Friday July 3rd, 2015

With the long holiday weekend underway, it’s likely that the NHL’s free agent frenzy will be turned down to a low boil for the next couple days.

That retrenching isn’t a bad thing for teams or the players who are still looking to land a gig for 2015-16 and beyond. After the fairly restrained spending of the first 48 hours, teams now have a better idea of how much cap space they have to play with and players have a better understanding of the market and their place within it. That could lead to another burst of activity once we get past the Fourth of July.

So who’s still out there? Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting options.

• Free agent signing tracker | Remaining FAs and cap space

Seven big winners as sanity prevails on Day 1 of NHL free agency

Cody Franson, D: Sure, Franson (photo above) was a square peg in a round hole after being deal to the Predators ahead of the deadline this season, but he still put up 36 points in 78 games in 2014-15. More instructive: He scored .88 points per 60 minutes played at equal strength, more than Duncan Keith, Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, among others. He’s still young, not turning 28 until later this summer, and is a right-handed shot, a quality coveted by many teams. He made just $3.3 million last year so a raise is in order but he may be holding out for a big score that’s not coming. It’s possible he’ll get $5 million per, but he’d have to trade term to get it.

Johnny Oduya, D: This could take awhile. The sense is he’s in a holding pattern hoping that Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman can clear enough cap space to bring him back to Chicago, even if it is at a reduced salary. Of course, if someone backs up the truck he’ll have to listen. Dallas, perhaps?

Andrew Desjardins, LW: Another player who is crossing his fingers that Bowman can work some cap magic and bring him back into the fold. Desjardins was a fair-to-spare depth player in San Jose but really found the mark after joining Chicago’s checking line for the Stanley Cup run. He doesn’t bring much offensively but has the patience and determination to remain consistently on the right side of the possession battle. If it doesn’t work out with the Hawks, he can bring some real value to a fourth line for a million bucks or less. UPDATE: Desjardins re-signed with the Blackhawks on Friday for two years with an AAV of $800,000. He's thrilled to be back and Bowman got him at the bargain price he needed.

Shawn Matthias, C: A surprising stat: Matthias led the Canucks in goals per 60 minutes at even strength (1.08). That’s not nothing. The veteran forward offers a strong all-around game and can play up and down the lineup. He’s the sort of player who’ll likely come in cheap (he made $1.85 million in 2014-15) and deliver full value on the dollar. UPDATE: Matthias lands in Toronto with a one-year, $2/3 million deal.

Joel Ward, RW: A big-bodied winger with pugnacious leanings who has 43 goals on his ledger over the past two seasons? Who doesn’t need a guy like that? Add in a reputation for scoring big goals in the postseason and Ward seems like a valuable middle-six asset. His age (34) might worry some but he’s got low mileage on the tires—he didn’t become an NHL regular until he was 28 and has played just 517 games. A three-year term isn’t an outlandish expectation, but he’ll probably have to take a haircut on the AAV to get a deal done. UPDATE: The Sharks signed Ward on Friday to a three-year deal worth a reported $9.825 million.

The case for using RFA offer sheets as weapons in NHL free agency this year

• Christian Ehrhoff, D: He’d like to forget his disastrous 2014-15 season, but the guys who are signing the checks obviously aren’t so forgiving. Ehrhoff got off to a lousy start, finished on IR and didn’t do much in between and that’s going to cost him. Although he’s hoping for more, he’ll likely have to settle for another short-term, low-dough deal to prove he can still make a contribution. Boston, Toronto and Dallas might be matches.

Marek Zidlicky, D: Sure, he’s 38 but he’s another righty with some offensive touch who could help a team that’s looking to juice up its power play. Zidlicky had 11 points in 21 games with the Red Wings and scored 20 points with the extra man on the season. He might make sense for a rebuilding team that is looking for a few months of good work before flipping him for an asset at the deadline.

Matt Irwin, D: Maybe there’s not a lot of upside for a 27-year-old who has played primarily on the third pair in San Jose. Then again, Irwin was strong down the stretch after being given a chance to skate alongside Brent Burns, so it might just be a matter of finding the right fit for the hard-shooting lefty. Either way, he’ll be affordable. Well worth the risk on a short-term deal.

Andrei Kostitsyn, F: Looking to take a flyer on a player with a decent pedigree and something to prove? It was never a matter of talent when Kostitsyn floated his way through five-plus NHL seasons. It was all about effort and that's a problem that three years slumming in the KHL may have cured. A three-time 20-goal scorer in the NHL who came close a a point-per-game last season with Sochi, he'll take a one-year deal and something close to NHL minimum for one more chance. Makes more sense to give it to him than Alexander Semin.

Hot links

• Helene Elliott believes Slava Voynov should never be allowed to play for the Kings again. And she’s absolutely right.

• Before he moved on to join the San Jose Sharks, defenseman Paul Martin took time to pen a thoughtful goodbye to his former teammates and the fans in Pittsburgh.

• Here’s a hunk of red meat for the anti-fighting crowd. A low-level minor leaguer explains the price he pays to drop the gloves.

• The firing of several veteran executives has some in Vancouver wondering if the Canucks know what they’re doing. Strange moves, to be sure, but there is reason for hope.

• Shawn Horcoff’s on his way to Anaheim. Wanna buy his house in Dallas?

• Here’s a terrific story about a guy living through every hockey player’s worst nightmare and proving himself to be a better man as a result. And here's what you can do to help.

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