As the Calgary Flames did their exit interviews yesterday, it became clear the finality of this season was affecting the pending free agents more than others.
Among those without deals next season was the most controversial signing of last summer.
The Flames made waves by bringing in Todd Bertuzzi, but now they have to decide whether his 15 goals and minus-13 rating was worth his $1.95-million salary.
But Bertuzzi made it clear yesterday he would love to be back, and he hopes other UFAs follow him.
"I loved it here. I thought it was a good fit, a great group of guys," Bertuzzi said.
"For the most part, leaving now leaves an empty spot for everyone, including myself and a handful of other unrestricted free agents.
"If it all works out, it would be a nice place to come back and play again."
The list of potential free agents is headed by Michael Cammalleri, but there are several other pieces that need addressing. Defenceman Adrian Aucoin will have his salary come off the books, and the $4-million he earned this year will go elsewhere. If Aucoin comes back, it will be at a severely reduced rate, but the 35-year-old blueliner isn't holding out for big money.
"Realistically, I think the way the whole world is going right now and given my age, I don't see me getting too much of a pay raise," Aucoin said. "We'll see. I don't believe (my agent and GM Darryl Sutter) even talked over the course of the year and I don't think there's any base on upper, bottom or where we're at.
"I'm interested to see what's going to happen, too."
Other players without contracts are defencemen Adam Pardy and Jordan Leopold, forwards Andre Roy and Jamie Lundmark and goalie Curtis McElhinney.
Most of them won't be back, but many of them said they would like to be.
Still, the main question for Sutter will be a decision on Bertuzzi.
Bertuzzi said yesterday he wasn't playing at 100% in the last few weeks after returning from a knee injury. But the 34-year-old still feels he has plenty in the tank and could contribute to a contender.
"I never got back on track after the injury," Bertuzzi said. "I never felt the same with my body, with my legs and it seemed the harder you pushed, the worse it got.
"But ... it's just an excuse. You can sit here all day and make them up. I wasn't good enough down the stretch and didn't produce enough for playing those minutes, but I still think I'm capable of doing it."
LW Michael Cammalleri
LW Todd Bertuzzi
RW Andre Roy
C Jamie Lundmark
C Warren Peters
D Adrian Aucoin
D Rhett Warrener
D Jordan Leopold
D Adam Pardy
G Curtis McElhinney
C Dustin Boyd
LW Kyle Greentree
LW Kris Chucko