The Busy, Yet Somehow Disappointing, First Day Of NHL Free Agency

Mar 25, 2012; Chicago, IL, USA; Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter (20) during the first period against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-US PRESSWIRE

The opening of NHL free agency Sunday was busy, but mostly a letdown as top targets Zach Parise and Ryan Suter took their time weighing offers.

July 1 in the NHL arrived as it does every year, with intensely-focused hype on just a few star unrestricted free agents who will change teams for tens of millions of dollars and as many as 10 -- make that 13 -- years.

Naturally, top targets Zach Parise and Ryan Suter went nowhere.

Granted, more than 40 players changed teams, some for many years and millions of dollars, but the hottest names stayed put for now. Why? Because they can.

Parise held camp at his agent's quarters in Mississauga, Ontario, as at least five teams flattered him with offers, some believed in excess of 10 years and $100 million. Meanwhile, Suter was reportedly fielding offers from his farm -- no rush, and no word of whether he was being hand fed grapes on his chaise lounge -- while teams like the Philadelphia Flyers were reported to be tossing offers of 12 years and over $80 million at both him and Parise.

Other reports had a 13-year offer on the table for Suter, while Parise supposedly was demanding $24 million in signing bonuses.

Hey, when you're the most in-demand name at your position, why not let teams come to you and out-stupid one another?

Ironically, it is these two players' star power, and bargaining power, that made the first day of NHL free agency such a strange letdown for fans of so many teams. While Parise and Suter take their time weighing cap-breaking offers from teams that absolutely must throw their budget at the shiniest toys on the markets, countless other free agents scrambled to land on any team would take them.

That's why for every six-year contract for a Jason Garrison (to the Canucks for $27.6 million), there is a one-year, $1 million deal for a Brad Boyes. Garrison entered the NHL after Junior B and NCAA, not becoming an NHL regular until age 26, now he's a multi-millionaire. Boyes once made more than $4 million per year and once scored more than 40 goals, but now at age 30 he's jumping at a below-market offer from a bottom-five team.

Multiple reports suggested Suter and Parise will each be weighing their offers and coming to a decision on Monday. But their patience, and their ability to take their time weighing offers, meant most NHL fans were left unfulfilled by the ballyhooed first day of free agency. While everyone is hoping against hope that their team made the sexy big score, Sunday's signings consisted of depth players and aging semi-stars changing teams for small raises.

(Oh, and the occasional 30-something defenseman headed to Florida for $8 million or so -- Filip Kuba to the Panthers for $8 million over two years, Sami Salo to the Tampa Bay Lightning for $7.5 million over two years.)

As Monday dawned, Parise was still on the table, Suter was still on the table, Alexander Semin was still available but getting bashed by TSN, and hot trade targets Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan and Roberto Luongo had gone nowhere.

When it comes to July 1 in the NHL, the anticipation tends to be much better than the actual show.

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