NHL

Why some big NHL names still aren't signed

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Spector

At home in Prince Edward Island, Canada, he's known as Lyle Richardson. But around these parts, he's known as Spector, FOXSports.com's Prince of Pucks. Check in with Spector's NHL Blog on Yardbarker.com for NHL rumors and analysis.

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As the National Hockey League's off-season enters the dog days of summer plenty of free agent talent remains unsigned. Veterans Mats Sundin, Alex Tanguay, Todd Bertuzzi, Mathieu Schneider, Manny Fernandez, Mike Comrie, Robert Lang, Miroslav Satan, Maxim Afinogenov, Petr Sykora, Jason Williams and Michael Peca are still available. A recent article in the Ottawa Sun quoted a "high-profile agent" suggesting collusion amongst the 30 NHL teams was the reason, that it had been orchestrated to force the players into accepting less money. In the same article however a league executive dismissed this accusation, pointing to the flat-lining of this year's salary cap resulting in a limited number of teams with available cap space as the culprit. The numbers support that. According to nhlnumbers.com, the average NHL payroll is currently $51.4 million. Eighteen teams have payrolls in excess of $50 million, three others in excess of $49 million, three more in excess of $48 million and one in excess of $47 million. Of the remaining five -- Nashville, Columbus, Atlanta, Phoenix and the N.Y. Islanders -- all are under self-imposed salary caps for various financial reasons and won't be spending toward the cap ceiling in 2009-10. Had the upcoming season's salary cap increased by the usual post-lockout average of $6 million per season most of the currently unsigned free agents would probably be under contract by now. Other factors have also been responsible for the number of notables still available. For the second straight summer Sundin has yet to decide if he'll return for another NHL season. The fact it took him months last year to finally decide to return combined with an average performance as a member of the Vancouver Canucks explains why he's received so little attention this summer. Tanguay is considered the best of the remaining bunch but he's coming off shoulder surgery and his rumored asking price of $5 million per season has diminished interest. Bertuzzi's production has been in decline in recent years to where it's considered a gamble signing him as a second-line winger. Schneider, at 40, is no longer capable of playing big minutes on the blueline and is now at best a power-play specialist. Fernandez has been plagued by knee and back injuries and hinted at retirement late last season, making him a risky prospect for teams seeking depth in goal. Comrie is a five-time 20-plus goal-scorer, including two seasons where he potted over 30, but the 28-year-old's inconsistency is keeping him on the market. Lang was on pace last season for his eighth consecutive 50-plus point season until a severed Achilles tendon not only finished his 2008-09 campaign but also placed the 38-year-old's playing career in jeopardy. Satan was considered by some to be done in the NHL, but his agent was reportedly talking contract recently with the N.Y. Islanders so he might be back for another season. Afinogenov's decline in production over the past two seasons has seriously hurt his market value and it's believed he'll be signing with a KHL team. Sykora and Williams were believed potential candidates to sign with the Detroit Red Wings but with their recent acquisition of former Carolina Hurricane Patrick Eaves those two will have to look elsewhere. Peca was once the league's best two-way forward but injuries brought about by his rugged style of play appear to have taken their toll on the 35-year-old.
Tagged: Red Wings, Islanders, Canucks, Miroslav Satan, Maxim Afinogenov, Jason Williams, Mike Comrie, Petr Sykora, Robert Lang, Alex Tanguay, Mats Sundin, Manny Fernandez, Michael Peca, Mathieu Schneider, Todd Bertuzzi, Patrick Eaves

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