One by one, as summer slipped away, most NHL unrestricted free agents found new homes.
Stanley Cup champion Patrick Maroon reunited with old coach Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay on Aug. 24 to take another run at a Cup. Derick Brassard returned to New York, this time with the Islanders, on a one-year deal on Aug. 21.
Jake Gardiner reportedly turned down a more lucrative three-year deal with the Canadiens to go to Carolina on Sept. 7, where he will play alongside offer sheet signee Sebastian Aho.
As training camps open, five players remain unsigned from TSN’s Top 50 Free Agent list from Canada Day. (No. 41 Ben Lovejoy retired.)
While RFAs dominate the airwaves, here’s a look at players still searching for deals – some of whom have been squeezed by all of the cap uncertainty created by the young guns:
Age: 39 (Turns 40 on Sunday)
Last Year: 82 GP, 16 goals, 21 assists, 37 points
Last Year’s Cap Hit: $6.25 million
Scoop: When the Maple Leafs traded Marleau to Carolina in June and he was subsequently bought out, the thinking was that the only team Marleau would consider playing for was the San Jose Sharks. That hasn't happened, with GM Doug Wilson saying last week the door was closed. Marleau is believed to be willing to consider all of his options at this point and the expectation is that he will indeed play this season.
Last Year: 69 GP, 5 goals, 15 assists, 20 points, 22:21 TOI
Last Year’s Cap Hit: $2.8 million
Scoop: Hutton was ranked No. 13 on TSN’s Top 50 in July, so it’s a bit of a surprise he’s lingered this long, particularly after the Canucks declined to extend him a qualifying offer for $2.8 million. Hutton has received multiple offers and he’s currently weighing all of his options, which reportedly include the Kings, Rangers, Red Wings and Wild.
Last Year: 73 games, 18 goals, 6 assists, 24 points
Last Year’s Cap Hit: $2.55 million
Scoop: Boyle, ranked No. 31 on the Top 50, has played the waiting game like everyone else. The 18 goals he scored last year was the second-highest total of his career. There hasn’t been a shortage of interest or interesting discussions, but the four or five interested parties have all been in a holding pattern, trying to clear the necessary cap space. According to CapFriendly.com, nine NHL teams are currently within $1 million or over the $81.5 million limit.
Last Year: 82 GP, 23 goals, 30 assists, 53 points
Last Year’s Cap Hit: $4.5 million
Scoop: Coming off his best statistical season since 2010-11, Williams announced on Sept. 2 that he has decided to “step away from the game.” After leading the Hurricanes to the Eastern Conference Final, Williams said it was the first time in his life that he felt unsure of his aspirations with regards to hockey. He left the door open to a return, and if he does, the expectation is it will only be with the Hurricanes as Williams reportedly turned down offers from others clubs over the summer.
Last Year: 67 GP, 1 goal, 5 assists, 6 points, 15:00 TOI
Last Year’s Cap Hit: $7 million
Scoop: There’s no question last season was a disappointment for Phaneuf, who vowed that he wouldn’t let the year define him after the Kings bought out the final two years of his $49 million deal this summer.
Last Year: 64 GP, 16 goals, 20 assists, 36 points
Last Year’s Cap Hit: $3 million
Scoop: Unlike Boyle and Phaneuf, Vanek has the unique option to sign an “Over-35” contract and have his pay mostly linked to performance-based incentives. To date, Vanek hasn’t been willing to accept a tryout offer, and the hope is that his unique contract structure may allow him to be a value find for a team who comes out of camp feeling not entirely comfortable with a young player or two slotted in the bottom of the lineup.
Last Year: 50 GP, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, 15:47 TOI
Last Year’s Cap Hit: $2.75 million
Scoop: McQuaid skated with one of his old clubs, the Bruins, in informal captains’ practices earlier this month, but he continues to recover from an injury that plagued him last season. The interest in McQuaid has been strong, but the belief is McQuaid will need at least three months of continued healing before he can expect a return to the NHL.
Last year, 36 players entered training camps on professional tryouts with the hopes to earn a contract. Seven players signed deals before the start of the regular season, while three more signed during the season.
This year, 19 players are beginning camp on a tryout, and remain unrestricted free agents with the ability to sign with any NHL team:
LW Lance Bouma (Los Angeles)
RW Troy Brouwer (Florida)
RW Landon Ferraro (Vancouver)
RD Eric Gryba (Calgary)
LW Micheal Haley (N.Y. Rangers)
G Brandon Halverson (Toronto)
LD Andrew MacDonald (Calgary)
RD Joe Morrow (N.Y. Rangers)
G Michal Neuvirth (Toronto)
RW Stefan Noesen (Dallas)
RD Alex Petrovic (Boston)
RW Matt Read (Toronto)
RW Tobias Rieder (Calgary)
LW Zac Rinaldo (Calgary)
LD Luca Sbisa (N.Y. Islanders)
RW Devante Smith-Pelly (Calgary)
RW Drew Stafford (Minnesota)
RW Chris Stewart (Philadelphia)
LW Scottie Upshall (Dallas)
Contact Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @frank_seravalli