NHL Players Most Likely to Hold out During 2015 Training Camps

Carol Schram@pool88Featured ColumnistAugust 26, 2015

NHL Players Most Likely to Hold out During 2015 Training Camps

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    The offseason is no holiday for National Hockey League general managers.

    Once the Stanley Cup is awarded in June, teams have just a couple of weeks to get their scouting lists in order for the draft. The draft-weekend frenzy typically bleeds right into the opening of free agency on July 1.

    Summer development camps give coaching staffs the opportunity to get up close and personal with prospects, then arbitration hearings kick off in late July.

    With all those pieces in play, signing restricted free agents isn't the biggest priority.

    As long as a Group 2 free agent without arbitration rights receives his qualifying offer by the deadline before July 1, a team retains his rights. If he signs an offer sheet with another club—a rare occurrence in today's NHL—the original team retains the right to match the contract or receive compensation in exchange. Otherwise, his rights are bound to his team, without much leverage.

    As a rule, as long as a Group 2 player signs on the dotted line by the time training camp kicks off, both sides skate away with smiles on their faces.

    Nicholas Goss of NESN posted the extensive list of 2015's restricted free agents back on July 1, and teams went to work on their deals. By August 25, General Fanager identified just eight players of any significance who remained unsigned.

    Restricted free agents have limited bargaining power, and clubs are tidily taking care of business with their Group 2s. Here's where the last few players currently stand with respect to their new deals.

Micheal Ferland: Calgary Flames

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    Rich Lam/Getty Images

    Age: 23

    Position: Left Wing

    2014-15 Stats: 26 GP, 2-3-5 from NHL.com; 9 playoff GP, 3-2-5

    Previous Contract: three-year entry-level contract with AAV of $797,500, per General Fanager

    What's the Holdup? 

    The Flames may have put young buck Micheal Ferland on the back burner over the past couple of weeks while they hammered out the whopping six-year contract extension for their captain Mark Giordano, which was announced on August 25 at NHL.com.

    Roger Millions of Sportsnet Calgary reported on August 13 that Ferland's agent and Flames management had been talking and that "both sides may have to give in more than they want," but Ferland proved his value to his team as an agitator and goal scorer during the playoffs. 

    With the rest of their roster set and nearly $2.2 million in cap space to play with, Calgary should have no trouble getting Ferland under contract before training camp begins.

    Chance He'll Hold Out: 20 percent

Marcus Kruger: Chicago Blackhawks

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Age: 25

    Position: Center

    2014-15 Stats: 81 GP, 7-10-17 from NHL.com; 23 playoff GP, 2-2-4

    Previous Contract: two-year contract with AAV of $1.325 million, per General Fanager

    What's the Holdup? 

    Even after the salary-shedding trades of Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp earlier in the summer, the Chicago Blackhawks currently have just over $200,000 in available cap space with two players to sign—depth center Marcus Kruger and winger Joakim Nordstrom.

    During his day with the Stanley Cup in Solna, Sweden, on August 18, Kruger told ESPN.com's Scott Powers that "I don't feel too stressed out about (the lack of a contract), yet at least."

    "We've discussed a lot of different options there," Kruger added. "Whatever happens, it's going to be good for me and them."

    Though the Blackhawks have been forced to part with other important members of their Stanley Cup-winning roster, expect to see them make some late-summer roster moves to get Kruger into the fold by training camp.

    Chance He'll Hold Out: 30 percent

Joakim Nordstrom: Chicago Blackhawks

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    Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 23 

    Position: Left Wing

    2014-15 Stats: 38 GP, 0-3-3 from NHL.com; 3 playoff GP, 0-0-0

    Previous Contract: three-year entry-level contract with AAV of $766,666, per General Fanager

    What's the Holdup? 

    Nordstrom is a bit of a tweener for the Chicago Blackhawks—better than a career minor leaguer, but not quite good enough to commit to as a full-time NHL winger. Nordstrom was along for the Stanley Cup ride last spring but only got into three games—two of them in the team's first-round series against the Nashville Predators.

    With plenty of young forwards in the Blackhawks organization, Cat Silverman of Today's Slapshot suggests that Stan Bowman's best option with Nordstrom might be to use him as trade bait—especially if he can be packaged as catnip along with Bryan Bickell and his $4 million cap hit.

    Bowman needs to make one more roster move before training camp to get Kruger signed. Chances are, that move will also give Nordstrom some clarity about his hockey future.

    Chance He'll Hold Out: 25 percent

Freddie Hamilton: Colorado Avalanche

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    Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 23 

    Position: Center 

    2014-15 Stats: 18 GP, 1-0-1 from NHL.com 

    Previous Contract: three-year entry-level contract with AAV of $878,333, per General Fanager

    What's the Holdup? 

    While his younger brother Dougie salivates over the new $34.5 million contract he signed with the Calgary Flames over the summer, older brother Freddie's waiting on the Colorado Avalanche to come to terms on a new contract beyond his qualifying offer.

    Freddie has a reputation as a solid two-way forward, but he has just one point in 29 games over two years at the NHL level. Hamilton also doesn't play a particularly heavy game, which limits his effectiveness.

    Acquired by the Colorado Avalanche at the 2015 trade deadline, Hamilton was a healthy scratch just once after having spent most of the season in the minors with his previous team, the San Jose Sharks. It remains to be seen whether or not Colorado coach Patrick Roy will find a space for him on the retooled Avalanche in 2015-16.

    In terms of contract negotiations, Hamilton doesn't have much leverage. Expect him to sign a one-year, two-way deal at or near his qualifying offer.

    Chance He'll Hold Out: 10 percent

Stefan Elliott: Colorado Avalanche

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    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 24

    Position: Defense

    2014-15 Stats: 5 GP, 0-0-0 from NHL.com

    Previous Contract: one-year contract with AAV of $850,000, per General Fanager

    What's the Holdup? 

    A second-round draft pick by the Colorado Avalanche in 2009, Stefan Elliott has thrived in Colorado's farm system but has struggled to bring his game to the NHL level.

    After playing 39 games for Colorado in his rookie season in 2011-12, Elliott has seen his NHL opportunities shrink, even as he has excelled as an offensive defenseman at the AHL level with the Lake Erie Monsters.

    Elliott's 19 goals with the Monsters tied three other defensemen for the league lead, per TheAHL.com, and his 40 points ranked him second in Monsters scoring, yet he has had a tough time breaking through to become a full-time NHL player.

    With more than $8 million in available cap space, the Avalanche have more than enough room to sign both Elliott and Freddie Hamilton. The bigger questions are how these two journeymen fit into Roy and Joe Sakic's long-term plans for the team, or if they'll be snatched away off the waiver wire.

    Chance He'll Hold Out: 15 percent

Jonathan Huberdeau: Florida Panthers

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    Age: 22

    Position: Left Wing

    2014-15 Stats: 79 GP, 15-39-54 from NHL.com

    Previous Contract: three-year entry-level contract with AAV of $3,194,166, per General Fanager

    What's the Holdup? 

    As the 2012-13 Calder Trophy winner, Jonathan Huberdeau of the Florida Panthers is by far the most prominent Group 2 free agent to remain unsigned.

    The third overall pick from 2012 is expected to be a building block of the Panthers future as they climb back toward respectability—which should earn him a big-money long-term deal like we saw awarded to players like Dougie Hamilton, Brandon Saad and Gustav Nyquist earlier in the summer.

    During draft week back in June, Florida's general manager Dale Tallon told George Richards of the Miami Herald the following: "I think we’ll get this down very shortly. We’re very close on getting something done. I don’t see any problems."

    Nearly two months later, we've heard nothing further. If any Group 2 negotiation this year stretches into training camp, it could be this one.

    Chance He'll Hold Out: 60 percent

Brock Nelson: New York Islanders

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    Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 23

    Position: Center

    2014-15 Stats: 82 GP, 20-22-42 from NHL.com

    Previous Contract: three-year entry-level contract with AAV of $2,825,000, per General Fanager

    What's the Holdup? 

    Perhaps New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow has been calmly packing up his office and getting settled in his new digs at the Barclays Center rather than negotiating contracts?

    Big forward Brock Nelson was one of many Islanders who contributed excellent seasons to help push their team back into the playoffs and start off their tenure in Brooklyn on a positive note.

    A first-round draft pick in 2010, Nelson played college hockey for two years at North Dakota before embarking on his pro hockey career. Taking his time on his development has worked out well for Nelson, who finished third in Islanders scoring with 20 goals in 2014-15.

    Arthur Staple of Newsday reported in mid-August that he'd heard nothing on Nelson talks, so it's hard to gauge how these negotiations will turn out.

    Dan Saraceni of Lighthouse Hockey points out that Snow signed RFA Josh Bailey hours before training camp opened back in 2011, so we could see Nelson's negotiations take a similar path. 

    Snow has $8 million in cap space and, most likely, a mandate to dazzle when the Islanders debut in their new home. A two-year bridge deal in the $2-3 million range should get Nelson locked up in time to start the new season.

    Chance He'll Hold Out: 30 percent

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