When NHL free agency opened on July 1, there was a flurry of activity as the league's top free agents, such as forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin, signed for monster deals. That flurry has slowed to a trickle, but there have been recent developments about the free-agent deals going down—and the surprising ones that aren't.
Let's take a look at some of the signings, or lack thereof, making headlines this deep into free agency.
Rangers are dragging their feet on Marc Staal deal
New York Rangers defenseman Marc Staal would like to sign a long-term deal prior to the start of the season, his agent Paul Krepelka told Larry Brooks of the New York Post on July 31. However, per Krepelka, there have been no discussions at all with general manager Glen Sather.
Staal was instrumental to the Rangers' playoff campaign in 2013-14. He played in 72 games after a string of injuries saw him play in only 21 in the 2012-13 season and 46 in 2011-12. His impact when healthy was obvious.
He consistently shut down Penguins star Sidney Crosby in the Eastern Conference semifinal, though not always without incurring infractions. But it serves as evidence of his ability to win matchups one-on-one against the league's top scorers, one of the biggest reasons the Rangers need to pay up to keep him.
After 20 years without the opportunity to play for the Cup in the Final, the Rangers should be doing everything they can to remain competitive in a tough Eastern Conference.
Staal shouldn't accept anything less than the $33 million over six years teammate Dan Girardi received last year—and per Brooks, he won't. That's his bottom line. The Rangers know he can make that money elsewhere, so the only thing left for them to do is sign him prior to the start of the season to avoid unnecessary distractions.
Brandon Sutter and Penguins lock up two-year deal
The Pittsburgh Penguins signed their final restricted free agent, center Brandon Sutter, to a two-year deal worth $6.6 million, Seth Rorabaugh of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette first reported Tuesday.
The contract came only one year after rumblings that Sutter was included in a trade-deadline package the Penguins were offering to the Vancouver Canucks in return for center Ryan Kesler. After the trade didn't go through, Sutter set about proving his worth to the Penguins last season, scoring 13 regular-season goals and adding another five in the postseason.
Sutter's relief was evident in comments he provided to Sam Kasan of Penguins.com Tuesday. "It’s nice to get it done with and over with," Sutter said. "It’s nice to get signed to a couple years and I’m obviously returning to a team that has a chance to win."
Sutter earned the deal with his postseason performance, the single best one of his career. He set the tone against the Rangers early on in the Eastern Conference semifinal with his short-handed goal to seal Pittsburgh's lead in the series. He had four even-strength goals and five total in the postseason, scoring seven points, earning the right to be called situationally clutch. In the 2013-14 regular season, he scored eight goals in the third quarter.
Paul Bissonnette to the Capitals?
Remaining unsigned free agent Paul Bissonnette, former winger for the Phoenix Coyotes, has received interest from "five or six teams," according to his agent Mark Guy and as reported by Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post. One of those is the Washington Capitals.
Per CapGeek.com, the Capitals have $1.113 million available in cap space, and Bissonnette had a salary of $750,000 in 2013-14. The numbers might not make sense currently for the Capitals, who already have a strong group at wing, but it's unclear what Bissonnette's salary demands are, and he would be a strong addition on the fourth line.
Still, if four or five teams other than the Capitals are interested in Bissonnette, he may have some bidding power. The question is whether he can get the playing time he's looking for elsewhere.
|Paul Bissonnette Time on Ice per Game, Career|
“Right now he’s just looking for a good organization where he can contribute more than he’s been able to, to date, in the last couple years in Phoenix,” Guy told Prewitt. In 2013-14, that was just a short four minutes and 45 seconds per game on the ice, his fewest minutes since joining the organization in 2009.
Perhaps after watching his time on the ice decrease season after season, Bissonnette will be motivated more by an expanded role with greater responsibility than the fourth-line role to which he has been relegated than money.