Restricted fre agents are making headlines in various markets across the NHL.
Important pieces to the puzzle for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, St. Louis Blues and New York Rangers were not in attendance for physicals or the first official practices as training camps started opening Wednesday because of ongoing contract negotiations that could have been taken care of this summer.
The Maple Leafs and Nazem Kadri settled their negotiation late Tuesday night when the center signed a two-year contract worth a reported $5.8 million, but there are still four notable players who have been unable to come to terms on a new contract with their respective teams and remain restricted free agents.
Here's who they are (in alphabetical order) and some background on why they may not report to training camp on time:
Jared Cowen, D, Ottawa Senators
Cowen is listed on the Senators' 57-man training camp roster even though he does not have a contract. A team spokesperson said all of the players listed on the roster were invited to camp, but Cowen wasn't there when the team reported for physicals Wednesday.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reported that the Senators have tabled an eight-year contract that would carry a salary cap charge of $3.5 million annually, but Cowen has so far balked, likely because he wants to preserve his long-term earning potential, which should grow as he continues to evolve.
Cowen is 22 years old and has played one full NHL season. He missed the first 41 games last season while recovering from hip surgery, a result of an injury he sustained while playing in the American Hockey League during the lockout.
Cody Franson, D, Toronto Maple Leafs
Franson is caught in a tough position of being the remaining restricted free agent the Maple Leafs have to sign. Before Kadri signed, Toronto general manager Dave Nonis had less than $5 million in salary-cap space. The team could create more via trade, demotion or injury placement.
Franson was fourth among defensemen in the NHL last season with 25 assists. He reportedly wanted a four-year deal at the start of negotiations, but that seems unlikely. If Franson signs a two-year deal it would give him a chance to become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015, when he will be 27 years old.
Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis Blues
Defense - STL
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 19 | PTS: 24
SOG: 93 | +/-: 0
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said last week that Pietrangelo will be on the team, but the timetable for when it becomes official remains murky.
Pietrangelo is a cornerstone defenseman for the up-and-coming Blues and there is mutual interest in a long-term contract. He's had three straight strong seasons and is a candidate to play for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Comparable contracts that likely are being used in negotiations are Oliver Ekman-Larsson's five-year, $33 million contract with the Phoenix Coyotes and Drew Doughty's eight-year, $56 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings. It's unlikely the Blues or Pietrangelo would want to go in the direction of a short-term contract like the one P.K. Subban signed with the Montreal Canadiens (two years, $5.75 million).
Derek Stepan, C, New York Rangers
Stepan's agent, Matt Oates, told the New York Post that closure to these negotiations is not imminent and his client would not report to training camp without a new contract. Like Kadri, Stepan is looking for a long-term deal in the neighborhood of five years and $5 million per season, according to the Post, while the Rangers reportedly are offering a shorter-term deal -- two years and around $6 million.
The Rangers' problem is they have limited salary-cap space, roughly $2.2 million according to Capgeek.com. They can find wiggle room through trades, demotions or placing players on long-term injured reserve (Carl Hagelin and Ryan Callahan are recovering from offseason shoulder surgery), but general manager Glen Sather would have to make another major transaction to give Stepan what he reportedly wants.
Stepan is the Rangers' top center and matched Kadri last season with 44 points in 48 games. He has 140 points in 212 games since his rookie season of 2010-11.