The chance to be an unrestricted free agent is no doubt an exhilarating experience for NHL players. But it can also be confusing, and in an era where many players will only get to have the experience once in their careers the risk of committing a unfortunate faux pas is high.
I want to help avoid that. So for those who are new to the process, or who could simply use a refresher, here's a player's guide to the do's and don'ts of NHL free agency.
DO: Feel a sense of pride when a media preview includes you on a list of the most intriguing names available in this year's free agency crop.
DO NOT: Feel any less proud just because they have you tied for second place with "everyone not named Brad Richards".
DO: Instruct your agent to refuse to discuss your status with any team before free agency officially begins at 12:00 ET on July 1, as it's only ethical that you carefully follow all league rules regarding tampering.
DO NOT: Suffer any cognitive dissonance when your agent faxes you a completed 10-page contract to sign at 12:03.
DO: Tell the team you eventually sign a long term deal with that "I'm looking forward to spending the next several years of my career in your wonderful city."
DO NOT: Be surprised by the awkward silence that follows when you say that to the front office from Phoenix.
DO: Tell any local media who interview you that signing with a team where you have a chance to win is far more important to you than money.
DO NOT: Roll your eyes and mime a shovelling motion while you say that, if the reporter is standing in front of you instead of on the phone.
DO: Say something to express your interest when Brian Burke calls to offer you a contract with the Maple Leafs.
DO NOT: Go with "Cool, I'd love having every spring off!"
DO: Listen courteously to any general manager you speak to on the phone and carefully consider the offer he is presenting to you.
DO NOT: Forget to make sure you can recognize the area code for Winnipeg on your call display before instituting that last rule.
DO: Be aware that if you are a restricted free agent, teams can still sign you to an offer sheet and will no doubt be lining up for the chance to land a player as young and talented as you are.
DO NOT: Be rude when explaining to the phone company customer service rep that there's obviously something wrong with your phone, since it hasn't rung once all July.
DO: Start having visions of a massive payday and a celebrity lifestyle when your agent calls to tell you he's negotiated a long-term deal with New York.
DO NOT: Get so excited that you don't notice that his cough immediately afterwards sounded kind of like the word "Islanders".
DO: Accept that every team rates players differently, and some general managers just won't be interested in your services even if you'd really like to sign with them.
DO NOT: Drunk-dial Mike Gillis in the middle of night and tearfully sing "Didn't we almost have it all" into his voicemail.
DO: Feel free to sign a contract before free agency begins with a team that has traded for your rights if they're willing to meet your demands for a nine-year, $51 million contract.
DO NOT: Turn to the GM after signing that contract and say "By the way, if there's any money left over you should really try to acquire some top-tier centers".