Teams may wait for 2013 FAs to spend

Updated: June 11, 2012, 10:46 AM ET
By Craig Custance

Tom Thompson is an amateur scout with the New York Rangers and was recently posed with a question comparing this year's draft to next year's draft. With stars such as Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones leading the way, it was suggested that the Class of 2013 is considerably better than 2012.

He thought about it a moment and then told a story. His grandfather lived near a pub in Scotland that had a sign out front that said, "Free beer tomorrow." Of course, tomorrow never came for those hoping to drink for free, but Thompson's point was well taken. Be careful about the promises for tomorrow because they might not deliver as expected.

"We'll see," he said, in answering the question comparing the two drafts. "We'll see. That's all I have to say."

There's a danger in overvaluing next year when it comes to the draft. The same thing goes for free agency. The 2012 free agent class has potential high-end talent in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. After that, there's not a whole lot that's going to dramatically change somebody's Stanley Cup fortunes. So there's a natural tendency to look to next year to see if there's a better fit there.

"You always look ahead," said one NHL GM. "You know the players who are potentially coming."

But there's a problem.

"It's a little dangerous to assume they're all going to reach free agency," he said.

That was Buffalo GM Darcy Regier's answer when I asked him before this season why he invested so heavily in free agency last summer, when it was also a class that wasn't especially highly regarded. He said the next summer always looks better before guys start re-signing with their teams. And he found it important to get NHL players in place immediately, so young players could develop at the right pace.

All that said, the free agent Class of 2013 looks pretty impressive right now, and it's quite possible that the uncertainty of the CBA delays new deals for some of these potential free agents. It's deep enough that a couple talented players are bound to get to free agency.

"Why do a deal now and have it roll back?" wondered one agent. "Let's get the landscape, let's see what's going on."

For teams that don't land Suter or Parise this summer, it might be wise to save a little future salary cap space in case some of the Class of 2013 guys hit the market next summer. Here's an early look at some of the notables: