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: