64.3 million, from $70.3 million. Another reason is that teams who need to add players in certain positions, must move other players to create available cap space, and it’s been difficult finding a trading partner. Just ask Roberto Luongo.
At this point with training camps set to open next month, there are still some noteable free agents, some of which are suprisingly still available. One wonders if the availability of money is the issue, or if the players in conjunction with their agents are looking for too much money, too long of a contract, or a combination of both. The Florida Panthers who were active early on with the modest signings of Joey Crabb and Jesse Winchester as the noteable names, signed Scott Gomez last Thursday to a one year deal reportedly for $900,000. The high profile players that are still in waiting should garner significantly more, yet it’s interesting to see who’s still looking for a new home.
That said, here’s a list of players that are ready, willing and able to help an NHL franchise:
* Damien Brunner. With the New Jersey Devils having lost Ilya Kovalchuk to the KHL, this could be a perfect spot for Brunner as it looks like the Detroit Red Wings are prepared to let him walk. Brunner’s first NHL season was a good one, and he showed a lot of promise as a member of the Red Wings. His time in the Swiss league indicates that he’s able to put up points consistently when given top minutes.
* Mason Raymond. Shocking that Raymond is still available, and despite my nightly prayers, and wishes, he has yet to sign a deal with the Florida Panthers. Or anyone else for that matter. Raymond is fast, and a solid two way player who would fit in very nicely in South Florida. Maybe I need to go to church and light one of those special “big” candles my mom tells me about for special occasions.
* Tim Thomas. The politically outspoken netminder is 39 years old, sat out last season, and still feels he can contribute. He’ll likely want the starter role and that limits his choices of where he can play. I don’t really see him as a good soldier in the number two role. He’ll probably want a healthy contract as well, meaning he’ll have to wait for a team to clear some cap space before he’s signed. He could be waiting a long time.
* Ilya Bryzgalov. After being bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers, the eccentric goaltender could be signed at a humongous discount. At the right price, South Florida would be an interesting destination. If nothing else the dressing room would certainly be more entertaining. A little less media attention could actually get him back on track as well.
* Mikhail Grabovski. Another player that was bought out, Grabbo can help a number of teams, but his availability indicates that he might be asking for too much, or is being too picky. Rumors are floating that Washington is interested. Oh joy!
* Peter Mueller. Health was a primary concern for Mueller with his concussion history, but he appeared to be completely recovered last season. His production was expected to be better, but with a full training camp, that could change things for him this season. It’s not out of the question for him to return to the Panthers, but his value is very unpredictable right now. He may have to go through a tryout before signing a deal.
* Ron Hainsey. A rugged and steady defenceman who can help a number of teams if you’re looking for that stay at home type guy. He”ll be looking to play for a contender after spending his career playing for non playoff teams (Columbus, Atlanta, Winnipeg). Detroit and Carolina are interested. Again, it comes down to price.
* Ryan Whitney. Whitney just finished a six year deal that payed him a total of $24 million dollars, and the people in Edmonton don’t feel they received value. Whitney was injured often, and his skating ability has regressed because of it. Carolina is rumored to be looking at him, but like Mueller, he may have to tryout first.
* Daniel Cleary. The 34 year old winger has lost a step, but hasn’t lost his ability to contribute. I’ve watched enough of him during his career with the Detroit Red Wings to know he’s still able to score a timely goal, and play with tenacity. This signing comes down to money and length of term, which Detroit is still hoping the two sides can agree on.
* Teemu Selanne. Hard to imagine him finishing his career anywhere else but in Anaheim, but the 43 year old winger is still looking for work. Or still deciding if he wants to play another season. Anaheim GM Bob Murray would like him back if he’s 100% committed to a full season.
According to Cap Geek, the Florida Panthers have just under $12 million available in cap space. Their internal number surely is significantly lower, so there’s no reason to expect any blockbuster signing, unless a big contract is moved. Yet, my wish to sign Mason Raymond at a reasonable deal still seems within reach. Raymond made $2,275 million last season, and I can’t understand why a three year deal for an average cap hit of $3 million would be so bad. He’ll be 28 in September, heading into the prime of his career and would be a great fit skating on a line with Jonathan Huberdeau and Sasha Barkov.
Hello Dale? Can you pick up? Are you there?
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