With the NHL’s unrestricted free agent market opening at noon Eastern July 1, there are few updates from the camps of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the two best players available this summer.
It’s believed Parise and Suter are considering their options, will test the market for the best available offers, but allow their current clubs the opportunity to match or top those bids.
As July 1 approaches, speculation is growing about their intentions and potential suitors.
Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review believes the Penguins should reward captain Sidney Crosby’s willingness to accept less than market value with his new 12-year, $104.4 million contract by signing Parise.
If the Washington Capitals decide to make a pitch for Parise, CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley wondered if their hiring of former New Jersey Devils assistant coach Adam Oates as their new head coach would work in their favor.
Gormley also suggested Anaheim Ducks right winger Bobby Ryan as a trade option for the Capitals if Parise’s price tag is too expensive.
Dallas Morning News columnist Mike Heika believes the Stars are willing to overpay for Parise, but not Suter.
While the Stars will be a dark horse in free agent bidding wars, they’re not believed to be high on the list of preferred destinations for either player.
It’s unlikely Parise or Suter will be signing with the Toronto Maple Leafs. GM Brian Burke was recently quoted at a P.E.I. sports luncheon, saying he doesn’t expect his club will pursue them.
Given the Leafs have more than $57 million invested in 18 players for next season and still need a goaltending upgrade, it’s understandable why Burke would pass on those two.
ESPN.com’s Craig Custance mused over the impact on the free agent market if Parise and Suter were to take their time fielding offers rather than signing within the opening days of free agency.
Custance suggested Suter’s decision would affect what free agent blueliners such as Florida’s Jason Garrison and Philadelphia’s Matt Carle receive.
Garrison and Carle aren’t on the same skill level as Suter. The new contract Dennis Wideman signed with the Calgary Flames (five years, $5.25-million average annual salary) is a better comparable.
How long it takes Parise to sign will have more of an impact on the trade market, particularly the Columbus Blue Jackets’ efforts to move right winger Rick Nash.
Teams interested in Nash found the Blue Jackets’ asking price too steep and some turned their focus to Parise.
Blue Jackets management hopes the market value for Nash will improve once Parise is signed. The longer he takes to sign, however, the longer it’ll take the Jackets to find trade partners.
Capitals left winger Alexander Semin is expected to join Parise and Suter in the UFA market.
TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted about the possibility the Capitals would try to trade Semin’s rights.
It wouldn’t be the first time this week the Capitals dealt away a pending free agent. On Wednesday, they shipped defenseman Dennis Wideman to the Calgary Flames, who promptly signed him to a five-year contract.
For those fans wondering how that signing went down so fast, Flames GM Jay Feaster contacted the Capitals seeking permission to speak with Wideman about inking a deal with Calgary before the trade was arranged.
One assumes any team with interest in acquiring Semin’s rights before Sunday would go the same route.
Speaking of the Flames’ acquisition of Wideman, it’s raised questions over blueliner Jay Bouwmeester’s future in Calgary.
Though Feaster spoke of Wideman joining Bouwmeester, Mark Giordano and Chris Butler as the Flames’ “first four” blueliners. Calgary Herald columnist George Johnson believes Feaster isn’t done tinkering with the defense corps.
Johnson suggests Bouwmeester will become a trade target for teams losing out in the bidding for Ryan Suter.
The Flames could use more grit on their blueline, but they also need more scoring punch up front. If Bouwmeester is shopped later this summer, Feaster will probably want a scoring forward in return.
In the days following the trades of Jordan Staal and Zbynek Michalek out of Pittsburgh, it was assumed blueliner Paul Martin was also on the trade block.
Martin, 31, is two years into a five-year contract at an average annual cap hit of $5 million and has at times drawn criticism for his performance with the Penguins by local fans and pundits.
It’s believed Penguins GM Ray Shero intends to target Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter when the UFA market opens July 1, which has fuelled rumors Martin would be shopped to free up more cap space.
Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported via Twitter he had it “on rock-solid authority” the Penguins had received some interest in Martin, but he wasn’t being actively shopped.
That might change if Shero signs Suter, Parise, or both. He doesn’t have to move Martin before signing free agents July 1, as teams are allowed to go over the salary cap by 10 percent during the off-season, provided they’re cap compliant when next season begins.
Rumor Roundup appears Monday-Friday only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News, Kukla's Korner and The Guardian, Charlottetown.