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Russo: Matt Niskanen, Thomas Vanek and many top free agents won’t be ‘wined and dined’ in Philly

The NHL's free agent "wining and dining" period has begun, but the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michael Russo reports that teams interested in some of the top UFA's-to-be will be sorely disappointed if they were hoping to speak with them in Philadelphia:

Last year, when bought-out Tampa Bay Lightning center Vincent Lecavalier was seen in a New York hotel, reporters and TV stations camped out in the lobby. That’s why the agents of Vanek and Niskanen both say neither client will come to Philadelphia.

“The whole [interview period] isn’t working, at least from the player side, the way it was intended,” said agent Steve Bartlett, whose top two free agents this cycle are [Thomas] Vanek and Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan. “It handcuffs everybody when everybody’s sitting in Philly. The way this was envisioned was players could go into cities and see the schools, the neighborhoods, look at the facilities, go out to dinner. When someone has to make what often they feel is a pressure decision on July 1 or 2, they want to have a sense more than just what they might know from playing on a visiting team.”

It's believed that Callahan's close to re-signing with Tampa Bay...[edit: and while I was thinking out loud, I'm sure that the GM's and team officials know that these players won't be in Philly, and as such, they've probably already booked flights to the major agents' offices in Toronto, which are generally located in nondescript buildings near Lester B. Pearson International Airport]

Bartlett won’t bring any of his pending free agents to Philadelphia. Agent Don Meehan, whose agency, Newport Sports, represents pending free agents such as Jarome Iginla, Brad Richards, David Legwand and the Wild’s Matt Moulson, said he won’t either.

However, one agent who asked not to be named because he doesn’t want to create a distraction, said he might bring a “few of my lesser free agents.”

Russo continues, and while he simply says that Matt Niskanen won't be in Philadephia, either, it's intimated as his agent, Neil Sheehy, didn't comment per se [edit: Sheehy is based in the remote location of International Falls, Minnesota, so it's kind of hard to miss a GM taking a connecting flight to the border of Minnesota and Ontario at Minneapolis-St. Paul]; in his blog, Russo states that Bartlett will sell Vanek to clients based upon his body of regular-season work:

I wrote this in Wednesday's paper, but I asked Bartlett if Vanek would agree to a short-term deal, especially after Vanek turned down lucrative offers from the Islanders and Sabres.

“I don’t think we’re absolutely entrenched on anything," Bartlett said. "Vanek is a very confident guy, somebody that is, I think, going to look at everything – the financial side, the family side, the team side.I don’t think we have anything cast in stone come Wednesday or July 1.”

Vanek scored five goals and 10 points in 17 games for Montreal in the playoffs. His ice time was limited at times and he was scrutinized, particularly in the conference finals against the Rangers.

But Vanek has 277 goals in 663 career games and the Wild finished 24th offensively last season (199 non-shootout goals). Vanek ranks eighth in the NHL in goals scored since the start of 2005-06 and his 0.42 goals per game is tied for 11th.

“I find it very hard to believe the body of work he brings to the table is going to get erased over one so-so series,” Bartlett said. “He still had a very solid season last year (27 goals, 68 points) despite all the baggage that goes with bouncing around like a yo-yo between three teams and living out of a hotel.”

Russo continues, and on the Wild front, he notes the following:

- If the Wild can't re-sign Clayton Stoner, I believe the team plans to pursue former Wild Willie Mitchell. During this interview period, Stoner will get to learn if there's potentially a more lucrative contract out there than the one the Wild is offering.

Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: brad+richards, clayton+stoner, david+legwand, don+meehan, jarome+iginla, minnesota+wild, philadelphia+flyers, ryan+callahan, tampa+bay+lightning, thomas+vanek, vincent+lecavalier, willie+mitchell

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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