From the player's standpoint, this makes perfect sense. A team controls your rights for four years -- if you have not signed in that period, you essentially can leverage the other 29 teams and perhaps make a better deal for yourself.
From the league's standpoint, this sounds like a loophole that they will look to close in the next CBA.
If Gregoire/Kessel sign elsewhere, Mark Katic likely would be the only player drafted by the Isles in 2007 to ever play for the team. The two other players drafted were Maxim Gratchev, who is playing in the KHL (after a Jr career in Canada) and Simon Lacroix (who played this season for Val d'Or). I don't believe that the Isles still own the rights to either player.
Katic was the Isles' first pick in 2007 (62nd overall) after the Isles traded away picks in the Ryan Smyth and Richard Zednik deals. [The rights to draft Katic were acquired in the Zhitnik/Meyer deal.] And there-- I've gotten the only two Isles whose last names started with Z into the same paragraph.
<<UNH Press Release:
Junior defenseman Blake Kessel (Verona, Wis.) of the University of New Hampshire men's hockey team has decided to forego his senior season to play professionally.
Kessel was a sixth-round pick of the New York Islanders in the 2007 National Hockey League entry draft.Kessel became the first Wildcat since Brian Yandle (2005, 2006), and seventh in program history, to earn All-America honors twice in his career.
Kessel, a 2010-11 Hockey East First-Team All-Star, continued to backbone the UNH defense in his junior season. The blueliner ranked 18th in the nation for defensemen scoring with 0.69 points per game and was named a 2011 Walter Brown Award semifinalist for his efforts. He was even more impressive in Hockey East play, ranking second in defensemen scoring (27 points), 13th in assists (22) and 18th in power-play points (14). The junior chipped in at least 20 assists for the second straight season and led all UNH blueliners with 27 points.
Kessel finishes his career with 78 points on 21 goals and 57 assists in 114 games played.Kessel and the Wildcats finished the 2010-11 season with a 22-11-6 overall record and qualified for the NCAAs for the 10th consecutive season. The 'Cats advanced to the Regional Finals for the third straight season, becoming the only team in the nation with tournament wins in each of the last three years.