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A few moves over the weekend that are of fantasy interest, and it's been a month since I've been able to say that. So camp must be getting close!
There are a handful of restricted free agents who still haven't signed. And here are my thoughts:
Alex Pietrangelo wants the big bucks and frankly he deserves it. And frankly he'll get it. The holdup here is probably term and maybe a minor difference in dollars. The Blues have cap space, but a huge contract would make that disappear, so it's a bit of a juggling act. The invite of Ryan Whitney to training camp is just posturing. My prediction - this gets done in the middle of training camp, probably more than five years and probably more than $5.5 million per year.
Derek Stepan broke out big time last year and is the best option for a Rick Nash linemate. The Rangers haven't been sticklers in the past and they're not going to start now. They have $2.1 million in cap room and fully recognize that Stepan is worth more than that. So to me, the delay is some contract juggling. Thank goodness Brad Richards only has eight more years left at $6.7 cap hit. If they can convince Stepan to sign for $2.5-$2.7 million, then the problem is solved by moving Taylor Pyatt or Derek Dorsett.
Nazem Kadri is probably going to miss training camp and I could see him missing two or three games. But his stance has to be softening after seeing the contracts signed by Mikkel Boedker and Marcus Johansson.
Cody Franson, from what I hear, is softening his stance and I think will have a contract done this week. How much of the pie will be left for Kadri after that happens? I still believe the Leafs move John-Michael Liles to clear up the logjam and cap space. And they'll get a pick for him.
Cody Hodgson - nothing new on this front, from what I could dig up. This one could stretch into camp, but I'm not as close to this situation as I am with Kadri (I'm in Toronto) so tough to say if it will go into the season.
Jared Cowen seems to be playing a bit of hardball here, but as a defenseman he has a bit more leverage. They seem to be signing for more than forwards in the same situation. But I think this gets done in time for camp, or close to it.
I mentioned Brad Richards earlier and I felt inspired to go deeper with him. What is left on his contract is absolutely nuts. It's crazy. The cap hit is huge and the term is even bigger. The Rangers had the chance to get out from under that and they chose not to. Next year maybe? But I don't understand the wait. Even if he finds his old magic back, it's not $6.7 million, eight year magic. It wouldn't be an insult to Brad or a reflection of what he has left in his bag of tricks if he were to be bought out. It would just be good business sense. The Lightning weren't telling Vincent Lecavalier that he sucks when they bought him out. They were telling him that business would be easier if he were off the books. Richards, with five years and $4 million/year left would be almost worth keeping. But the current price tag is insane.
And Leaf fans and Toronto media types whining about how Brian Burke didn't make enough free agency waves - this Brad Richards contract is what you wanted him to do? I said it that summer - the deal was nuts, and I also said that as a GM I wouldn't touch Richards with a contract offer.
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The training camp Invites are starting to filter in:
The big one is Mason Raymond. I can't believe he couldn't land a contract. But he accepted a tryout offer from the Maple Leafs. There's room for him there, too. In my estimation, just 12 of 13 spots are taken right now - and that includes Colton Orr, Joe Colborne and Frazer McLaren. Adding Raymond, assuming he eventually signs, would take ice time from those three as well as some PP time from Nikolai Kulemin.
Ryan Whitney to St. Louis camp. Terrible fit for him unless Pietrangelo holds out. Whitney should be begging the Red Wings to let him play. That would be the best hope for a revival. But I think his foot woes have killed his career for good.
Anthony Stewart has been invited to San Jose's camp.
Matt Lashoff has been invited to Montreal's camp.
Steve Begin - Calgary camp invite.
Hal Gill - Philadelphia camp invite. But I think he retires.
Florida backup Scott Clemmensen will miss training camp after undergoing "minor" knee surgery. He'll be back in time for the season, but the Panthers have to be uncomfortable with their goaltending depth. But I'm guessing they are reluctant to bring in a proven starter as they don't want a goalie controversy. So that rules out Jose Theodore and Ilya Bryzgalov.
Seth Jones is already impressing, as he has been solid in prospects camp for the Preds.
Carolina's beatwriter, Chip Alexander, reports that GM Jim Rutherford mentioned Ryan Murphy, Brock McGinn and Sergei Tolchinsky as the team's best players in Traverse City. Tolchinsky, if you recall, went undrafted this summer but was in the Top 100 on more than a few pre-draft lists so it was a little surprising. But teams shied away from his size (5-9) and birth certificate. The Canes later signed him as a free agent and he's making them look good.
Sergei Tolchinsky highlights: