Nfld. & Labrador·Analysis

Power | Looking for free-agency paydays

A few local NHL stars don't know where their next paycheque is coming from, as sports columnist Don Power looks at whether they will score as free agents.

Clowe heads list of four NLers as NHL free agency sets to open Friday

Ryane Clowe celebrates a goal in May when he was playing for the New York Rangers. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Ryane Clowe doesn't know where his next paycheque is coming from.

However, unlike most Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are looking for work, the Fermeuse native should have a better idea by tomorrow afternoon about his future employment.

Clowe is among a group of National Hockey League players — free agents — who can sign contracts with any team as of 1:30 p.m. (NT) on Friday.

The 30-year-old enters free agency because the New York Rangers — which acquired Clowe at the trade deadline for a supposed lengthy playoff run that was derailed in part by Clowe's injury — are close to the salary cap ceiling and unable to afford the power forward.

Clowe is coming off a four-year, $14.5 million deal signed with the San Jose Sharks. At the time of his trade, both Clowe and the Rangers expressed interest in him extending that deal.

Unfortunately for the left winger, that didn't happen, and it sent Clowe to the free agent market.

On the market

He's not the only Newfoundland free agent this season. Michael Ryder, Dan Cleary and Adam Pardy are all without a contract at this point and also free to sign with any of the 30 NHL teams as of tomorrow, making it an interesting time for fans in this province.

Daniel Cleary was the first player from Newfoundland and Labrador to share in a Stanley Cup win. (CBC )

For many of the top NHL players who reach this stage, unrestricted free agency — meaning there is no compensation to a former team for signing a player — usually means a huge payday. That may be the case for some this season, too.

However the NHL salary cap is dropping next season, meaning some middle and lower-end players will be squeezed either out of the market, or sign for considerably less.

The local players present interesting options.

Cleary, for example, has become an integral part of the Detroit Red Wings, helping them to their 2008 Stanley Cup win and transforming himself during his eight-year tenure in Motown into a valuable two-way forward who can provide offensive and defensive help.

He wants to stay in Detroit, and the Wings apparently are interested in keeping him. Making it happen is the next trick.

What's next for Michael Ryder?

Ryder is another former Stanley Cup champ, winning the NHL championship with Boston in 2011. A native of Bonavista, Ryder has actually gone this route before, signing a $12 million, three-year deal with the Bruins. Following the Cup win, Ryder signed with the Dallas Stars, before being traded mid-season back to Montreal.

Michael Ryder hoisted the Stanley Cup when the Boston Bruins won it in June 2011. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Ryder can still score, an ability not every NHLer has. He scored more than 20 goals in six of his seasons, and had 16 this year in a 48-game schedule. There will be teams out there interested in signing him.

When Ryder left the Habs the first time, detractors wondered if he could secure a new deal because "all he can do is score." After nine NHL seasons, Ryder is a proven commodity: a scoring winger in a league starved for goals.

He should receive offers, but look for him to avoid the spotlight, and sign in a non-traditional hockey market. Word is he loved it in Dallas, where the weather and his work schedule, combined with his perceived interest in anonymity, allowed him to live a 'normal' life.

Pardy is another native of Bonavista who played in Dallas with Ryder. A big (six-foot-four, 220 pounds) defenceman, Pardy was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in a 2012 summer trade and split this year in the AHL and NHL.

After earning $2 million in each of the last two seasons, he could be one of the players who could find securing a contract difficult. But as the old hockey adage goes - you can't teach size, and Pardy has plenty of it, as well as skating ability, and now, experience with five NHL seasons under his belt.

Hallmark of playoff success

Which brings us back to Clowe.

At the NHL trade deadline, the big rugged winger (six-foot-two, 225 pounds) was one of the most coveted players available. Because his contract was expiring, Clowe was offered up as a player who could help a playoff run. His style of game — grinding, physical play in both ends of the ice — is a hallmark of playoff success.

With several teams chasing him, he ended up in New York, and had a fantastic debut on Broadway, scoring once and getting two assists in his first game. His season didn't end as well, however. He was injured late in the season and managed to suit up in just two playoff games. His value to the Rangers was lost due to what many believe was a concussion-related injury.

So now he's in search of new team colours, and his injury history could be a factor. Teams like Philadelphia and Boston are apparently interested, but cap space (no team can spend more than $64.3 M) is at a premium, making the search more difficult.

But guys with Clowe's skill set are rare, making him valuable to somebody. And you only need one team to like you to offer you a contract.

And it all begins Friday afternoon. Stay tuned.