BOCA RATON, Fla. -- After the first session of the general managers meetings at the Boca Raton Club and Resort on Monday, Florida GM Dale Tallon was chatting about his summer plans in the continued building of the Florida Panthers into a serious playoff contender. I asked him whether we should expect another free-agent spending spree like the one we saw this past year.
Someone else jumped in and joked, "Impossible." Tallon smiled and agreed.
The Panthers built this year's Southeast-challenging Panthers in free agency, but it's not a strategy likely to be duplicated by other teams this summer. NHL front offices have done their in-house analysis of the summer unrestricted-free-agent market, and it's not pretty. In a shift in strategy leading up to the trade deadline, teams started signing their own guys, as the Carolina Hurricanes did with Tuomo Ruutu and Tim Gleason. As the Edmonton Oilers did with Andy Sutton and the New York Islanders did with Frans Nielsen. After the deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs locked up Mikhail Grabovski. It made for a quieter trade deadline, but the impact will really be felt on July 1.
One front-office executive said the team plans its free-agency strategy in December assuming that about three of every five potential free agents will sign with their own teams. That number looks to be higher this year.
"The majority of teams have taken the philosophy that it's better to dance with the devil you know than the devil you don't know," said St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong. "That's why I think you see more players signing with their team."
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