The Panthers will have to compete against other suitors to retain soon-to-be UFA Stephen Weiss. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
If the current NHL lockout forces the cancellation of the 2012-13 season, a number of potential unrestricted free agents may have played their final games with their current teams.
George Richards of the Miami Herald reported earlier this week Florida Panthers center Stephen Weiss was in the final season of his current contract, and slated to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2013.
If the season is cancelled, that final year will be burned off, making Weiss a UFA when the lockout finally ends.
Weiss told Richards he’d had brief talks with Panthers management prior to the lockout regarding his future, expressing his wish to re-sign with the club. General manager Dale Tallon has said he’s not that concerned over the possibility Weiss could be lost to free agency.
With no collective bargaining agreement in place, teams aren’t allowed to offer contracts to potential free agents.
If this lockout stretches beyond next July before a new CBA is reached, the Panthers would be scrambling to re-sign Weiss.
Though both sides seem to prefer getting a deal done, becoming an unrestricted free agent would provide Weiss with additional leverage, allowing him to field offers from rival clubs, forcing Tallon to match or exceed the best one.
As noted in September, there would be a number of notable players in the same boat as Weiss.
Center Ryan Getzlaf and right winger Corey Perry, Anaheim Ducks;
Right winger Nathan Horton, Boston Bruins;
Defenseman Robyn Regehr, Buffalo Sabres;
Right winger Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames;
Right winger Alexander Semin, Carolina Hurricanes;
Left winger Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars;
Goalie Jimmy Howard and center Valtteri Filppula, Detroit Red Wings;
Defenseman Ryan Whitney, Edmonton Oilers;
Goaltender Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild;
Centers Travis Zajac and Patrik Elias, New Jersey Devils;
Defenseman Mark Streit New York Islanders;
Defenseman Sergei Gonchar, Ottawa Senators;
Defenseman Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers;
Goaltender Mike Smith, Phoenix Coyotes;
Left winger Ryane Clowe, San Jose Sharks;
Left winger Joffrey Lupul, Toronto Maple Leafs;
Defenseman Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks;
Center Mike Ribeiro, Washington Capitals.
Anaheim Ducks right winger Teemu Selanne and Ottawa Senators right winger Daniel Alfredsson are also unrestricted free agents, but are expected to retire if this season is cancelled by the lockout.
Not every player on this list will have equal value. Aging players like Gonchar, Backstrom, Elias, Streit and Timonen won’t command lucrative contracts as they did in the past.
The exception is Iginla, whose continued strong play would attract considerable interest from clubs seeking offensive experience and respected leadership.
Injuries have hampered Morrow, Whitney and Horton, thus limiting what they’ll get in term and dollars.
Ribeiro has consistently posted solid regular season numbers, but his limited playoff experience could hurt his market value. Semin’s numbers have been in decline over the previous two seasons, which could affect his chances of getting a long-term deal.
Clowe and Regehr are reliable veterans with leadership experience, making them valuable on the open market.
It’ll be predominantly the under-30s, however, who’ll make top dollar if the lockout should end after July 1, thus making it difficult for their current teams to re-sign them.
Regardless of what’s contained in the next CBA, players like Weiss, Perry, Getzlaf, Smith, Howard, Zajac, Filppula, Lupul and Edler should cash in big with their current teams or via free agency.
If a new CBA is implemented in time to save what’s left of this season, that will provide their present teams much-needed time to work out new contracts. It’s likely most of those younger pending free agents will be re-signed before next July.
But if a new CBA isn’t implemented until after July 1, their current teams will have to move quickly to get them under contract before rival clubs come calling.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays 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 and Kukla's Korner.