Friday, September 20, 2013
Rumblings: Morrow, Gagne awaiting calls
By Pierre LeBrun
You could start one heck of a rec hockey team these days with the big names sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.
Brenden Morrow, Simon Gagne, Ilya Bryzgalov, Jose Theodore, Mike Knuble, Carlo Colaiacovo, Wade Redden and the list goes on among the veteran free agents who remain unsigned.
And that’s not even counting those players who had to swallow their pride and accept camp tryouts, the likes of Tim Thomas, Hal Gill, Mason Raymond, Brad Boyes, Ian White et al.
All because of a unique offseason in which the salary cap maximum dropped from $70.2 million last season to $64.3 million this year, squeezing roster space tightly.
When the music stopped in early July, you didn't want to be a free agent still standing without a job.
"It’s a difficult market this summer, to say the least," Morrow told ESPN.com Friday.
"I think this year is a unique situation with the salary cap going down, no question," Gagne told ESPN.com Friday. "It’s affected a lot of players for sure."
I checked in with a few of them Friday for the latest:
(Ilya Bryzgalov, when reached by ESPN.com Friday, politely turned down the interview, saying he wanted to wait until after his situation was resolved before speaking with the media. No problem, I said.)
It appears the former Dallas Stars captain might find a team sooner rather than later.
"Things are starting to happen now," he said on the line from Dallas. "I’ve got some things starting to evolve a little bit."
Morrow visited with a team Thursday.
"I’m thinking about another team visit as well," Morrow said while not divulging names. "I've actually got a few offers that I'm mulling over at the moment. It's a tough marketplace, they’re not the biggest offers or what I had been hoping for, but at this point I just want to get playing again. So I'm mulling over these offers."
Sounds like he'll think things through over the weekend and make a decision next week. It's clearly going to be a pretty big pay cut from the $4.1 million he earned last season with Dallas and Pittsburgh.
But at 34, I believe he’s got lots of hockey left. He oozes character. He played well after joining the Penguins last season before getting hurt. Nobody said anything at the time but he tried to play through a cracked knee cap last spring before sitting out some playoff games. Morrow’s concern is that some teams didn’t know that come July 5 when free agency opened.
"I get what teams are concerned about, I was plagued with some injuries a couple of years ago," said Morrow, a member of Canada’s 2010 Olympic gold medal team. "And nobody really knew in the playoffs what I was battling through."
Either way, it appears he might be willing to do a one-year deal over the next week or so and get on with it.
"I just want to get in and be a part of the process of building a team and getting started from training camp," said Morrow. "The timing isn’t perfect."
It's absolutely crazy Morrow is still sitting out there. Teams should be all over this guy. He can still provide a real positive impact both on and off the ice.
The winger is working out in his native Quebec City waiting for a shot.
"This is new for sure, I've never gone through this before," Gagne said from Quebec City. "It feels almost like a lockout in a way. I’m lucky that I’m able to work out every day with the Quebec Remparts, that’s been good."
Gagne was an 18-year-old NHL rookie and he wonders if teams forget he's not that old.
"I got into the NHL at an early age so maybe people think I’m older than I am but I’m only 33 and I feel great, I've got lots of hockey left in me," said Gagne. "The way last season ended with the Flyers, it went well, and it gave me some motivation to work out really hard this summer."
In fact, all indications seem to be that Gagne was headed back to the Flyers for this season -- or least that's the impression the veteran had after his exit meetings with the Flyers last season. Somewhere along the way, things didn't play out that way and that's clearly disappointing for the longtime Flyer.
My guess is, had he known in early July he wasn't ultimately going to be in Philly he might have looked elsewhere a bit more. So that’s unfortunate.
"I respect the Flyers organization, especially Mr. Snider and [team president] Peter Luukko. I’ll leave it at that," said Gagne.
This guy can still play, he’s a solid veteran with high hockey I.Q. He deserves another chance.
It was nice to see Redden back in the NHL fold last season in St. Louis and Boston after his CBA-fueled banishment in the AHL the prior few seasons.
The trade to Boston from St. Louis seem to invigorate him; he looked good early in that first-round series against Toronto before getting hurt.
"I felt good there for sure. Boston was great," Redden said on the line from Kelowna, British Columbia, where he’s working out and living with his wife and kids.
"My plan is still to play," said Redden. "I'm just waiting. Hopefully something will happen where a team has a need and I know I’ll be ready to go. It's hard to predict, really, what's going to happen."
He saw all the players taking camp tryouts (PTOs) but didn’t feel that was for him.
"I didn’t think it was my best option. I just thought I’d stay here and skate every day, be ready for when a team calls," said Redden. "I think teams know how I can play."
Is Europe an option?
"I guess as days go by, you start to think about it a little," said Redden. "I'm still holding out for the NHL and I'll be patient. It's still early. I'll wait and see."
I still think there's got to be room on an NHL roster as a No. 6 or No. 7 D-man for a reliable, classy veteran like Redden, a guy who has been a popular teammate everywhere he's played.
When I asked Knuble on Friday what he's been up to, he pointed out he's got hockey-playing sons who are 13 and 9.
"That’s what I've been doing," said Knuble, laughing.
The 41-year-old winger has taken a look at all the players on tryouts and the players still sitting at home, and sounds very much resigned to whatever fate awaits him.
"At the beginning of the summer I was probably 50-50 in terms of playing, but I've seen what's gone on and I'm pretty much in the process of moving on," Knuble said. "There's some pretty good players without jobs. I had a lot of fun last year with the Flyers and that might be the last kick at the can. That's not 100 percent, I'm not announcing my retirement yet, but it's how it looks right now. It would really have to be the right situation. I'm not sitting beside the phone, let's put it that way."
Based with his family in Grand Rapids, Mich., unless there's an offer from Chicago or Detroit, I'm guessing Knuble wouldn't be interested in anything else at this stage.
He won't be the only veteran squeezed out by the lowered salary cap this offseason. Just imagine had the NHLPA not pushed hard when the NHL tried to have it set even lower than $64.3 million for this season. The cap will go back up next summer and we shouldn't see this kind of situation again for the rest of this CBA.