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Many restricted free agents still without contracts

Restricted free agent Jamie Benn remains unsigned. He and the Dallas Stars have kept negotiations out of the media. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Restricted free agent Jamie Benn remains unsigned. He and the Dallas Stars have kept negotiations out of the media. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Entering mid-August and with training camps slated to begin in a month’s time, there’s a surprising number of talented young restricted free agents yet to re-sign with their respective teams.

Topping the list are forwards Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars), Ryan O’Reilly (Colorado Avalanche), Evander Kane (Winnipeg Jets) and Tyler Ennis (Buffalo Sabres), along with defensemen P.K. Subban (Montreal Canadiens), John Carlson (Washington Capitals), Michael Del Zotto (New York Rangers) and Dmitry Kulikov (Florida Panthers).

Benn is considered a future franchise player of the Stars, but there’s been a cone of silence over his contract talks.

Back in late June, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reported Benn wanted to keep his negotiations with the Stars out of the media, which both sides to date have obviously done.

Carlson and the Washington Capitals appear to be employing a similar strategy.

Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was recently grilled by reporters over his contract talks with Subban, but he remained tight-lipped other than to suggest talks were ongoing and cordial.

Considering Subban’s teammates Carey Price and Max Pacioretty were re-signed to new deals this summer, the fact he remains unsigned has prompted questions about his future in hockey-mad Montreal.

For his part, Subban has remained upbeat, maintaining his love of Montreal and his desire to play out his career there.

O’Reilly’s status had one Denver Post columnist recently speculating over why it’s taking the Avalanche so long to re-sign the 21-year-old center, expressing concern O’Reilly could become unsettled with the organization.

A report two weeks ago in the Winnipeg Free Press claimed Kane was mulling over a six-year, $29 million offer from the Jets, but there have been no updates since then.

That has some Winnipeg fans questioning the 21-year-old’s desire to play for the Jets, but it’s obvious his camp is merely trying to get the best deal it can.

The last bit of news regarding contract talks between the Sabres and Ennis was back in early August, when GM Darcy Regier claimed talks were ongoing.

As for Del Zotto, the last notable update on his status came on July 5, when the Bergen Record reported his agent was “hopeful” of getting a new contract with the Blueshirts for his client.

The Miami Herald reported July 24 the Panthers were continuing to work with Kulikov, adding a new deal was expected before the end of July, which was more than two weeks ago.

All of those players are eligible to receive offer sheets from rival clubs. The Philadelphia Flyers’ attempt last month to sign away Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators briefly generated a few columns and blogs speculating over potential offer sheet scenarios for several of them.

It appears increasingly unlikely, however, any of them will get an offer from another team.

In the wake of the Predators matching the Flyers’ offer for Weber, media and blogger consensus suggested pitching offer sheets for other unsigned RFAs would be a fruitless exercise, as those offers would be matched.

As with the remainder of this summer’s unrestricted free agents, the current NHL collective bargaining negotiations are also having an impact on these notable RFAs, leading to the possibility most, if not all, will have to wait for the implementation of a new CBA to be re-signed by their respective clubs.

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.

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