The 2010 NHL Free Agency Period has been a unique year and a frustrating summer for agents trying to find their clients jobs and the right fit. After the first frenzy of signings on July 1, the second wave of signings has been prominently slow for mid-tier players who are suddenly finding it very difficult to find work and the right fit.
Many agents of established productive veterans I’ve spoken with in the past couple days tell me signings may not pick up again until mid-to-late September when camps open. One-way contracts will be difficult to earn as teams are looking to go with cheaper younger alternatives to fill their 3rd and 4th lines.
“League seems to be caught between capped out and using the one-way money already spent and ELS players who were top draft picks, an NHL agent on the condition of anonymity who represents a 10 year veteran forward told Inside Pittsburgh Sports this morning.
“Looks like the scramble will occur in September with late camps and when the youngsters fail, ” the agent added.
After talking to a number of agents and league contacts in the past week here’s the latest:
*The Toronto Maple Leafs actively shopped defenseman Tomas Kaberle and despite receiving four serious offers, GM Brian Burke did not pull the trigger and move Kaberle before Sunday’s deadline.
Kaberle’s no trade clause is now back and will likely remain a Maple Leaf for now.
One player who was at the center of the Kaberle trade talks with Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone. GM’s Brian Burke and Steve Yzerman kicked the tires for months on a possible deal involving Malone and Kaberle but the two sides were never really close to an agreement.
According to a league source, Yzerman was not aggressively shopping Malone this summer but there are concerns inside the Lightning organization of his body breaking down over the next couple seasons. Malone has five years remaining on a 7 year deal worth $31.5 million he signed in 2008.
Malone is due $6 million 2010-2011 and $5.5 million in 2011-2012. His salary though decreases significantly in the final three years of the deal. Malone will make $3 million in 2012-2013 and $2.5 million per season in the final two years of the deal.
Malone though is happy to be staying in Tampa Bay and according to agent Mike Luit, Malone will be entering camp healthy after ending the 2009-2010 season with a banged up knee and a bum shoulder.
Tampa Bay enters the 2010-2011 season as one of the most improved teams and are still looking to bolster their blueline.
*Despite having absolutely no cap space, the Boston Bruins continue to keep in touch with a few free agent wingers. The team is looking to add another veteran winger and remain in contact with Bob Murray the agent for Billy Guerin and Allan Walsh, the agent for Miroslav Satan.
The Bruins have informed both players that they remain interested once their cap situation is taken care of. Guerin is their top target.
The Bruins have been hopeful to clear cap space by moving Marc Savard but with his contract now under investigation, there has been minimal trade talks of late.
*Raffi Torres is one of those mid-tier wingers who remains in limbo as training camps open in about four weeks. Torres, 28, scored 19 goals last season but has drawn little interest on the open market.
Torres made $2.75 million in 2009-2010 and is primed to take a significant reduction in pay. A league executive told me Torres will likely have to settle for a one year deal in the $800,000 to low $1 million range.
*Mike Luit the agent for defenseman Willie Mitchell remains in talks with five teams; Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals and Vancouver Canucks.
Mitchell will trim his list of suitors this week and is likely to sign within the next 7-to-10 days. The Kings have been reportedly in strong pursuit of Mitchell.
However, there has been mixed signals on the Kings pursuit of a defenseman.
One agent of a free agent defenseman who has been in talks with Los Angeles told me last week that LA’s pursuit of a defenseman was now on hold.
“La will not be making any moves until Kovalchuk situation is resolved,” the agent said, when asked if LA was still in mix for his client.
*Ducks GM Bob Murray and Don Baizley spoke again last week regarding Paul Kariya. Anaheim would like to get something done but have yet to begin negotiations with Kariya’s camp. Kariya though is not negotiating with any other teams. His sights remain set on Anaheim and a deal is likely to happen before the end of the month.
Going into the weekend, the Ducks focus was on adding a reliable No. 5 or 6th defenseman which has put Kariya somewhat on the backburner. Former Penguin Jay McKee remains an option for Anaheim.
The New York Islanders are interested in bringing Ruslan Fedotenko into camp on a tryout basis. The Minnesota Wild are also believed to be interested in bringing Fedotenko into camp on an invite but no offer from the Wild yet. To no surprise, Fedotenko has not received any firm one-way offers.
*18 year veteran Slava Kozlov is eyeing an opportunity to join a Stanley Cup contender. It has limited his suitors and there has been little interest league wise. The KHL is an option but not being pursued at this time.
Agent Scott Lites tells me there is no timetable for Kozlov to make a decision on his next NHL home and indications are Kozlov may have to accept a training camp invite to get that opportunity.
While Pittsburgh is seen as a great fit by Kozlov’s camp, Lites has yet to receive a call from Pens GM Ray Shero.
Kozlov, 38, had 8 goals and 18 assists last season.
*It has been rather quiet for free agent forward Jeff Halpern who will likely remained unsigned for a while longer.
A “couple teams have called” according to a contact in Halpern’s camp but no offers are on the table. Halpern’s agent approached the Penguins early into free agency about his client being a fit in Pittsburgh but there was no follow up at the time and there still hasn’t been one.
Halpern, 34, had 9 goals and 10 assists last season for the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings.