AP The NHL’s 2013 Free Agent Frenzy began at noon on Friday, July 5. Teams spent well over $400 million on contracts that they’ll either celebrate or regret for years to come.
Here are our hasty, myopic grade assessments for free-agent feast, which began roughly five days ago.
Who won? Who lost? Enjoy the hair-trigger reactions!
The Bobby Ryan trade was going to happen at some point – signing Perry and Getzlaf guaranteed that.
Maybe your expectations for an eventual Ryan trade where more than what the Ottawa Senators sent back to Anaheim; if so, they likely didn’t take the Ducks’ salary structure or the marketplace into account. Fact is that Jakob Silfverberg could be the fantasy darling of 2013-14 if he’s moved onto the Perry/Getzlaf line; Stefan Noesen is a former first-rounder and a tenacious player; and the Ducks get a first-rounder in 2014 as well.
Meanwhile, Ryan has two years left on his deal before a UFA bonanza. And if you think he’s going to re-sign there, allow me to point out he has an American girlfriend who has been living in California and thought Ottawa was a suburb of Detroit.
The Ducks also re-signed Saku Koivu (1 year, $2.5 million) after other alternatives at center didn’t pan out, as well as Ben Lovejoy for three years and $3.3 million on defense.
After a few years of consistency of roster, the Bruins saw dramatic changes around the Frenzy.
The biggest move was the seven-player deal with the Dallas Stars that saw the Bruins trade forward/former second overall pick/hater of moderation Tyler Seguin, center Rich Peverley and defensive prospect Ryan Button for left wing Loui Eriksson, young forwards Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser and defense prospect Joe Morrow.
In the short term, the Bruins win the deal. They cleared $4.75 million in cap space and acquired the best player in the trade in Eriksson, who averages around 30 goals a season. He’s a perfect fit for the Bruins’ system.
In the long term, Morrow projects to be a top four defenseman in the NHL. But the long-term success or failure of the deal rests with Seguin, who either becomes yet another cautionary tale of talent wasted on a misguided young player or the next Patrick Kane reclamation project. In the meantime, where guaranteed at least a few more months of photos depicting him sloshed at BBQs, so we all win.
The Bruins let Jaromir Jagr walk – slowly, and never at the pace of his linemates – and saw Nathan Horton leave for the “quieter” environs of Columbus, and decided to replace him with the most surreal choice possible: Jarome Iginla, who infamously chose the Penguins at the trade deadline last season over a deal to the Bruins.
He has a one year deal, an incentive-laden $6 million contract. He moves back to his natural position on the right with the Bruins, but one wonders how he’ll fit in Boston – and how much he has left as a top line player. But the sheer joy that is Bostonian sports fan brains exploding at the notion of Iginla signing with “The Second Choice” is priceless.
The loss of Andrew Ference on defense was expected but could hurt in the room and on the ice, despite the Bruins having some quality young defensive depth. Goalie Anton Khudobin left for Carolina, while the Bruins signed goalie Chad Johnson (Phoenix) and defenseman Aaron Johnson (Rangers).
They might regret it down the line, but in the short term the Bruins get …
The Sabres believe Henrik Tallinder is going to help Tyler Myers figure out what the hell happened to Tyler Myers. He was his mentor before leaving for the Devils, who wanted to shed his salary. Their loss is Buffalo’s gain. Otherwise, it was quiet for the Sabres, which is a nice change of pace for Pegulaville (Population: All On 10-Year Free-Agent Contracts) Still, their inability to trade Ryan Miller as the rest of the goalie market started to settle is a little frustrating.
The Flames made two small moves that have some upside. TJ Galiardi was plucked from the San Jose Sharks, and has a 1 year deal worthier $1.25 million. Defenseman Kris Russell was jettisoned from the Blues after he turned down a 1-year deal. He was a spare part there; maybe he gets his ice time in Calgary. Brian “Big Ern” McGrattan re-signed for 2 years and $1.5 million, and he’s always good for punches.
That Mike Komisarek is an upgrade to the Carolina defense should speak volumes, but he is: At the very least, he’s doesn’t seem like a redundancy, which has been that group’s problem for the last few years. Maybe without that contract and the Toronto media asking when he’ll be bought out, he thrives. The Anton Khodobin/Dan Ellis swap saved the Canes $100,000 and gained them someone who can push Cam Ward. GM Jim Rutherford has other irons in the fire, but for now …
All of the exoduses were expected for the champs, as Viktor Stalberg (Nashville), Ray Emery (Philly) and Rostislav Olesz (Jersey) all departed. That opened up salary space to re-sign Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus, so that’s a fair tradeoff. Nikolai Khabibulin as a $2 million backup goalie isn’t as risky as it sounds, especially if Corey Crawford’s ready to carry more of the freight next season in starts. They could have probably found a cheaper alternative, but we imagine Stan Bowman’s still buzzed from the parade.
Nick Holden! Andre Benoit! J.T. Wyman! Guillaume Desbiens! Nate Guenin! If any of these names mean something to you, you’re probably an Avalanche fan. Our only surprise: That with Patrick Roy’s Ego now in player personnel, only two of these players are French-sounding. Bottom line: The Avs weren’t looking to be players in free agency, and weren’t.
Columbus Blue Jackets
How anyone can view the Nathan Horton contract as anything but a win for this team is baffling. Yes, he’s going to undergo shoulder surgery. Yes, he has a concussion history – funny how that’s an issue for a free agent signing but never for, say, Patrice Bergeron re-signing.
Horton is a power forward the Jackets need. The $5.3 million cap hit is actually lower than you’d expect a desperate team to hand out. The seven years are about two too long, but who cares? The Blue Jackets won a free agent derby because a guy wanted to play in Columbus and they didn’t pay significantly over market value. Two summers ago, they had to trade for Jeff Carter because no one wanted to play there; now, Horton picked them.
Well, Jim Nill certainly didn’t waste any time, did he?
The Tyler Seguin/Loui Eriksson seven-player swap puts his mark on this team in dramatic fashion. Seguin’s maturation as a star player will determine its success, because the Stars sent significant assets back to Boston. Rich Peverley adds much needed depth to the middle. So does Shawn Horcoff, acquired for Phillip Larson and a 2014 seventh-rounder. He has a relationship with Lindy Ruff and Nill, and desperately needed a change in scenery – his points per game were down to 0.39 in Edmonton, as he fell down the depth chart.
So three additions down the middle, which will allow Jamie Benn to move back to the wing, which is a good thing. Lindy Ruff said he expects Seguin to play with Benn from the start, which is either a way to further fuel his sense of entitlement or to give him a ball he shan’t drop.
Dan Ellis is a nice backup to Kari Lehtonen without being threatening.
It’s tough to judge this one, because if Seguin stops pretending he’s auditioning for an E! reality show (tentative title: “Ty One On”) and fulfills his potential, this could be a banner day for the Stars franchise. As of now, a lot of needs filled by Nill.
Detroit Red Wings
The Wings missed on Ryan Suter last summer, then entered into a “transition year” that saw them transition right into the conference semifinal. So GM Ken Holland went into the off-season ready to spend – little did he know what opportunity would arise.
Daniel Alfredsson at $5.5 million for one season is a classic “hired gun wants to win Cup” scenario, but this gun has more than a few bullets left. He’s a perfect addition to the top six for this team. So is Stephen Weiss (5 years, $4.9 million) who costs less and might even be a shade better than Valtteri Filppula. Much like Nathan Horton when he left Florida, Weiss has been waiting years for this chance.
The Wings are losing Damien Brunner (bummer) and potentially Dan Cleary.
They still need to address the blue line, but adding two top-six forwards makes Detroit a lot closer to that Cup Alfie’s chasing. Hey, remember when Marian Hossa went to Detroit to chase one? Good times …
Is it OK to really, really love what the Oilers did here?
Andrew Ference is exactly what the team needed on the back end: Veteran presence, some physicality and leadership from a guy with a ring. Some have complained that Ference hasn’t played against top competition thanks to Zdeno Chara with the Bruins, but Tyler Dellow goes the distance in explaining why that’s a bit of a misnomer. At a $3.25 million cap hit, it’s a great deal, even if four years is perhaps one too many for a player his age.
The Boyd Gordon signing is even better. He’s terrific on draws, kills penalties and isn’t an offensive black hole despite his role. Edmonton might have overpaid a bit at $9 million over 3 years, but you try convincing a guy to leave the golf courses of Glendale for Edmonton in December and see how much it takes. Jason Labarbera, also from the Coyotes, is a serviceable backup at $1 million.
They also found a taker for Shawn Horcoff’s $5.5 million cap hit through 2015.
Stephen Weiss wasn’t coming back; not with Detroit and St. Louis in the mix. The Panthers added Washington Capitals fourth liner Joey Crabb for 2 years at $1.2 million and Toronto spare part defenseman Mike Mottau at 1 year and $700,000. Remember when Dale Tallon signed, like, all the free agents? We miss those days. For now, they deserve an incomplete, because other moves have to be made. But for now …
Los Angeles Kings
The Kings lost The Piece, Rob Scuderi, to the Penguins and checking winger Brad Richardson to the Vancouver Canucks. They re-signed Keaton Ellerby for one year and inked Jeff Schultz, who was bought out by the Capitals, for one year. Schultz is, as they say, not good. But hey, they’re still in the “pulling Matt Frattin for Bernier” afterglow, so …
The Wild spent the gross national product of Belize on two free agents last summer, so this was quiet by comparison – but more controversial. Matt Cooke is still considered the scum of the Earth by Western Conference fans who get their news from Mike Milbury and/or morons who think he intentionally Ginzu’d the leg of Erik Karlsson. At 3 years and $7.5 million, he’s a guy who plays on the edge (like the departed Cal Clutterbuck) but is a more-than-serviceable depth player (unlike Cal Clutterbuck).
Keith Ballard gets 2 years with a $1.5 million cap hit and is another player that should thrive without the crushing weight of his cap hit smothering him. Matt Cullen (Nashville) was allowed to leave so Mikael Granlund could slide up the depth chart. Pierre-Marc Bouchard also left, for the Islanders.
The Danny Briere signing was expected but nonetheless impressive for the Habs, who get a versatile forward who’s money in the playoffs and can be an insufferable [expletive] to play against, which seems to be the only requirement for Marc Bergevin to give you money and a Montreal sweater.
Gone were Michael Ryder (NJ) and Yannick Weber (Vancouver). But George Parros has arrived to punch people with a funny mustache. Like, he has the funny mustache, we mean. We assume he’d also punch people with one too.
The Predators needed goals. That’s it. That was the mission for GM David Poile this summer. Find goals.
Viktor Stalberg had 22 of them for the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011-12, so that’s promising. Matt Cullen had 14 of them that season, which isn’t bad. Eric Nystrom had 16 that season too, which is even better.
The problem is that none of these players can be counted on consistently for offense, and that they eat up $8 million in cap space. These are fine players. These are nice players. But these are not players that you enter next season with wiping your hands and saying “offensive problems solved!” Which, again, was the mission.
The Cullen signing was, I think, the best of the lot. But again: Briere went for $500,000 more. It speaks to Nashville’s inability to attract top line offensive talent, which speaks to either the market or the team’s philosophy.
Also: Matt Hendricks was one of my favorite players to watch and cover with the Washington Capitals, but a 4-year contract (even with a small $1.85 million hit) is truly bizarre for a player the Predators seem to already have five of.
New Jersey Devils
When Lou is good, he’s very good: Michael Ryder for 2 years and $7 million is very good. Patrik Elias back for three years and a $5.5 million cap hit shows that Lou’s Kool-Aid remains strong. Rusty Olesz for 1 year and $1 million … sure, whatever. Shedding Henrik Tallinder’s salary was a plus as well.
When Lou is bad, it’s usually in reaction to someone leaving the Devils: When Niedermayer left, it was Malakhov and McGillis. When Clarkson left on Friday, it was 5 years and $24.25 million for Ryane Clowe, a player I believe is sliding on the downside of his career like a snowboarder trying to avoid an avalanche.
New York Islanders
The most significant move for the Islanders was re-signing Travis Hamonic for 7 years at $27 million. In typical fashion, it was a move trashed by uppity Canadian media types that watched the Islanders for the first time in seven years during the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, which ignores the fact that Garth Snow locked up a 23-year-old minutes-eating two-way defenseman at $3.857 million through 2020.
Assuming Evgeni Nabokov gives them exactly what he did in 2012-13, it’s not a bad move to bring him back for another year, even at $3.25 million. But you’d like to see the Islanders add another goalie to that mix.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard has been called “tentative” and “soft” by Minnesota Wild observers that have seen his game diminish in the last few injury-riddled seasons. One year, $2 million, and the chance to resurrect his career with Tavares and Moulson? That’s a better investment than relocating to Brooklyn.
New York Rangers
The Rangers decided not to buy out Brad Richards for some misguided reason, let Ryane Clowe become the Devils problem, re-signed Ryan McDonagh to a great deal, traded for Justin Falk and Danny Syvret and signed both Benoit Pouliot (1 year, $1.3 million) and Aaron Johnson (1 year, $600K). GM Glen Sather has to take care of his own – Derek Stepan needs a contract, too – before bringing in more bodies. As it stands:
The Daniel Alfredsson controversy overshadows everything else the Senators did, which is a shame, because they’re a better team now than they were on July 3.
Bobby Ryan is an elite goal scorer with size – essential in the East – and one assumes he’ll keep Jason Spezza in girlish giggles for the next two years if the two find chemistry. You have to give to get, and the Sens paid up for Ryan, but he’s a star.
The Clarke MacArthur signing is great because (a) he’s an essential replacement for Silfverberg on that second line and (b) because the next two years of Leafs fans bitching about an overpaid Clarkson while Sens fans celebrate an underpaid MacArthur ($3.25 million cap hit) are going to be glorious.
Joe Corvo is back again as a spare part defenseman, while Peter Regin’s disappointment output is now with the New York Islanders.
Tough losing Alfie, but it might be his loss.
Remember when the Flyers signed Vincent Lecavalier at $4.5 million annually for five years and everyone went apoplectic? Welp, he’s going to earn less than Iginla, Ribeiro, Alfredsson, Horton, Clarkson, Filppula, Weiss and Clowe next season against the cap.
Yeah, horrible signing, Philly, coming in under market value like that.
Oh, and what’s this: Ray Emery is back for just $1.65 million after going 17-1-0 last season with Chicago?
Adam Hall was also signed for $600,000 and one season. Which is obviously why they bought out Bryzgalov and Briere.
For some reason, these signings are being demonized as terrible. Maybe you don’t feel they needed Lecavalier; you weren’t saying the same thing when the lack of a veteran winger, in the wake of Jagr’s departure, helped sink the team during the season.
The Flyers didn’t solve all of their issues, but these were shrewd financial moves from a team we weren’t sure knew had to make them. So, with the bar set there:
Mike Ribeiro wanted five years, got four years and signed with the Coyotes for $5.5 million against the cap annually. If you expect last year’s numbers, you’re an idiot: No Alex Ovechkin, no Adam Oates’ orchestrated power play, no contract year. Better to expect him in the neighborhood of 60-70 points, most likely playing with Shane Doan. Dave Tippett’s had Ribeiro before, and this is good reunion for the center – even if that’s a mighty high price for what amounts to a second line center.
The Coyotes will miss Boyd Gordon’s defense. Thomas Greiss backs up Mike Smith for $250,000 less than what Jason Labarbera wanted.
The major failing, thus far: The Coyotes still haven’t addressed a lack of veteran scoring on the wing.
Rob Scuderi is a nice, safe move by the Penguins, at four years and a $3.375 million cap hit. He still has plenty left, and folds right back into the Pittsburgh system with ease.
The Penguins let Iginla and Matt Cooke walk, traded Tyler Kennedy, and made the smart decision to bring back Craig Adams at two years and $1.4 million. Oh, and Pascal Dupuis got paid: Four years and $15 million.
San Jose Sharks
The Sharks were really, really quiet during the Frenzy, dealing away T.J. Galiardi to Calgary and watching Thomas Greiss leave for the Coyotes. They re-signed Scott Hannan for one year and a million dollars, so that’s something. They flirted with Alfredsson, so that’s another thing. Also, they didn’t do anything stupid, which is the important thing.
St. Louis Blues
Look, Maxim Lapierre is a nice signing for a team that’s at its best when it’s at its most annoying. Re-signing Jordan Leopold is a positive move (2 years, $2.25 million). But the Blues chased Stephen Weiss, Valterri Filppula and Lecavalier and couldn’t convince them to sign in St. Louis. Instead, they spent $4 million on Derek Roy for one season, his third team in two years. GM Doug Armstrong rationalized it: “We’re still bringing back the same centermen that got us home-ice advantage the last two years in the playoffs.” Yeah, that must be why you were desperately seeking an upgrade. For now, a..
Getty Images Tampa Bay Lightning
The Lightning buy out Vincent Lecavalier, and everyone celebrates the end of a regrettable contract. Which leads to GM Steve Yzerman … entering into another regrettable contract.
Filppula as a $5-million player annually over five years makes Jiri Hudler seem underpaid. This is another Matt Carle signing, made worse because Yzerman was part of the Red Wings and should know better.
Cardinal rule: If the master signs a better player at $4.9 million annually over five years, best not give his castoff more money if you’re the student.
Toronto Maple Leafs
By now, the Tyler Bozak (5 years, $21 million) and David Clarkson (7 years, $36.75 million) contracts have been picked apart to the cent. Bozak is the overpaid faux first liner who’s actually a drag on his buddy Phil Kessel’s stats. Clarkson’s contract promises value in the first couple of seasons, before what Mirtle believes will be a sharp decline.
The Bozak signing is nepotism; you can almost feel the tap on the shoulder to Kessel saying, “Hey, champ, see what we did for your boys? How about that contract extension?” The Clarkson signing would be a good one at the right price; but at seven years and a cap hit of $5.25 million, he will be afflicted with Chris Drury Disease – player with great intangibles seen as a hapless bust because his numbers don’t sync up with his contract – by Year 3 at the latest.
They won’t miss Komisarek. They will miss MacArthur and, especially, Mikhail Grabovski, inexplicably allowed to walk in order to pay Bozak.
The Canucks had addition by subtractions, as Derek Roy and Keith Ballard left for St. Louis and Minnesota. Vancouver will miss Max Lapierre’s particular brand of whimsy, but Brad Richardson’s a nice addition to the bottom six. Yannick Weber’s a depth defenseman on the cheap. Now, about that Luongo issue …
Gone are Mike Ribeiro, Matt Hendricks, Jeff Schultz and Joey Crabb. Coming in is … nobody. The Capitals were quiet during the Frenzy, keeping with Adam Oates plan to maintain consistency on the roster from year to year. Which is all well and good but who the [expletive] is playing second-line center next season?
The Jets traded for Devin Setoguchi and watched Alex Burmistrov leave for the KHL, so at least their offensive enigma quota remains sufficiently filled.