Courtesy of Point Park University

New month, old story: Many top NHL free agents still need contracts


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The Maple Leafs' Mitch Marner. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

September has arrived, which means the start of training camp is less than two weeks away.

Whether Marcus Pettersson will be on hand when the Penguins conduct their first drills of the preseason Sept. 13 in Cranberry remains to be seen.

Although both sides have spoken optimistically of striking a deal that will allow Pettersson, who is in Sweden, to secure the necessary visa and make it to Western Pennsylvania in time to get acclimated to the Eastern time zone before camp opens, there doesn't seem to have been any progress of late.

From all indications, the major sticking point continues to be the Penguins' lack of salary-cap space, not Pettersson's salary demands or a conflict over the length of the contract.

Jim Rutherford has said that he and his staff have settled on some personnel moves that could be made before the start of the season to open the cap space needed to re-sign Pettersson, although the Penguins don't necessarily want to exercise those options.

It is believed that both sides would like to finalize a relatively long-term deal, but it's possible that they will settle for a shorter one, if necessary.

Pettersson, it should be noted, is hardly the only significant restricted free agent in the NHL who has yet to receive a new contract. In fact, he isn't particularly close to the top of the list of the most prominent ones.

Mitch Marner of Toronto probably is the headliner, but the group includes forwards Brayden Point (Tampa Bay), Patrik Laine (Winnipeg), Brock Boeser (Vancouver), Mikko Rantanen (Colorado) and Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary), as well as defensemen Zach Werenski (Columbus), Charlie McAvoy (Boston) and Ivan Provorov (Philadelphia), among others.

While each negotiation has its own issues, Rutherford said that the lower-than-expected cap ceiling of $81.5 million for the coming season has been a complication in many of them.

"It definitely is," he said. "The cap is $1.5 million less than what the original projection was, so that definitely has affected a lot of this."

Nonetheless, Rutherford still seems to be confident that an agreement with Pettersson is coming, and that a lot of RFAs around the league will be getting new deals before much longer, as well.

"There are a lot of good players, and I think it's just kind of the timing of how the market has gone," he said. "But they're all going to get signed. It's just a matter of when."

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