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NHL general managers test the new rules of free agency

NHL free agency begins Friday and for first time general managers get two-day interview window. But negotiating isn't allowed. Bruins and Stars complete seven-player deal.

July 05, 2013|By Lisa Dillman
  • The NHL's free agency rules are complex, even for Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli, who helped close seven-player trade with the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
The NHL's free agency rules are complex, even for Boston Bruins General… (Charles Krupa / Associated…)

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Evidence that NHL general managers are tiptoeing through an often bewildering minefield of rules and regulations emerged during Peter Chiarelli's conference call.

Chiarelli, the Boston Bruins' general manager, was talking about the seven-player blockbuster trade completed Thursday by Boston and Dallas. Going to the Stars were Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and prospect Ryan Button in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser.

Late in the call, after a handful of questions about Seguin's maturity level, Chiarelli was asked if he was allowed to talk about the Bruins' pursuit of coveted free agent Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators. Indeed, Chiarelli had checked and found it was OK for him to mention Alfredsson.

He disclosed that he had spoken to Alfredsson's agent and they would continue to have "some dialogue."

But dialogue does not translate directly into negotiations.

That's where more confusion ensued on the eve of the NHL's free-agency period, which starts Friday at 9 a.m. PDT. For the first time there had been a two-day interview period beforehand, modeled, in part, after the NBA.

Courtship, however, has its limits.

Apparently, some general managers thought they could negotiate with unrestricted free agents. The league's deputy commissioner, Bill Daly, had to send out a memo Thursday morning to the general managers saying otherwise.

The NHL meets eHarmony.

This all sets the stage for what is practically a Canadian national holiday. Among the names on the market are Alfredsson, New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson, Boston forward Nathan Horton, Detroit Red Wings forward Valtteri Filppula, Washington Capitals center Mike Ribeiro, Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak and Pittsburgh Penguins winger Jarome Iginla.

The 36-year-old Iginla's stock has slipped in a short amount of time. Even a few months ago, he was the subject of a pitched battle between the Bruins and the Penguins. There is still something left in the tank, but exactly how much is unclear.

Then there are goalies: Evgeni Nabokov of the New York Islanders, the quirky Ilya Bryzgalov, who was bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers, and Tim Thomas of the Islanders, who seems ready to emerge from his long sabbatical.

This period will be a different one for the Kings, who often have been high-profile suitors in free agency. General Manager Dean Lombardi has done an admirable job in managing his salary cap, but even Lombardi has to make some tough choices with the cap dropping from $70.2 million this past season to $64.3 million for the upcoming season.

The biggest question for the Kings involves unrestricted free-agent defenseman Rob Scuderi. They've done their best to try to keep him, but the 34-year-old may opt to play in the East. He lives in the Boston area in the off-season and grew up in Long Island, N.Y.

Though the Islanders have abundant cap space, it is understood they are not in the mix for Scuderi. The Maple Leafs displayed some interest, but an official with knowledge of the process but not authorized to comment said that Toronto was not believed to be Scuderi's first choice.

The Kings took care of one bit of housekeeping, signing defenseman Keaton Ellerby to a one-year deal. They had not given him a qualifying offer earlier in the week, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent, but said that signing him later was a possibility. His deal for next season will be worth $735,000, according to the Kings' website.

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