Five Stages of Free Agency

There is no denying the traumatic experience many most players go through at some point in their careers on the first day of July. It is a time of great uncertainty and personal turmoil and, the most difficult, financial windfall that would leave smaller people comatose.

That begs the question, just how to these players handle such a devastating time? After years of in-depth psychological researchers have discovered the process through which all free agents go through, with varying levels of success at the end.

1. Denial – Common signs: “Not to worry, they will call.”

“Negotiations are going well”

Classic case for this would be Timmy Brent, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This young man held out hope until the bitter end that his childhood team would pick up the phone, but alas it wouldn’t happen.

Another way this stage can manifest is in a refusal to sign contracts anywhere, effectively denying your services to all teams. This is usually a sign of either retirement or inflated Ego. (Again, refer to the Frolov Incident.) This is a symptom easily conquered once the agent explains that a contract is required to play in theNHL.

The time will come for him, and all others, to move past this stage and move through the stages or stay routed in FA limbo for the rest of their career.

2. Anger – Common breakthroughs in this stage involve shouting “How much?”

“You can’t be serious!”

“How can this happen to me?”

The latter most often is heard from FA’s receiving contracts from the NY Islanders.

This is the first major stalling point for FA’s as a significant number end up slamming the door on many teams.

3. Bargaining – “What? 2.3million a season is not nearly enough”

“No wait! I mean I do like 2.3mil a season, please stop talking with Dale Tallon”

This stage is all about the Agent. No one else can help here. JP Barry is probably the most successful at ensuring theNHL’s good players appear to be among the elite.

While agents can help get the money, sometimes the results of good bargaining can cost the player a spot in the league.

Notable cases: Sheldon Souray, Wade Reddon, Jeff Finger, Alexi Yashin

4. Depression – “That’s all I’m worth?”

“But Gomez got over $50million…”

“The Panthers?”

“One year? Did you at least talk to Garth Snow?”

This is a hard one to overcome, after all $5million over 2 years will barely keep your family fed these days. Imagine Chara trying to cover a bill with a $100k max on his credit card and sometimes he invites other people to eat with him.

5. Acceptance – “Jackpot!”

“Oh I guess, turns out the KHL doesn’t want me either”

“I guess, after all I didn’t plan on playing those final 2 years of the contract anyway”

The almost inevitable conclusion to the process, often accompanied by disbelief, usually from the fanbase.


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