The Waiting Game
1) It was best to be under contract already and take the 24% rollback because the free agents were going to get even less than that on the open market
2) A free agent's best course of action was to sign with a team ASAP to ensure they had a job
Of course, as we've come to see, the first has been proven to be completely false. Though the free agents maybe got less than what they would've three years ago in the same situation, you'd have a hard time convincing me it was a massive hit.
And now, we're starting to see that perhaps the second isn't all that true either.
If you believe published reports, the hottest free agent left is four time 40 goal scorer Peter Bondra, who, a month ago, wasn't on anyone's radar as far as hot properties. I don't recall too many fans saying "we have to get Peter Bondra on our team!"
After all, this is the same Peter Bondra who, after being traded to the Ottawa Senators close to 2004's trade deadline, was an absolute bust, scoring zero points in the seven playoff games the team had before being eliminated (again) by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Such a bust the team didn't exercise the option on his contract, even though when they first acquired him they said it was almost guaranteed they would. The same Peter Bondra who will be 38 by the time playoffs come around. The same Peter Bondra who has only played six games in the last year.
For some teams, these things don't matter, because he's all that's left. Whether feeling pressure from their fans to do something or being pressured internally due to the moves their rivals have made, many clubs have to do something, anything, before the season starts. That one last tinker that would, ideally, put them over the top.
By waiting everyone else out, Bondra's positioned himself to cash in. Not only with an excellent contract, but by having his choice of teams. Unlike a month ago, he can now see who, on paper anyway, have the bests chances of contending this season. I imagine for someone pushing 40, finally winning a Cup is his primary concern.
Sometimes patience is a virtue that comes in handy.