4:05 AM EDT, July 1, 2012
Don't blink, because you just might miss what few splashes are anticipated to take place in NHL free agency.
After Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter and potentially New Jersey Devils captain Zach Parise, the list of marquee players expected to hit the market at noon Sunday thins quickly.
''It's very thin,'' Sabres general manager Darcy Regier said this week. ''The quality is there, the quantity isn't there.''
That's good for the players available because of the potential of driving up their asking price, but bad for Regier and the general managers competing against each other to fill their needs.
As Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher said this month: ''It's a good year to be a free agent.''
Suter is the current headliner after the player's agent, Neil Sheehy, confirmed Saturday that his client will test the market.
''I don't know where Ryan is going to sign,'' Sheehy told The Associated Press.
Even with a looming labor dispute that has the potential to disrupt the start of next season, there's expected to be plenty of competition for talent, particularly from a number of teams that have freed up considerable room under the salary cap.
According to NHL.com last week, there are 17 teams that are at least $18.5 million under the $70.2 million cap that's been established for next season. And that includes four teams with more than $30 million of space, Nashville ($35.29 million), Phoenix ($32.2 million), Anaheim ($30.9 million) and Dallas ($30.6 million).
Not all teams spend to the cap, but they are required to meet a league minimum on salaries, which this season has been set at $54.2 million.