What about the rest of the NHL's free agents?

billguerin.jpgWhile we’re all consumed with what is going to transpire in the situation with Ilya Kovalchuk and the New Jersey Devils, there’s a host of other free agents out there feeling lonely and looking for a new home. One guy that might be off the market as soon as today is Alexander Frolov who is rumored to be close to signing a deal with the New York Rangers. The Globe And Mail’s James Mirtle got asking around about what’s going on with the other 84 unrestricted free agents on the market and why they haven’t landed jobs anywhere.

Unlike past seasons under the salary cap, when the majority of the established free agents signed contracts in the first week of July, this summer has seen a huge number of teams balk at the asking price for second- and third-line players.

In an informal poll Monday, agents around the league agreed the market for depth has eroded to the point where many general managers are unwilling to pay much more than the league minimum ($500,000) for the bottom eight to 10 players on their roster.

“So many teams are taking the position that they’re going to pay third- and fourth-line guys $1-million or less,” said Tacopina, who is getting calls daily from European clubs hoping to sign NHL-calibre players. “I think we’re going to see a watering down of talent in the league if it continues on this path.”

One of the holdups this summer has been Kovalchuk, who finally signed a contract with the New Jersey Devils last week, only to have the deal rejected by the NHL the next day. Once his status is finally resolved, many agents said they felt their clients will finally get closer looks from teams waiting out the market.

The monkey wrench in that thought, as Mirtle mentions after this, is that there just isn’t the kind of money out there to be had. In what’s mostly a down-ish off-season for free agents with just one really big prize to be had in Kovalchuk, many teams are finding that this is the summer of reckoning when it comes to their budgets. I’m sure the Bruins would love to add more scoring depth to their team that doesn’t have to come via trade. I don’t imagine that adding Colby Armstrong to their forward unit was the only move the Maple Leafs would’ve made in free agency if they could help it, but alas, there’s just no money to be had there.

As for the teams that are well below the salary floor and will need to add money to compete, they’ll do so, but it won’t happen right away. Not to mention that some teams are dealing with an internal salary cap that won’t let them wantonly add salary just to fill out ranks. It makes you think of the days without a salary cap where the line between the big spenders and the thrifty teams was definitive.

In this case, according to Cap Geek, you’ve got three teams under the salary floor of $43.4 million (Islanders, Avalanche, Thrashers) with the Predators just hovering above the line. There are seven other teams that are less than $5 million above the salary floor. Whether those teams are just waiting things out and looking to spend smart or if they’re done really poking around for the summer remains to be seen, but in cases like the Carolina Hurricanes, they’ve made it clear they’re not going much higher than where the salary floor is at.

If you’re a guy like Bill Guerin, Alexei Ponikarovsky or Paul Kariya and still waiting for a job… The harsh reality of life in the cap world is settling in and if you want to play in the NHL, dropping your demands to an acceptable level is what will have to be done to get another job. Taking a shot in the wallet and in your pride makes it twice as difficult.

Scroll Down For:

    Video: Drouin equalizes, but Rust strikes again 30 seconds later

    2 Comments

    Bryan Rust is really having himself a series.

    After opening the scoring in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, Rust took matters into his own hands after Jonathan Drouin evened the score for Tampa Bay, notching his second goal of the game — just 30 seconds after Drouin scored — to put Pittsburgh back out in front, 2-1.

    Before digging into the Rust goal (posted above), let’s take a moment to appreciate Drouin’s snipe, one that whizzed by Pittsburgh netminder Matt Murray:

    Now, back to Rust.

    With that second goal he’s now racked up eight points for the playoffs, just three back of the 11 he put up over the course of the entire regular season. The former Notre Dame standout has become a major storyline, and now sits tied with Patric Hornqvist for the team lead in even-strength playoff goals.

    Not bad for a guy that spent a fair chunk of the year in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, eh?

    Video: Rust opens scoring in Game 7

    Leave a comment

    What an Eastern Conference Final for Bryan Rust.

    Rust scored his second goal of the series — and third point in as many games — to open the scoring on Friday night, giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead over the Lighting at Consol.

    After scoring just 11 points during the regular season, Rust — in just his second season at the NHL level — now has seven points in 16 playoff games, and has emerged as a vital bottom-six contributor in the process.

    Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin notched assists on Rust’s goal, which came early in the second period. The Pens out-shot the Bolts 8-5 in the first period, but were unable to get one past Andrei Vasilevskiy.

    Oh, and speaking of Kunitz, he’s also produced extremely well in this series — he now has six points in his last five games.

    Shock of Lightning: Stamkos will play

    Steven Stamkos
    Getty Images
    5 Comments

    He’s in.

    As if Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final couldn’t get any more dramatic, it has — Tampa Bay captain Steve Stamkos, who hasn’t played since Mar. 31, will make his playoff debut against the Penguins tonight.

    Stamkos underwent vascular surgery in early April to correct a blood clotting issue, and has remained on blood thinners ever since. While there’s been no confirmation he’s off medication, he did tell Sportsnet he’d be able to return to the lineup once he was.

    More:

    Stamkos reiterated that he’s still on the same prescription of blood thinners he was given earlier this month. He takes a 12-hour dosage, twice a day, and it has been suggested to him that once he is cleared to stop taking the medication, Stamkos conceivably could return to the Lightning lineup almost immediately.

    That’s why I’m trying to stay in shape,” he said.

    Per NHL.com, Stamkos took the warmup and participated in line rushes centering Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan.

    It’s been exactly eight weeks since Stamkos played his last game. At the time of his diagnosis, the Lightning said his timetable for recovery was 1-3 months.

    To say his return will be a boost is a major understatement. Aside from the emotional factor, Stamkos led the Bolts in goals this year, with 36, and would presumably spark a power play that’s gone just 2-for-12 in the series.

     

    Drama builds as Stamkos takes Game 7 warmup

    NEWARK, NJ - FEBRUARY 26:  Steven Stamkos #91 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on February 26, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Lightning shutout the Devils 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    3 Comments

    Steve Stamkos took the team bus to tonight’s Eastern Conference Game 7 in Pittsburgh. As TVA noted, it was the first time he’s arrived early for a game in these playoffs.

    In his pregame presser, Bolts head coach Jon Cooper refused to answer any questions about Stamkos’ availability.

    And then Stamkos took the warmup.

    As such, the drama surrounding Tampa Bay’s captain has reached an all-time high. Stamkos, who’s been out of the lineup since early April due to blood clots, looks as though he’s on the verge of an emotional comeback as the Lightning try to win an ECF Game 7 — on the road — for a second consecutive season.

    “If Stamkos is in the lineup, it’s our best foot forward,” Cooper said. “If he’s not in the lineup, it’s because he wasn’t eligible to play.”

    No word if No. 91 is still on the blood thinning medication he’s been taking since undergoing vascular surgery on Apr. 4.

    Stay tuned…