The feeding frenzy ensues at 1:30 p.m. NT on Saturday and most of the movement will take place on that day. In 2016, almost 100 players changed teams and three-quarters of the players who would switch organizations in free agency would do within the first week of July.
Of the remainder, a large number inked contracts just before or after the start of the 2016-17 season, although a few, including Pardy, had to wait even longer. The 33-year-old didn’t sign with the Nashville Predators until Nov. 30 after playing for seven weeks in the American Hockey League on a minor-league contract.
Pardy had attended the training camp of the Florida Panthers on a tryout, but was one of the Panthers’ last cuts. He bided time on a minor-league deal with Florida’s farm team, the Springfield Falcons, then got moved to the Milwaukee Admirals in an AHL trade. Eventually, he was signed by the Predators, the Admirals’ NHL parent team.
“I don’t know if you really can say if (that experience) meant I learned about being patient in the free-agent process since I think I had already learned quite a bit about free agency over the years,” Pardy told the Telegram earlier this month.
In fact, Pardy has been an unrestricted free agent five times in his career. The first time was in 2011 when he left the Calgary Flames for the Dallas Stars on a two-year deal. But since then, he’s been year-to-year and station-to-station, operating on four one-year-contracts and playing in four other cities — Buffalo, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Nashville.
Pardy, Purcell and Greening all finished the 2016-17 season in the AHL, and while that fact may contribute to the quality of any offers they receive, it doesn’t preclude them being signed on Saturday.
Yes, the focus is always on the big-name, big-money transactions, but announced free-agent deals on July 1, 2016 included those given to the likes of Sam Carrick, Zach Trotman, Christian Thomas, Ryan Stanton, Jeremy Morin, Michael Latta, Andrew Agozzino, Will O’Neill, Pierre Luc Letroneau-Leblond, Victor Bartley, Chris Mueller, Garrett Ross, Michael Paliotta, Carter Camper, Morgan Ellis and Andrew Bodnarchuk, none of whom would play a single NHL game in 2016-17.
Purcell — who was signed on July 1, 2016 by the Los Angeles Kings — and Pardy both saw time in the NHL last year. Pardy played four games with Nashville in December, and Purcell got into a dozen contests with Kings at the start of the season before they assigned him to the AHL’s Ontario Reign in early December.
Both would be hampered by mid-season injuries. Purcell was sidelined the entire month of February after hurting his knee, while Pardy missed 10 weeks with a broken arm suffered in January.
Greening, meanwhile, never got into any games with the Toronto Maple Leafs as the Leafs chose to keep his $3.2 million salary buried in the minors in a cap-saving move. If it was any consolation, Greening was not alone. The Leafs also had Brooks Laich ($4.5 million) and Milan Michalek ($4 million) with the Marlies last season.
Not every free agent will change locations. A number will — or already have — re-signed with their current organizations.
Others will have to brace themselves for the possibility of a major change, and not just in pay. They’ll end up — as Pardy did for a time last fall — settling for try-out deals or minor-league contracts. Others will relocate to European leagues.
Pardy says he isn’t considering the latter option.
“It’s not really for me,” he said. “I once told my agent the only way I would be go to Europe would be as a tourist who’s travelling.”