Hockey agent Ray Petkau from Steinbach has been busy preparing for today when many of his clients may be working for other NHL organizations than they are currently with.

Because of a change in the NHL schedule, free agency was pushed back to July 13th and officially get's underway at 11:00 AM CDT and Petkau said it's been very busy in the days and weeks leading up to today. "Many, many, many phone calls all day, every day it seems for a few weeks. In the lead-up this year with the schedule being different in a post-COVID world, there are a lot of meetings face to face, which I prefer. That makes it very busy. We have a good number of UFA (Unrestricted Free Agent) so we're always checking in with the player's current teams and trying to project where they could land in free agency if it does get to that point."

On top of all the phone calls and meetings, Petkau said a big part of his job is making sure the player knows what's going on and is well informed of the process. "It begins way before the free agency period for most people. Fans may think about free agency in July or the end of June. But for me, it's about work before that, keeping guys calm by letting them know just how much research I'm doing. Throughout the season, if they want to, we can talk about what it looks like, what the market may look like, or project spots on teams or possible spots on teams cause you don't really know until you get there. Different trends and things like that. Players need constant communication and just me giving them the knowledge that I gather as I'm speaking with NHL GMs and scouts and coaches. It takes a lot of time but it's all about communications."

Petkau says on a crazy busy day like free agency, it's more about teams coming to him and him managing that. "I like to know what the interest level is, the genuine interest level. If I'm calling them, it's a little harder to gauge their true interest level. You still get the odd GM who just likes to kick tires. If they're calling me, there is sincere interest. As our footprint grows in the NHL, just having more and more good relationships with teams, you're communicating more and you can pick up a lot by just having good communications. It's all about building relationships and gathering information. You sure take a lot of notes, mental, and the old pad and paper still get used quite a bit in our office."

While it can be slow weeks or even months-long build-up to free agency, Petkau says that once the clock strikes 11:00 AM CDT, it goes very fast and he has to be sure his clients get a seat in the fast-moving game of musical chair for jobs. "It's all about being organized. Having a game plan. We see a lot of people nowadays just staring at their phones and texting and believe it or not, some deals get done over texting. Some big NHL deals get done because we're all so busy. We could be getting 14 calls from GMs or Assistant GMs at the same time. So, I'd expect at noon today, some discussions will be over the phone and some over text. It's all about being organized. I do a lot of prep work. I know what or should know what the market will be like for our guys at this point. So, it's all about going over the different options or potential options with clients."

In some cases, agents like Petkau can jump ahead of the market a bit. "There are some instances where we have permission from our client's current team to speak with other teams. That gives us a real chance to plan ahead and get ahead of it. Now, you can't get a deal completely done, that's not permissible. But, we can communicate and we do have a few of those this year. It cuts down on the top-of-the-hour calls. We can agree to speak sometime later which frees things up for those more instant conversations."

While there's a lot of talk about the player, Petkau knows that free agency affects a lot more than where a player will be suiting up for the season. "It's not just one person, there's the person's family to think about. There's a lot of pressure and I want to make sure I get it right."

Most know that Petkau's biggest named client is Winnipeg Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck and while he's locked in, his goalie partner, Eric Comrie also represented by Petkau, may get interest and great opportunity elsewhere. "We haven't closed the door to return to Winnipeg but there are a lot of teams looking for quality goaltending. He provided the Jets with that and loved every minute of it as well. It's been a very good fit but he's someone who you may want to keep an eye on and someone who may get an opportunity to play a bigger role than he did last season."