Signings slow, but talks continue on Day 2

July, 2, 2010

Day 2 of the NHL's free-agent shopping spree took a slow turn as teams and agents took a step back to reassess the situation.

As the prized gem of the free-agent class, Ilya Kovalchuk, continued to dance with New Jersey and Los Angeles, the rest of the group tried to chase the crumbs left behind.

"There's nothing new," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told at 4:20 p.m. ET. Asked if the Devils were still in it for Kovalchuk, Lamoriello repeated there was nothing new and didn't want to comment any further. Later on Friday, New York Islanders GM Garth Snow told his club was also in on the Kovalchuk talks.

There was a sprinkling of signings, led by Pavel Kubina in Tampa and Christopher Higgins with Florida, but there were a lot of names still out there.

That included goalie Marty Turco.

"We're going to be patient," Turco's agent, Kurt Overhardt, told on Friday. "Listen, it's July 2. Look at his track record and what he's accomplished. We're going to find the right fit for him, whether that happens tomorrow or three months from now."

Call me crazy, but I still think the Flyers will end up circling back at some point after ridding themselves of salary (see: Simon Gagne) and asking Turco and/or Evgeni Nabokov what it would take to get a deal done. But that's a conversation for another day.

On Friday, Kubina did well for himself (literally, since the 33-year-old Czech native represents himself), picking up a two-year, $7.7 million deal from Tampa Bay as new GM Steve Yzerman continues to do impressive work. This team is on the serious rebound, and Kubina is pumped about returning to the scene of his lone Stanley Cup championship.

"I wanted to come back home," Kubina told from the Czech Republic. "Tampa is my second home after the Czech Republic."

A day after Sergei Gonchar, Dan Hamhuis, Anton Volchenkov, Zbynek Michalek, Paul Martin, Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman found homes, Kubina's signing further depleted the upper ranks of the UFA blue-line group. Joe Corvo and Marc-Andre Bergeron were among the UFA blueliners still on the market; both are power-play specialists and, according to their agents Friday, working their way through conversations with several teams.

Los Angeles and San Jose are among the contenders believed to still be looking for a top-four defenseman. Tomas Kaberle is the most attractive commodity on the trade market right now, although a Leafs source told on Friday that his situation would be put on hold until after the long weekend. Kaberle has one year left on his deal at $4.25 million, although part of the process of his eventual trade might be to do an extension with his new club, which would help Toronto get a greater return on the asset.

Sheldon Souray is available for nothing in return after Edmonton put him on waivers Friday, as the Oilers are praying a team will pick up his big contract. You can rule out the Sharks on Souray; no interest there.

The Oilers figured some teams struck out trying to land a top UFA blueliner, so that explains their timing in placing Souray on waivers. They're crossing their fingers some team is eager enough to take him. But you can forget the notion of the Oilers placing Souray (who asked for a trade) on re-entry waivers and eating half of his deal. "No way," an Oilers source told

The Vancouver Canucks, meanwhile, are shopping Kevin Bieksa; they need to shed a blueliner after Thursday's big signing of Hamhuis and last week's acquisition of Keith Ballard. On Friday, a Jackets source confirmed interest in Bieksa, but also said nothing may happen. Bieksa has one year left on his contract at $3.5 million, while Souray has two more years at $4.5 million per season (the catch is his cap hit is $5.4 million).

Other notes from Friday:

• Look for the Sharks to approach star center Joe Thornton this summer about a contract extension. Thornton has one more year left on his deal at $7.2 million.

• Higgins signed a one-year, $1.6 million deal with the Florida Panthers as new GM Dale Tallon continued his makeover. The idea behind the short-term deal on Higgins' part? Parlay a bounce-back season into a bigger contract a year from now. There was actually some good interest in the UFA forward, including from the team he left, Calgary.

• And finally, a word on veteran center Mike Modano. The unrestricted free agent continued to deliberate on his playing future Friday and told via text message that the Red Wings were the only team to call so far. You can bet Detroit would love to add him as a third-line center.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer




You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?