July 1 is the starting line for NHL free agency, but with the biggest names, it doesn't always mark the finish. Last year, Brad Richards waited until July 2 to sign with the New York Rangers. In 2008, over $80 million was spent on players such as Marian Hossa, Sean Avery, Brooks Orpik, Ron Hainsey and Kristian Huselius on the day following July 1.
This year, the timing at the top of the 2012 free-agent class could impact more than just the teams adding a big-time player. Columbus and Anaheim might hold off trading their star forwards until they know exactly where Zach Parise is headed.
Ryan Suter's decision could impact the signings of Jason Garrison, Dennis Wideman and Matt Carle, if teams refuse to spend a dime on other defensemen until they know exactly where Suter is headed. Or the exact opposite could happen.
"The frenzy shifts from the main piece of meat to the secondary piece of meat," said one NHL source. "There becomes a frenzy there because teams can't get shut out. While the big dogs are waiting, the second and third choices get inflated value because people are worried they're going to get shut out, and they think they get a leg up on the teams bidding on the stars."
On Tuesday, Parise told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record that re-signing with the Devils remains an option. "We're definitely talking with the team," Parise said.
Suter has already made it clear to the Predators that he will test free agency, although he hasn't ruled out returning to Nashville. As for how long he'll take to make a decision, assuming anything about a timeline at this point would be a mistake.
One source close to Suter said on Tuesday that his decision will take as short or as long as necessary, but as of right now, there's no anticipated timeline.
It makes sense for both Suter and Parise to take their time in evaluating a decision. It's a decision worth millions and could impact where they each spend the next decade of their lives. It also doesn't make too much sense to turn this into another Kovalchuk situation. By the time Kovalchuk hit free agency, he'd already turned down $100 million from the Atlanta Thrashers, so most teams had a good idea how much they would need to sit down at the table. That severely limited his market with only two franchises -- the Kings and Devils -- seriously in the mix. There was no reason to rush a deal.
Right now, the market is anything but limited for Suter and Parise. In fact, there are teams capable and eager to sign both of them.
"I'm not sure what I think the benefit would be in [Suter and Parise] waiting, in the sense that all these teams are available today," said one prominent agent. "[Those teams] might not be available a month from today. Clearly, in free agency, the more teams you have interested, the better off you are."
The list of those who benefit or are hurt by Suter and Parise dragging this out is a varied one. Here's a look:
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