Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Speculations continue on remaining big name free agents

The NHL's free-agent frenzy has cooled down and the focus in the hockey world has shifted gears to restricted free agents.
They have until Wednesday to file for salary arbitration, a quick but nasty way to resolve contract stalemates. Restricted free agents who reject one-year qualifying offers from their teams can elect for arbitration and receive a one-or two-year award from the arbitrator. This year's arbitration cases will be heard Aug. 22-Sept. 1.
Several restricted free agents have already accepted their one-year qualifying offers instead of going the arbitration route. Others, like Tampa star Vincent Lecavalier, continue to talk with their clubs.
"We've had discussions with Tampa and we've explored a one-year deal and now we're exploring a multi-year deal," his agent Kent Hughes said Tuesday. "But we're comfortable with where the one-year deal would be at that we don't need to go through the arbitration process."
Lecavalier is among a high-profile group of younger stars, along with Joe Thornton, Jose Theodore, Marty Turco, Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden, who can become unrestricted free agents next summer under the more liberalized free-agent rules of the new collective bargaining agreement.
That is unless they sign long-term deals before next July.
"If we can't get that done (before training camp) then we'll continue to talk throughout the year," Hughes said.
A new twist in arbitration also sees clubs having the right to bring players to arbitration, but no more than two a year. Clubs will notify those players in question on Thursday.
In the meantime, the cupboard is nearly empty but not completely bare on the unrestricted free-agent market.

The bigger-name forwards left include Teemu Selanne, Jozef Stumpel, Eric Lindros, John LeClair, Anson Carter and Peter Bondra.
"There has been interest," Stumpel's agent Rick Curran said Tuesday. "There's one club in particular that the interest is a little more heightened, particularly from Jozef's standpoint. We're just kind of waiting to see what that situation will be. They have some other matters on their agenda that they have to address first before they can either move forward on Jozef one way or another."
Curran would not say, but it's believed Pittsburgh would like to sign Stumpel and reunite him with Slovak friend and newly acquired star Ziggy Palffy, but only if star prospect Evgeni Malkin can't get out of his contract in Russia.
Lindros, for the millionth time, has been linked to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. His father and agent Carl Lindros continues to filter through their options.
"Hopefully by the end of the week we'll have a good idea what's happening," Carl said Tuesday.
One point to remember with the oft-injured Lindros: he was clearly the best player on the New York Rangers in 2003-04 before getting hurt. He's worth the gamble if the price is right.

Selanne, meanwhile, is attracting a number of phone calls but his agent Don Baizley described it more as "kicking tires" Tuesday. Something could happen by the end of the week on that front.
Bondra, 37, is taking his time deciding his future.
"There's about nine teams interested at this point," his agent Ritch Winter said Tuesday.
Perhaps of more interest is the musical chairs about to be played out in goal.

There remains a number of free-agent goalies available and a number of teams needing at the very least a backup: clubs such as Pittsburgh, Calgary, Boston, Tampa Bay, Phoenix, Anaheim and maybe Vancouver depending whether or not the Canucks want Alex Auld as their No. 2. Add Chicago to that mix if - it's more a question of when - the Blackhawks trade Jocelyn Thibault after signing Nikolai Khabibulin last Friday.
Curtis Joseph, Sean Burke, Mike Dunham, Steve Shields, Arturs Irbe, Byron Dafoe and Ron Tugnutt are all looking for jobs.
Once fellow 38-year-olds Joseph and Burke sign on, the rest of the goalie shuffle should take place.
"I think that the two who are probably the most identifiable in that group are Sean and Curtis," Burke's agent Mike Liut said Tuesday. "And everybody falls into line after that, I think that's probably accurate."
Joseph is an intriguing option. Can he still deliver like a No. 1 starter? Most likely, yes.
"Just having general discussions but nothing specific yet," Joseph's agent Don Meehan said Tuesday when asked to update his talks with teams.
The Penguins have looked at both Joseph and Burke, wanting a quality veteran to help bring along Marc-Andre Fleury but at the same time help win games on a team that's transformed itself overnight with Sidney Crosby, Sergei Gonchar and Palffy.
Burke has also drawn interest from Calgary, where he would back up star Miikka Kiprusoff, as well as other clubs.
"Sean has had calls from six teams, and for varying amounts of money and varying amounts of responsibility," said Liut. "Calgary is a team and it does have a lot of appeal to him. But he's taking his time to look at what's out there.
"I think he's very close to making a decision."
Another 38-year-old looking for a job is Irbe. But the Latvian is in the camp that needs to wait for Burke and Joseph to make their move.
"With goaltenders it's always a difficult market," said his agent Paul Theofanous. "Is there some interest? Yes. If you watched the world championship (in May), you would have seen that he played real well."
A pair of 33-year-olds are also waiting in the wings in Dunham and Shields.
"We've talked to a lot of teams," said Dunham's agent Bob Murray. "I suspect it'll be a situation that one or two teams make a move and sign a goalie, I think that'll spur both the remaining goalies and the remaining teams to get moving with a little bit more urgency."
Shields can fill that veteran backup role well, having been a mentor for Roberto Luongo in Florida, Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose and J.S. Giguere in Anaheim.
"There's a lot of interest in Steve," said his agent Kurt Overhardt. "I think there's one goalie out there, and I won't name him by name, teams are waiting to see what he's going to do and once that happens things will kind of go forward and wrap up. Steve has a lot of opportunities."
Overhardt was either referring to Burke or Joseph, either way once again pushing that domino theory.
The gem on defence is Roman Hamrlik, who has already turned down a few offers.
"Our focus is trying to put him in the best situation in terms of playoffs, he hasn't had that opportunity much of his career," said Winter, also his agent. "We've turned down opportunities that were quite lucrative with non-playoff teams and left our focus to be trying to find the best deal, not only economically, but also in terms of the teams' prospects (for winning). So we're being patient and we'll see how that ends up."
Glen Wesley will more than likely stay in Carolina.
"I spoke with Jim Rutherford yesterday, who indicated to me that they want to get serious about discussions about keeping him in Carolina," said Curran, Wesley's agent. "So that's where we are at right now. It's been his home for a number of years and all things being equal that's where he should be even though there has been interest from other clubs."
Curran also represents beteramn defenceman Bryan Marchment, who wants to stay in Toronto.
"The Leafs have suggested that they have a continued interest in having him, subject to whatever else they're trying to do with their lineup," Curran said. "For the moment, we just have to wait until they tell us what they're prepared to do one way or another."
Scott Lachance and Marcus Ragnarsson are also solid options left on the blue-line among the unrestricted free agents.
-thanks to www.sportsnet.ca

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