Tampa Bay Lightning plays free agent waiting game along with most of NHL

To say Monday was a slow day in the NHL when it came to signing unrestricted free agents would be an understatement.

"It was," Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said, "a very slow day."

Whereas 59 players signed on Sunday, the first day of free agency, only 11 got deals on Day 2, according to TSN.ca.

The reason? The system is paralyzed to a certain extent while defenseman Ryan Suter and center Zach Parise, the year's top two free agents, decide where they want to play.

"Everybody's waiting," Yzerman said. "I think the whole league is waiting for a couple of guys to re-sign and then business will resume."

How two players hold up the works is an interesting, though simple, tale.

Only after they sign will teams that lose in the bidding move on to Plan B. And those Plan B players await the onrush of suitors who still have holes to fill in their rosters and money to spend.

"It becomes a bidding frenzy for the next level of free agent," said former Flames GM Craig Button, an NHL Network analyst.

"Potentially, you could be leaving money on the table by signing now. There's nothing like a lover scorned, especially if they get the feeling that, 'We have to go after the next guy.' ''

How this affects the Lightning, which entered free agency looking mainly to bolster its blue line, is unclear.

Yzerman has said he is not part of the Suter sweepstakes because the asking price is too high and on Sunday he landed defenseman Sami Salo with a two-year, $7.5 million deal.

But it is believed Yzerman has had at least contact with representatives for defenseman Matt Carle, and Michal Rozsival, Carlo Colaiacovo and Bryce Salvadore also are available.

Even so, Yzerman said the system-wide stalemate "is not going to change anything we're going to do right now."

And he will not get sucked into a bidding war.

"We're realistic what the market is and we're prepared to deal with the market," he said, "but we're not going to blow our brains out here."

Yzerman added he would have no problem giving a chance to Mark Barberio, who the general manager called "the best defenseman in the American League last year."

"I'm not going to do something I think is inappropriate out of desperation," Yzerman said. "If it's a player that doesn't really fit us or a contract that doesn't fit what we're trying to do, we're better off saving our money and going with some young guys here. They might be better for the spot than some players we'd have to overpay to get."

But before Suter and Parise sign, no one really knows what teams will have to pay to sign the next tier of players.

"I think you are right in asserting there will be a domino effect," player agent Rich Evans said.

Until that begins, though, there is little choice.

"It's the way it is," Yzerman said. "We have no control over it right now. We just have to sit and wait."

And hope to avoid another slow day.

Brodeur staying put

NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Brodeur is going to remain the face of the Devils.

The 40-year-old goaltender who has led the team to three Stanley Cups, signed a two-year, $9 million contract Monday to stay with the only NHL club he's ever known.

"At the end of the day, this is what I wanted all along," Brodeur said in a conference call.

HABS KEEP PRICE: The Canadiens re-signed goalie Carey Price to a six-year contract extension worth $39 million. Price, 24, was 26-28-4 with a .916 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average last season.

TORRES SUSPENSION: Commissioner Gary Bettman cut four games off the 25-game suspension given to Coyotes forward Raffi Torres during the playoffs. Torres was suspended April 21 and missed Phoenix's final 13 playoff games after his high hit left Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa with a concussion.

TRADE: The Sabres acquired forward Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy from the Stars for forward Derek Roy.

AVALANCHE: Defenseman Jan Hejda is out at least four months after wrist surgery, the Denver Post reported.

FLAMES: Jiri Hudler signed a four-year deal, 16 million deal, leaving the Red Wings.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com. Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Lightning plays free agent waiting game along with most of NHL 07/02/12 [Last modified: Monday, July 2, 2012 11:01pm]

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