A list of notable remaining unrestricted free agents, and an update on the Hurricanes.
SI.COM: Allan Muir listed several notable unsigned unrestricted and reasons why they remain unsigned. There’s speculation Ron Hainsey’s role with the NHLPA during the last lockout had led to his being blackballed, plus he’s not physical, lacks mobility and his offensive numbers have declined. Still, Muir expects Hainsey could get signed in September. Brad Boyes played well last season with the Islanders but teams are now seeking bottom-six players. Like Hainsey, Boyes could be signed in September.
Age and injuries have hampered Brenden Morrow, but Muir speculates perhaps a young team (like the Oilers or Panthers) might benefit from his leadership. Injuries have hurt Ryan Whitney’s mobility but Muir speculates the Panthers, Hurricanes or Lightning could take a chance on the blueliner. Douglas Murray is also slow but the Canucks could have interest in him.
If winger Damien Brunner lowers his $3.5 million per season asking price, the Stars, Panthers or Predators could be interested. A team willing to bet on Mikhail Grabovski as a second line center (Vancouver, perhaps?) could sign him.
Muir also believes Ilya Bryzgalov will stay in Europe, while Jose Theodore’s poor numbers last season could keep him on the market.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Hainsey led the Jets in blocked shots and was second in ice time, so he still has value as a second- or third-pairing blueliner. The Hurricanes were rumored to be interested earlier this summer, and the defensively weak Avalanche could use him as an affordable ($1 million) option. I suspect Boyes will get a deal but it could come on a training camp tryout.
Morrow appears a shadow of his former self but his reputation as a well-respected leader should help him get a contract next month, perhaps with one of the clubs Muir listed. Whitney’s lack of foot speed could be compensated if he played a more physical game like Murray, but that’s not what he’s known for. He’s a puck-moving defenseman, and injuries have hampered him and his value.
Brunner will almost certainly have to lower his asking price (and accept a one-year deal) to stay in the NHL. While he had a promising debut last season, teams aren’t willing to pay as much as he’s seeking based on a lockout-shortened season. I believe there are teams willing to use Grabovski as a second-line center, but they’re unwilling to overpay. He’ll probably have to accept a one-year deal for half of the $5.5 million cap hit from his previous contract.
Theodore could get an NHL contract before Bryzgalov.
NEWOBSERVER.COM’s Chip Alexander recently reported via Twitter: “Rutherford said Canes are still talking to a “couple” of free agents. As for signing one, he said, “I don’t know which way we will go.”
SPECTOR’S NOTE: I still expect the Hurricanes to add another veteran blueliner. They had interest in Ron Hainsey earlier in the summer, and if his asking price is as affordable as rumored ($1 million) he could be an affordable option for the ‘Canes.