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Colorado Avalanche: Chris Stewart, Peter Mueller Remain Unsigned

James CriderCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2010

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 14:  Chris Stewart #25 of the Colorado Avalanche celebrates with teammate T.J. Galiardi #39 after scoring the game winning goal against the San Jose Sharks  in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HP Pavilion on April 14, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/ Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Despite the fact that there are only three weeks until the start of Avalanche training camp, key forwards Chris Stewart and Peter Mueller remain without contracts.

Everyone knew coming into the offseason that Colorado wouldn't be big spenders, but no one expected them to be penny pinching with their own players, especially when they currently have the most salary cap space in the entire NHL.

But Avalanche management isn't alone in their conservative negotiating with young RFAs. Bobby Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks, Marc Staal of the New York Rangers, and Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens are just a few other high profile restricted free agents who remain without contracts to start the month of September.

Topping the list of reasons this league-wide anomaly is occurring rests on the hiring of a new executive director for the NHL Players Association, and right now the leading candidate is Donald Fehr.

For those not familiar with Fehr, he's the former executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association (1986-2009), who's career highlights include the cancellation of the 1994 World Series after he lead the MLBPA on a strike in order to abolish the salary cap.

Given that the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expires in two seasons, it's not surprising that rumors are emerging about two year contracts being offered to said free agents. The chance of another NHL lockout is unlikely, especially given how long it's taken to rebuild a national audience after the 2006 lockout, but it's still a possibility.

Employing shrewd negotiating tactics that involve signing players to reasonable short term contracts has been the best defense mechanism for teams like Atlanta, Montreal, and Washington, and in most cases it hasn't gone as smoothly as planned.

Colorado's case is the most peculiar of the bunch, because the result of not pursuing any unrestricted free agents thus far has them significantly under the NHL's 2010-2011 cap floor of $43.4 million.

However, this does ensure that both Stewart and Mueller will be signed come the season opener, but also hints the Avalanche are unlikely to undergo any significant roster changes until the next CBA is signed.

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