Free Agent Opening Day Live Blog

Let the shopping begin

12:01 a.m.

Friday is Canada Day north of the 49th parallel and the start of the long holiday weekend in the United States. But for a lot of hockey fans, it's Christmas in July.

July 1 is day 1 of free agency, though this year doesn't figure to be as wild as in some past years -- Dallas center Brad Richards is the only really big name on the unrestricted market, while prime restricted free agents like Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay) and Drew Doughty (Los Angeles) would cost a potential suitor a fortune in money and draft picks, making it unlikely (but not impossible) that they'll receive offers from other teams. If they do, their current teams can match.

Richards, a top-10 scorer and the 2004 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, has been linked in media reports to the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers; TSN reported that he'll be in suburban Toronto when teams can start making their pitches at noon ET on Friday.

There were rumors that the Philadelphia Flyers, who dealt centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter last week, might make an offer to Stamkos, who's still unsigned. However, the Philadelphia Daily News reports that they won't do so. Among the reasons -- the Hurricanes would have seven days to match, and that would likely keep the Flyers from being able to pursue any other free agents, including their own Ville Leino.

Several potential free agents have come off the market by signing new deals. The biggest one came Thursday night when Buffalo inked defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to what the team called "a long-term" deal -- one that's reportedly worth $40 million over 10 years. A few hours before, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford wrapped up a busy week by locking up forward Jussi Jokinen to a three-year, $9 million deal -- making Jokinen the third Hurricane in as many days to decide to stay in Carolina.

Also, Chicago inked former Sabre blueliner Steve Montador to a four-year deal reportedly worth $11 million. He'll be expected to take some of the ice time that opened when the Hawks sent Brian Campbell to Florida last Saturday.

With the salary cap rising to $64.3 million for 2011-12, lots of teams figure to have money to spend -- many clubs will have to open their wallets just to get to the floor of $48.3 million.