Some people like Canada Day for the day off or for the BBQs and gatherings but for me, Canada day has been about the NHL free agent frenzy for quite some time. Not all big signings happen on the day but still, it kicks up the summer shopping spree for many and gives us many stories and memories. I can still remember when Larry Robinson signed with the Kings in the summer of 1989 (July 26th according to Google), that's the first time I remember being genuinely upset about losing a player to free agency... It wouldn't be the last but 9 years old me didn't know that. It was also rather sad to see Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu leave in the same way to make room for the likes of Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez and Mike Cammalleri. And of course, more recently, there was the departure of Alexander Radulov for Dallas and of Andrei Markov for the KHL. With no signings and no rumours to deal with today, it just doesn't really feel like Canada day, add that to the list of things that Covid-19 has changed.
If you want to see the bright side of things though, if Bergevin cannot make offers to players, they cannot turn it down (Matt Duchene just last season) and he cannot sign the wrong player either (Karl Alzner anyone). That being said, we'll forever remember the 2019 free agency frenzy as the one time the Habs attempted to use the rarely seen offer sheet to finally get a real number 1 centre in Sebastian Aho but we knew from the moment the terms were revealed that it wouldn't be enough. The Hurricanes were always going to match it and Bergevin would be able to say "Hey, at least I tried". For now, no one knows when the free agency will kick off this year, hopefully we'll have some sort of clarity on that front once the NHL and NHLPA come to an understanding regarding phases 3 and 4 of the return to play plan. According to Bob McKenzie, both sides have been hard at work through the night and an agreement on most issues appears to have been reached. Mackenzie mentions the following:
-Both hub cities would be in Canada, looks like Edmonton and Toronto. Considering how many new cases are reported daily South of the border, this is hardly shocking;
-He includes the Collective Bargaining Agreement amongst the things on which an agreement might be in place. Funny how losing millions because of a global pandemic can motivate both sides to negotiate and avoid yet another dreaded lock-out/strike;
-Transition rules and the fact that newly signed players will not be able to play if and when the play-in rounds go ahead (that means no Romanov for the Canadiens)
With the usual qualifier of nothing is certain until the agreement is ratified — stamp that on every one of my tweets this week — it’s my understanding recently signed players Romanov (MTL), Kaprizov (MIN), Sorokin (NYI) will not be eligible for 2019-20 RTP.
While McKenzie is releasing the information, he still mentions that nothing is official until both sides ratify a tentative deal and adds that the NHLPA membership could be voting on all the topics by Friday or Saturday. Considering that the training camps are meant to open on July 10th, it would make sense since Friday will already be July 3rd and plenty of players are still overseas or nowhere near where their team plays.
An announcement today about a tentative deal would be most welcome on a day that is normally bursting with hockey news...we can only wait and see. Whenever the playoffs end and free agency can finally start, Marc Bergevin will have a few issues to fix with his current players before he can think of shopping elsewhere. Max Domi, Victor Mete, Charles Hudon and Xavier Ouellet will be restricted free agents while Christian Folin, Dale Weise and Keith Kinkaid will be unrestricted free agents. After the unmitigated failure that was the Kinkaid signing, there's no doubt that he will remain free as a bird and I'd be surprised to see Weise get another offer but never say never as they say. Normally, Bergevin would also be able to talk extension with Danault, Gallagher, Petry, Tatar, Armia and Lindgren but the rules might chance with the current crisis, who knows. Even if he can talk extensions though, I don't think he will want to retain them all. If I'm in his shoes though, my number one priority is signing Brendan Gallagher to an extension, the man is the heart and soul of this team and he must be retained.
Let's hope we'll have some official news to discuss sooner rather than later! In the meantime, Happy Canada day to my fellow Canadians!