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Unrestricted free agents: Six looking for work

Thursday, 09.12.2013 / 3:00 AM / 2013-2014 Season Preview

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Unrestricted free agents: Six looking for work
As NHL teams open training camps, there are still numerous unrestricted free agents looking for a team, such as Damien Brunner and Ilya Bryzgalov.

Players began reporting for physicals Wednesday as NHL training camps officially got started, but some familiar names are sitting at home trying to find employment for the 2013-14 season.

The salary cap was reset at $64.3 million this season, nearly $6 million less than last season. This has forced some teams to shed contracts in order to be cap-compliant heading into training camp; other teams aren't willing to spend beyond their organizational budget. That combination has left many unrestricted free agents who have logged long hours on NHL ice with no team to report to.

Some unrestricted free agents have accepted professional tryout invitations. However, the majority can't even get as far as the PTO.

Here are six high-profile unrestricted free agents (listed in alphabetical order) who remain unemployed:

Damien Brunner, RW

Former team: Detroit Red Wings

Last season's stats: 26 points in 44 games; 9 points in 14 playoff games

Brunner is available because of a discrepancy in what he feels he's worth and what teams, specifically the Red Wings, are willing to pay him with the salary cap having shrunk. He may be playing hockey this season back in his native Switzerland because of it.

Brunner rejected contract offers of two and three years from the Red Wings before becoming an unrestricted free agent July 5. He hasn't gained too much public traction, with rumors of him being linked to teams scarce at best.

Brunner had 10 goals in his first 19 games with the Red Wings last season but tailed off over his last 25 games, when he scored two goals and eight assists. He had nine points in 14 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Ilya Bryzgalov, G

Former team: Philadelphia Flyers

Last season's stats: 19-17-3, 2.79 GAA, .900 save percentage

Money isn't a problem for Bryzgalov, who is making $1.63 million from the Flyers for the next 14 years because the team used one of its two compliance buyouts on him this summer. He had seven years remaining on his nine-year, $51 million contract.

Bryzgalov has had a hard time finding work in the NHL because most teams have their goaltending situations ironed out. He has received an invitation to attend Florida Panthers training camp on a PTO, but so far he hasn't accepted it. Tim Thomas and Jose Theodore also received invites from Panthers general manager Dale Tallon.

Simon Gagne, LW

Former team: Philadelphia Flyers

Last season's stats: 16 points in 38 games with the Los Angeles Kings and Flyers

Concussion problems have taken Gagne off track and the two-time 40-goal scorer for the Flyers hasn't even gotten a PTO from his former team, which brought him back via trade last season when it became clear he was the odd man out in L.A.

The Flyers instead chose to give a PTO to Cleary on Tuesday only to have him turn it down Wednesday. The Flyers could invite Gagne to camp, but the fact they haven't says enough about how far his star has fallen.

Gagne, 33, used to be a $5 million a year player.

Filip Kuba, D

Former team: Florida Panthers

Last season's stats: 10 points in 44 games

The Panthers used a regular buyout on Kuba in early July instead of a compliance buyout, so they are carrying a salary-cap charge of $1.2 million this season and $1.4 million next season, according to Capgeek.com. Kuba, 36, signed a two-year, $8 million contract last summer but was a disappointment in Florida, leading to his buyout.

Kuba turns 37 in December.

Brenden Morrow, LW

Former team: Pittsburgh Penguins

Last season's stats: 25 points in 45 games with the Dallas Stars and Penguins; 4 points in 14 playoff games

Although he has played a reckless style for most of his career and his body has paid a price, there's little doubt Morrow could help a team in a hybrid role where he could play top-six minutes with the right mix of players but could move down and play on a third or fourth line. The question is at what price?

Morrow made $4.1 million annually in each of the past six seasons. He scored 14 points in 15 games after being traded to Pittsburgh.

Vinny Prospal, LW

Former team: Columbus Blue Jackets

Last season's stats: 30 points in 48 games

It's somewhat surprising the Blue Jackets are moving on from Prospal, considering they have the cap space to sign him. He's coming off a solid season, and right wing Nathan Horton will miss the first half of the season while rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery. However, Columbus has not extended a contract offer to Prospal and it appears it won't.

Prospal would seem like a good bet to head to another team's training camp on a professional tryout, but he hasn't been invited anywhere despite the fact he's a productive player at 38 years old.

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