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A buyers’ market is bad news for veteran free agents

Florida Panthers v New York Islanders

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 14: Jiri Hudler #24 of the Florida Panthers skates out to face the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on March 14, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders defeated the Panthers 3-2. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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If you’ve followed NHL off-seasons in the past several years, you’ve likely encountered certain tropes:

  • A player coming off of an injury-ravaged season is now in “the best shape of his life.”
  • Some guy on a bad team is super-optimistic about a playoff run this time around, everyone. (Taylor Hall mastered these proclamations before his naivete was shattered.)
  • After big names and trendy positional guys grab the mammoth deals in free agency, we start to see who’s losing this game of musical chairs.

Are we already at that point for mid-level, veteran free agents?

Josh Jooris gave that impression when he spoke to the Calgary Herald about signing with the New York Rangers.

“There’s still players on the market and teams are making decisions,” Jooris said. “It’s a buyers’ market so, at that point, the players don’t really have much pull. I wanted to get something done sooner rather than later.”

Good thinking, because time equals lost money for many free agents.

Losing the waiting game

Look at last summer, when guys like Curtis Glencross and Maxim Lapierre retired or went overseas after seeing their options rapidly evaporate. Lee Stempniak played great hockey even after having to carve out his own spot with a PTO.

Every year, it seems like highly overqualified players need to beg for roster spots.

It’s plausible that a dry market increased Brad Richards’ odds of retiring, too.

When you look at a list of unrestricted free agents, it’s not exactly like there are only table scraps remaining, especially for teams that might be willing to forgive some flaws to grab some bargains.

Plenty of interesting names remaining

Yes, the likes of James Wisniewski and Dennis Seidenberg have seen better days, yet the desperate rush for defensemen makes you wonder if they can still land a decent payday.

Radim Vrbata and Jiri Hudler languished in their contract years, yet they both were prominent scorers. At 32, Hudler in particular seems like he should be able to find a nice home.

The way things are going, Kris Russell may stand above everyone else as the person who bluffed one too many times in the poker game of free agency.

(General Fanager’s list is handy for looking over other solid names waiting for a gig.)

Demanding times for those in low demand

Some of those guys might just need to ask for a little less money or term. Still, it’s not the greatest sign when The Hockey News is already listing five players who might have to battle for jobs at training camp.

It’s not even August yet. Yikes.

Again, this isn’t really a new thing. A salary cap that keeps limping along has been hurting free agents for some time. Such stories have been rolling in to PHT since the earliest days, too.

There are exceptions to the rule, but in most cases, offers become less desirable as time marches on.

Generally speaking, the real losers of free agency are the players waiting on the sidelines.