Are NHL teams hogtied or high on the hog when it comes to free agents?
While most of the big-name signings took place on July 1, the so-called second tier of free agents is having a hard time finding a home.
Conspiracy? Economic woes? It depends on who you talk to.
A high-profile agent told Sun Media yesterday that the current environment for free agents is “all being orchestrated” by the NHL and the plan all along was to make these players sit to see if they’re willing to sign for less money.
Four weeks into free agency, players like Alex Tanguay, Petr Sykora, Manny Fernandez, Marcus Nilson, Dennis Seidenberg, Dominic Moore, Rhett Warrener, Miroslav Satan, Mathieu Schneider, Robert Lang and Brendan Shanahan have yet to sign.
None of these guys are superstars, but they’re household names and in a few cases, it’s a surprise they haven’t been signed. It would appear teams simply aren’t willing to pay their asking price or don’t have the money.
“I think what you’ve got here is something that has been in the works for a while,” said the agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bunch of guys sitting around like this looking for work. This is something teams have been looking at for a while.
“What they’re trying to do is make these guys wait and sweat so they’ll take less money. A lot of these guys aren’t going to do that.”
A league executive, meanwhile, said that’s not the case. He said many teams are sitting close to the $56.8-million (all terms US) salary cap and don’t have money to spend, which means players like Tanguay, Schneider, Lang and Shanahan are going to feel the squeeze when they negotiate.
“A lot of teams simply don’t have the cap space,” the executive said. “People were wondering how this free-agency period was going to shake out. The top players were still able to get their money. These guys are going to have to fight for theirs.
“Now, they’re all playing a waiting game. Both sides are waiting to see which side might bend. My belief is it’s going to have to be these players because the money just isn’t there.
“Teams can no longer afford to overpay for role players. In some cases, that’s what these guys are.”
Look at a guy like Tanguay, for example. The 28-year-old winger made $5.375 million last season with the Canadiens.
Tanguay, who has had interest from the Oilers, Panthers, Islanders and Lightning, knew he wasn’t going to make that kind of coin on the open market, but the indications are the best offer he’s received has been for $1.2 million a season.
That’s almost an 80% paycut on a deal that would probably only be for a year.
“Most of the dollars are gone,” said another league executive. “You’ll see discounted players for sure.”