With the completion of the NHL Entry Draft, the negotiating window with upcoming unrestricted free agents has now opened. From now until July 1st, teams are allowed to contact, but not sign, the pending UFAs. This is a key period when teams decide on strategy for the summer before the free agent frenzy begins, and also the last chance for teams looking to re-sign their own players to eight year contracts. Once the player becomes unrestricted next Friday, teams may only offer seven year pacts. Here is some information already coming out about some of the top names:
- Steven Stamkos is the most important example of a team who would lose their advantage after July 1st, with the superstar center surely demanding a maximum length deal. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports that the Buffalo Sabres may be joining the hunt for the 26-year old, quoting GM Tim Murray: “We’re going to chase the big fish.” The Sabres do have over $20MM in cap space for the upcoming season, and could fit a Stamkos-like contract into their current structure.
- After opening, the window for Kyle Okposo must have been pretty stuffed as Arthur Staple of Newsday reports there was plenty of interest in the 28-year old. Among the teams that came calling were the Jets, Blues, Kings, Wild and Red Wings. Okposo put up 64 points last season and landed at #2 on our list of the top 50 UFAs.
- ESPN’s Joe McDonald passes along a report that Boston Bruins’ GM Don Sweeney has considered a reunion with Milan Lucic, and that the team will at least inquire about Stamkos. Boston isn’t finding much luck trying to re-sign their own star forward, as Loui Eriksson looks poised to hit the open market next week.