As we bid farewell to what’s been a very quiet August for NHL news & rumors, here’s a look at next summer’s notable free agents and an update on Ryan Johansen’s contract status.
ESPN.COM: A listing of 2015′s potential unrestricted free agents. Jason Spezza, Mike Green, Martin St. Louis, Shawn Horcoff, Jaromir Jagr, David Krejci, Bobby Ryan, Marc-Andre Fleury, Sergei Gonchar and Paul Martin are among those who could be available next July 1.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The performance of each player and their current respective teams will largely determine if they re-sign or test next summer’s UFA market. Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill is confident of re-signing Spezza. The Bruins have reportedly initiated casual contract discussions with Krejci’s agent. The Senators expect to begin contract talks with Ryan when he returns to Ottawa for training camp.
The Penguins and Fleury’s agent have decided not to initiate contract talks this season, preferring to let Fleury focus on the upcoming season. No word on Martin’s future but if the Penguins young blueliners (Olli Maatta, Derrick Pouliot, Simon Despres) step up this season, they could cut ties with Martin.
Green’s been a fixture in this summer’s rumor mill, with the Detroit Red Wings believed to be interested in him. If St. Louis and Jagr have strong performances their respective clubs will attempt to re-sign them to short-term deals. Horcoff will have to take a significant pay cut from his current $4.5 million annual salary if he hopes to remain with the Stars. Gonchar is a spent force and won’t be re-signed by the Stars, who attempted to trade him this summer (even offered to pick up half his salary for this season) but couldn’t find any takers.
NBC SPORTS: Dhiren Mahiban cites a report from The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline exploring possible options for the Blue Jackets if Ryan Johansen isn’t re-signed before the start of training camp on September 18. Portzline suggests several unrestricted free agent options, including Saku Koivu, Dustin Penner, Michal Handzus, Andrei Loktionov, David Steckel, Ryan Malone, Ville Leino, Colin Fraser, Daniel Carcillo and Ryan Carter. A short-term bridge contract is expected for Johansen, though money is the sticking point. The Blue Jackets have reportedly offered a two-year, $7 million deal while the Johansen camp seeks $7 million per season. Portzline believes Johansen will eventually get a two year deal worth between $9 – $10 million.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: None of those UFA options will adequately replace Johansen’s skills. Though there’s over two weeks until training camp opens, this is looking like a game of chicken between the Jackets and Johansen’s agent. A holdout won’t do either side any good. A two-year deal worth between $4.5 and $5 million annually is more than enough for Johansen at this stage. If he builds upon last season’s breakout performance over the next two years, he’ll be in a much better position to land a big, lucrative deal from the Jackets. Right now, he has no leverage other than a holdout. If the Jackets perform well in his absence, that limited leverage is gone.