With the NHL’s “dead season” in full swing, young prospects are finishing up various team camps and most veteran players are enjoying their last moments of vacation. However, not every player has had a leisurely offseason. While most of the free agency signings were done in the first week of the league’s free agency period, there are still some players that are still waiting for the right offer to come their way. For the most part, the reasons why these players are left in limbo are due to their decisions rather than any prospective team.
Martin Brodeur – This was not the way the “Marty Party” was supposed to end. Brodeur was supposed to go out on top, a standing ovation from the home crowd at the Prudential Center, and congratulations and embraces from both his teammates and opponents in whichever game he decided to end his long NHL career on. Instead, Brodeur’s career has taken a sharp turn off a long cliff.
Age finally started to catch up to the goaltender in the 2010-2011 season, which saw a drastic drop in his save percentage from .916 to .903. An injury-riddled season in the 2012-2013 season spelled the beginning of the end for Broduer, when the New Jersey Devils traded the 9th overall pick to the Vancouver Canucks for young goaltender Cory Schneider in the following offseason. Schneider begin to split starts with Brodeur, before eventually becoming the de-facto starter for the Devils. Relegated to a backup, Brodeur announced in June that he would test the NHL’s free agency waters.
Unfortunately for him, he has struggled to find a team willing to take a flyer on him. He wants to be a starter somewhere, but his numbers have not matched that desire in recent seasons. There is also the fact that many teams do not want to tarnish the memory of Brodeur, who has been a New Jersey Devil in the entirety of his 22-year career. To have him finish his career in some other uniform simply seems wrong.
With Schneider recently signing a seven-year contract with the Devils, the New Jersey organization has made it clear that he is their starter for the distant future. The two best options for Brodeur at the moment are to either come crawling back to the Devils and accept his backup role or to retire. Neither option seems to be particular appealing to the future Hall of Famer.
Brandon Sutter – Like Brodeur, Sutter appears to be looking for a bigger role, even if it means scouring the NHL to find it. Currently playing on the third line behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Sutter rarely gets any time in the Top 6, though he has shown flashes of offensive ability that indicate he could have success there if given the chance. He likely will not get that chance with the Penguins, but another team with weaker center depth could be happy to have a solid two-way center on their roster.
The Pittsburgh Penguins signed Nick Spaling to a two-year deal today, perhaps giving some indication that Sutter may be on his way out, as Spaling can play the third line role that Sutter currently occupies. If that is the plan, it puts Sutter in limbo, as he still has one year remaining on his current contract with the Penguins.
For the good of the Pittsburgh organization and for Brandon Sutter himself, a trade involving Sutter could happen in the near future.
Michael Del Zotto – Del Zotto was once part of one of the best defensive cores in the NHL. His play with the New York Rangers drew interest from all around the league, especially after putting up 41 points in the 2011-2012 season. However, issues with inconsistency appeared to doom the young defenseman, as he fell further and further down the Rangers depth chart. In the midst of a poor season last year, he was traded to the Nashville Predators, where he only put up 5 points in the 25 games in a Nashville uniform. The Predators allowed him to enter free agency, where he has remained to this point.
The potential for success is there, and there is every indication that he is still drawing interest from teams around the league. However, the reason he remains in limbo appears to come down to one thing: Money. According to the Stoufville Sun-Tribune, the young player’s local paper, Del Zotto is unhappy that no NHL team has come up with the perfect offer, but he understands that it is “part of the business.”
It is hard to tell what the “perfect offer” for Del Zotto would be, given his history of inconsistent play. However, the young defenseman will likely want a raise from the $2.9 million he was making last year, a hard pill for any team to swallow. It is not out of the realm of possibility for Del Zotto to make more than that, given some of the contracts that have been handed out this year, but he will need to be patient.
Two things will help Del Zotto earn the amount he wants. The first is the upcoming signing of PK Subban by the Montreal Canadiens. Del Zotto is nowhere near the same player that Subban is, but if Subban gets the $8 million he is asking for, $3 million for Del Zotto suddenly does not seem like a high number. The second that will help the young defenseman get his demanded amount is the upcoming training camps and preseason games. No doubt that some team will lose a defenseman or two to injury, leaving the door open for Del Zotto to negotiate.
Like the many fans around the world, the new season cannot come soon enough for players around the league. While most are simply looking forward toward starting the season anew in their quest for the Stanley Cup, for those players in limbo, the new season could bring new possibilities for a resolution to the state they find themselves in.