NHL Free Agency 2014: Latest Rumors Surrounding Unsigned Talent

Scott PolacekFeatured ColumnistJuly 8, 2014

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 19: Steve Ott #29 of the St. Louis Blues takes a shot on goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Two of the First Round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on April 19, 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Believe it or not, there were actually some NHL free agents who were not signed within the first day or two during the free-agency period.

The majority of the best talent on the market was swallowed up early in the process, but there are still some potential gems remaining. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the latest rumors surrounding a few of those unsigned players.


Steve Ott

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 01: Steve Ott #29 of the St. Louis Blues skates against Erik Gustafsson #26 of the Philadelphia Flyers during an NHL game on April 1, 2014 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Mark Buckner/NHLI via Getty Images)
Mark Buckner/Getty Images

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch filled hockey and Blues fans in on the latest regarding Steve Ott:

At 31 years old, it’s difficult to imagine Ott as someone who could turn the fortunes of a franchise around. However, he would likely be best served going to a contender that won’t depend on him to be a superstar. If he was a small piece to a larger puzzle, Ott could help a team go rather far in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

Ott is particularly valuable on the power play as a force on special teams. Look for him to score double-digit goals and serve as a productive player wherever he lands.


Chris Butler 

Matt York/Associated Press

Andy Strickland of the Big 550 KTRS and CBS Sports Radio St. Louis provided an update on the status of Chris Butler:

It’s not particularly surprising that a number of teams have at least showed some interest in Butler. He is a tested veteran who has played in hundreds of games and recently was fairly productive for the Calgary Flames.

Experienced defensemen simply find a spot in the NHL more often than not. 

Tom Mihalek/Associated Press

Much like Ott, Butler isn’t going to be a superstar, but he can serve as a solid role player who could eat up valuable minutes as a defensive enforcer. He isn’t going to score a lot of goals, but he can certainly help a contender prevent some.


Nikolai Khabibulin 

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Josh Rimer of Sportsnet.ca provided an update on goalkeeper Nikolai Khabibulin:

Over the years, Khabibulin has been a productive goalie for the likes of the Chicago Blackhawks, Tampa Bay Lightning and even the Winnipeg Jets, but he is now 41 years old and looked at as primarily a backup in the league.

To make matters worse for his future, Khabibulin dealt with a torn rotator cuff this past season. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman commented on the injury at the time it happened, and it sounded like Khabibulin’s body simply wasn’t responding like it used to, via ESPN Chicago’s Scott Powers:

"(It was) one of those things where you try to rehab it to avoid surgery. With him being out with the groin, [he] could work on it the last six weeks or so. It just never got better to the point where it wasn't going to heal without surgery."

Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

Before the injury, Khabibulin was 1-0-1 with a 5.01 goals-against average and a .811 save percentage in four games. It is a small sample size but wasn’t exactly his best work. 

Ideally, Khabibulin would serve as a backup somewhere that needs goalie depth. Toronto would certainly fit the bill.


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