Veteran NHL free agents getting squeezed: Agent

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 PM ET

As the calendar turns to August and the clock ticks down to the start of NHL training camps next month, plenty of players are looking for work.

While the free-agency period started off with its usual fireworks on July 1, it has been reduced to a whimper as GMs seemingly take a break from their spending sprees to enjoy some time off in the summer.

The biggest names signed last week were former Los Angeles Kings winger Alexander Frolov, who accepted a one-year, $3-million deal with the Rangers. As a result, the Kings immediately signed former Pittsburgh Penguins winger Alexei Ponikarovsky to a one-year, $3.2-million deal.

Still, there is plenty of talent remaining. Veterans like Bill Guerin (Pittsburgh), Mike Comrie (Edmonton), Andy Sutton (Ottawa), Marty Turco (Dallas) and Miroslav Satan (Boston) are looking for work.

“You could probably make a pretty good team with the talent that’s left available,” said a league executive. “People are still trying to juggle money and find out where they stand.

“Now that the arbitration period has ended, that might spur some signings. Teams know what they’re going to have to spend on certain players. There could be a sense of urgency again.”

Plenty of teams have money to spend, including the New York Islanders, Colorado, Atlanta, St. Louis, Nashville, Dallas, Anaheim, Carolina and even Los Angeles.

After taking a forced break from signing players, one player agent hopes the executive is correct.

“If I’d known there wasn’t going to be any signings between July 15 and Aug. 1, I would have just taken these two weeks off. The last couple of weeks have been a little frustrating.”

Another agent said older players are being squeezed by clubs giving younger prospects a chance.

“If you can get a young guy who can get the job done for $600,000, you’re going to give that guy a chance,” said the agent. “You’re not going to pay a veteran $1.5 million to do the same job with this salary cap.”

With those thoughts in mind, here’s a look at some of the best players looking for new homes:

RW Teemu Selanne, Anaheim: Likely the best free agent available. The 40-year-old proved last season he still has the scoring touch, with 27 goals and 21 assists in 54 games. Teams will entice him. He could also retire.

C Mike Modano, Dallas: This is a tough one. He has played his whole career in the Stars organization, but they’ve decided to move on. Also 40, he could land with the Detroit Red Wings. They’d bring him in at a reasonable price.

RW Lee Stempniak, Phoenix: Scored 28 goals last season, yet hasn’t been able to find a home. A return to the Coyotes remains a strong possibility. The 27-year-old likely didn’t expect to wait this long for a deal.

LW Paul Kariya, St. Louis: His situation will be interesting. The 35-year-old wasn’t dealt at the trade deadline last season. He’s still well respected. The Blues would be well-served to bring him back, but another team will like his leadership.

LW Miroslav Satan, Boston: Some might not think he belongs here, but he was effective after signing with the Bruins midway through the season. The 35-year-old is still able to contribute.

C Mike Comrie, Edmonton: Struggled to stay healthy last season with the Oilers, and played just 43 games while scoring 13 goals and adding eight assists. Don’t be surprised if he ends up with the Kings. They need help in the middle.

RW Bill Guerin, Pittsburgh: Hard to believe the Penguins haven’t signed him yet, but they still could. The 39-year-old has good hands and had 21 goals and 24 assists in 78 games last season. The Bruins are interested.

D Willie Mitchell, Vancouver: Struggled with concussion issues last season and hasn’t been able to find work. The 33-year-old can play big minutes, he just has to stay healthy.

D Andy Sutton, Ottawa: Dealt to the Senators at the deadline, he had a strong finish to the season. Ottawa wanted to bring him back, but couldn’t afford his demands. Sutton, who made $3.5 million last season, will likely end up in the Western Conference.

D Marc-Andre Bergeron, Montreal: The 29-year-old did a solid job for the Habs last season, with 13 goals and 21 assists in 60 games. But he might be in a situation where he has to wait for work.

G Marty Turco, Dallas: He could have a tough time finding a home. The Chicago Blackhawks should be able to stomach the $2.75-million award Antti Niemi received in arbitration Saturday. Turco will have to keep looking.

G Jose Theodore, Washington: Is anybody going to take a chance on him? One GM suggested Theodore could be brought in by a team looking to push its starter early in the season. He might also be forced to wait.


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