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.

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    Holtby ‘wasn’t as sharp as he can be,’ says Trotz

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    Presidents’ Trophy winners once again in the regular season, the Capitals once again face an uphill climb if they are to advance beyond the rival Penguins and the second round of the playoffs.

    What began with a strong first period for the Capitals in Game 2, albeit without a reward on the score board, faded into a frustrating 6-2 rout, as the Penguins took a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Pittsburgh for a pivotal Game 3 on Monday.

    Braden Holtby was pulled after the second period. He gave up three goals on 14 shots, while his opponent at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant with 34 saves.

    “He’ll tell you that he can be better. He’s a straight up guy and he will be. I was just trying to change the mojo,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz of his decision to sit Holtby.

    “I thought some of the goals, he wasn’t as sharp as he can be for us. He’s a game-changer for us. So when he didn’t change the game, I just looked to change the mojo a little bit there. That’s all. Braden’s our backbone. He has been all year. We’ve got to find some goals for him, too. We can’t just put it on Braden Holtby.”

    Now in a deep but not insurmountable hole against the defending Stanley Cup champs, the Capitals reportedly held a players’ only meeting following this latest defeat.

    After failing to open the scoring in an otherwise dominant first period, Washington surrendered three goals in the second, as the Penguins broke it wide open with their transition game, led by two great plays from Sidney Crosby.

    “We can’t get frustrated. I think that would be our biggest mistake is to get frustrated right now,” said T.J. Oshie, before expanding on the meeting between the players.

    “It was things that people need to say and things that some people need to hear. We were very together with what we said. I don’t need to go into details. Sometimes in our game … you need to hear from your teammates more than your coach. And tonight was one of those nights.

    “It was the players in here and what was said is what needed to be said.”

    We’ll find out Monday if what was said actually has any impact on the ice.

    Penguins rout Capitals to take commanding series lead

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    The Washington Capitals are in trouble. Against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

    Again.

    Despite a dominant first period, at least in terms of shots on Marc-Andre Fleury and puck possession, the Capitals saw this game go sideways in a hurry during the second period, on the way to a 6-2 loss to the Penguins in Game 2.

    Washington is now in quite a hole, trailing its nemesis 2-0 in this second-round series.

    Last year, Matt Murray stymied the Capitals. Though it’s only been two games this year, Fleury has stepped up in the absence of the injured Murray and given the Penguins solid goaltending and frustrated a dangerous Capitals lineup.

    After withstanding the storm of pressure from the Capitals in the first period, the Penguins broke this game open with a trio of second-period goals. It started with a shorthanded goal from Matt Cullen, and later continued with a beautiful goal from Phil Kessel and then Jake Guentzel‘s sixth goal of these playoffs.

    That led Barry Trotz to take Braden Holtby out of the game, after he gave up three goals on 14 shots, putting in Phillip Grubauer to begin the third period. The Penguins continued the onslaught.

    For the Penguins, there are some injury concerns to keep an eye on.

    Patric Hornqvist left the game in the first period after blocking a shot around his foot or ankle. He didn’t return. Ron Hainsey had to go to the locker room late in the third period after taking an Alex Ovechkin shot up around the head.

    Game 3 goes Monday in Pittsburgh.

    ‘I wasn’t good enough,’ says Lundqvist after double OT loss to Senators

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    The task wasn’t impossible, but certainly daunting.

    The Ottawa Senators needed five goals on Henrik Lundqvist just to send Game 2 into overtime.

    The Rangers goalie had been spectacular for most of this post-season entering Saturday’s contest, but the Senators, led by a sensational four-goal performance from Jean-Gabriel Pageau, found a way to break through for a 6-5 double overtime win to take a 2-0 series lead against New York.

    They did so on just 34 shots through almost 83 minutes against Lundqvist.

    “I wasn’t good enough,” said Lundqvist, per the New York Daily News. “Coming up with the extra save there in the end, that’s my job. Even though it’s tough plays on deflections, I’ve got to find a way.”

    On three occasions, the Rangers held a two-goal lead. That includes with under five minutes remaining in regulation. They even had a pair of shorthanded goals. But they couldn’t hang on, as Pageau scored twice in the final 3:19 of regulation to record his hat trick.

    That set the stage for the eventual winner, as he beat Lundqvist over the left shoulder with a shot from his off-wing on a two-on-one rush.

    With the Senators in control, the series returns to New York for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday.

    “We played well enough to win this game, there’s no question about it,” said Lundqvist. “It’s really tough to lose this one. Clearly they’ve gotten the bounces here in the first two games.”

    Capitals’ Holtby begins third period on the bench, Grubauer takes over in net

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    Braden Holtby began the third period of Saturday’s Game 2 on the bench, giving way to Philipp Grubauer.

    The Washington Capitals fell behind the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 after two periods, with Holtby allowing three goals on just 14 shots. It will be interesting to hear the reason for this decision from coach Barry Trotz following the game.

    The Capitals had dominated on the shot clock, but gave up a pair of quick goals to fall further behind Pittsburgh in this game, while trailing in the series 1-0.

    Phil Kessel — on a great play from Sidney Crosby — and Jake Guentzel scored 3:10 apart to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead.