2013 Free Agency Notebook

Carolina was fairly inactive over the first couple of days in free agency, but they managed to fill two roster spots for a combined $1.5 mil. When you look at some of the other deals handed out, that looks pretty good. The one thing I did not want the Hurricanes to do is get suckered into the hype and overpay for a mediocre player. Not with their current cap situation and two players due big raises within the next 12 months. Thankfully, they have managed to avoid that for now but the same can not be said for a lot of other teams.

After the jump, I'll talk about some signings that stood out to me since you all are so curious.

Signings I Loved

Travis Hamonic re-signs with the Islanders for 7 years at $27 mil. ($3.86 mil. cap hit)

Not a UFA signing, but a fantastic move by GM Garth Snow. Hamonic is one of the better young defensemen in the league who is only going to get better with age and the Islanders have him locked up for seven more years. Hamonic has played the toughs on Long Island for the last two seasons and has improved every year, so getting him signed at $3.86 mil. per year through his 20's is going to be an absolute steal. Jim Rutherford should take a similar approach when the time comes to extend Justin Faulk.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard to the Islanders for 1 year at $2 mil.

This is basically the same thing the Islanders did with Brad Boyes last year. Sign a player with a good offensive skill-set, put him on Tavares' wing and then watch the points come. Bouchard's injury history makes this somewhat risky but at one year for only $2 mil. it could be a potential steal. Bouchard's ability to break even in territorial play on a bad possession team for the last three years makes this signing even better.

Benoit Pouliot to the Rangers for 1 year at $1.3 mil.

Pouliot has been one of the most underrated players in the league for the last three years. He has bounced around a lot during that time, but he has also scored at a very high rate at even strength and done a lot with his ice time. He is also very good at driving the play in a non-sheltered role, so that should help the Rangers a lot, especially if Allain Vingeault uses his extreme zone-matching strategy. The Rangers needed depth scoring and didn't have a lot of cap space, so Pouliot is a natural fit here. 

Michael Ryder to the Devils for 2 years at $7 mil. ($3.5 mil. cap hit)

I'm not sure if Ryder is good enough to play the tough minutes on Patrik Elias' line, but he has always been a very good goal-scorer and lord knows the Devils need more of those. He isn't your ideal top-line forward, but he definitely gets the job done and should be a good fit in New Jersey's system. 

Clarke Macarthur to the Senators for 3 years at $6.5 mil. ($3.25 mil. cap hit)

The Senators lost Jakub Silfverberg in the Bobby Ryan trade, but getting Macarthur should off-set that loss. Macarthur is someone who can drive possession and provide a healthy amount of secondary scoring on top of that. He is coming off a down year offensively, but he was one of the few Leafs forwards that didn't get dominated territorially and I expect him to thrive in Ottawa with better linemates.

Signings I Liked

Boyd Gordon to the Oilers for 3 years at $9 mil. ($3 mil. cap hit)

This is somewhat of an overpayment for a shutdown center, but the Oilers needed someone to replace Shawn Horcoff and Gordon should be able to do that. He has been better at Horcoff in terms of being able to get the puck moving in the right direction and can help the Oilers get out of the Fenwick basement they've been stuck in for years now. Hopefully for them Gordon doesn't become Eric Belanger Part 2.

Daniel Alfredsson to the Red Wings for 1 year at $5.5 mil.

Alfredsson is old, but that hasn't stopped him from being a very productive player over the last two years. I always have the concern that players over 40 will see their production fall off at some point, so this could end up looking like a bad move at this time next year. However, Alfredsson will get to play with some great linemates in Detroit and he is an upgrade compared to what Detroit was icing on their top line last year, so I'm a fan of this move overall.

Jason LaBarbera to the Oilers for 1 year at $1 mil.

LaBarbera was the best back-up goaltender on the market and the Oilers got him for a very low cost.

Viktor Stalberg to the Predators for 4 years at $12 mil. ($3 mil. cap hit)

Stalberg is a player who always managed to make the most of his ice time in Chicago, scoring at a very high rate at even strength while playing third-line minutes. He is also a great player at controlling puck-possession, which fits right in with Nashville's needs, so I like this signing. The only concern I have is that he is going to be asked to do more, which makes the four year contract a bit of a gamble, but I think Stalberg is up to the challenge.

Matt Cullen to the Predators for 2 years at $7.5 mil. ($3.25 mil. cap hit)

Cullen gets a decent payday after having one of his best offensive seasons with the Minnesota Wild. I doubt he will be able to repeat what he did last year, but he is still a decent two-way center and should be right at home on the Preds third line. He doesn't have to take on the toughs either with David Legwand and Mike Fisher holding the fort down, so he is a good fit in Nashville.

Ray Emery to the Flyers for 1 year at $1.65 mil.

Paul Holmgren does a lot of strange things, but this wasn't one of them. The Flyers needed another goalie and he was able to get one with decent upside in Emery. He should be able to win the starting job from Steve Mason if he stays healthy.

Keith Aucoin to the Blues for 1 year at $650k

One of the best possession clubs in the league just added a solid depth forward and one of the more underrated players in the fancy stats community. Not a "make or break" move, but a good depth signing for the Blues.

Derek Roy to the Blues for 1 year at $4 mil.

The Blues don't have many stars up front, but they have one of the deepest forward corps in the NHL and adding Derek Roy to the fold only makes them better. He can play a lot of different roles and gives Ken Hitchcock a lot more flexibility for how he wants to utilize his forward corps. The only problem I have with this move is that it could lead to some cap issues after Alex Pietrangelo & Chris Stewart sign their new contracts.

Signings I'm Neutral On

Nathan Horton to the Blue Jackets for 7 years at $37.1 mil. ($5.3 mil.)

If Horton can stay healthy, then this is a fantastic signings, as it gives the Jackets some great scoring depth and a very dangerous top-six. However, it's a rare occurrence for Horton to stay healthy these past few years and he isn't even available to play until December. The Jackets haven't had the best of luck with long-term contracts, so it's going to be interesting to see how this deal shakes out. Again, the Jackets are golden if Horton can stay in the lineup for 70% of this deal, but the odds of that happening seem questionable. 

Jarome Iginla to the Bruins for 1 year at $6 mil.

This is an incentive laden contract, so the Bruins aren't on the hook for much salary, but I'm not sure if Iginla is worth dedicating this much in cap space to at this point in his career. At best he is a decent replacement for Horton on Krejci's line and not much more than that. Although, that isn't the worst thing in the world for the Bruins. 

Jeff Schultz to the Kings for 1 year at $700k

Instead of using what's left of their cap space to re-sign Rob Scuderi, the Kings are letting some of their younger players take on those minutes and Schultz can step in as a solid depth player. However, they did make the decision to keep Robyn Regehr last month and that probably led them to cutting Scuderi loose. That may have not been the best decision.

Petr Regin to the Islanders for 1 year at $1 mil.

Regin had a great 2009-10 campaign with the Ottawa Senators but has undergone multiple shoulder surgeries since then and his play has suffered. The Islanders taking him on is a decent reclamation project, though since more forward depth isn't a bad thing.

Rob Scuderi to the Penguins for 4 years at $13.5 ($3.375 mil.)

Scuderi went for a much cheaper price than he could have but he is getting old and will be 38 when this contract expires. His numbers also declined quite a bit last season, so there is a chance that he might become an anchor at even strength a la Douglas Murray and give the Penguins bad value for what they are paying him. He is still useful, but he isn't the player he once was so I'd proceed with caution if I were a Penguins fan.

Brad Richardson & Mike Santorelli to the Canucks

Vancouver doesn't have much cap space and were able to pick up a couple of very good depth forwards. Not much to dislike here.

Scott Hannan re-signs with the Sharks for 1 year at $1 mil.

Hannan was used regularly in the playoffs for the Sharks, so retaining him for only $1 mil. is a reasonable price for a depth defenseman. However, that's all he really is at this point in his career and the Sharks could be in trouble if he is asked to do more.

Signings I Didn't Like

Karri Ramo to the Flames for 2 years at $5.8 mil. ($2.9 mil. cap hit)

Ramo's track record in the KHL and the Flames goaltending situation makes this not as bad as it may appear, but I still can't understand giving $5.8 mil. to a goaltender who has been out of the league for the last four seasons. Not to mention that he wasn't very good when he wasn't in the league. The Flames don't have much to lose, but couldn't they have saved money if they were going to bring in an unproven goalie?

Michal Handzus re-signs with the Blackhawks for 1 year at $1 mil.

Yes, Handzus was the Hawks second-line center for most of the playoffs, but they are in for a rude awakening if he slotted there on opening night. Handzus isn't a great skater and isn't getting any younger, so he will have trouble keeping up with the Hawks more skilled forwards. He is also more known for bringing lines down and being a passenger rather than someone who helps drive the play forward, which isn't good. I wouldn't expect him to last more than a month on the second line.

Stephen Weiss to the Red Wings for 4 years at $24.5 mil. ($4.9 mil. cap hit)

Once upon a time, Stephen Weiss was a highly capable tough-minutes center on a bad Florida team. That was three years ago and since then, Weiss has struggled to break even and is coming off a miserable season. He was injured and is still capable, so I have no problem with Detroit taking a chance on him. The contract, on the other hand, I have a real problem with. Unless Weiss has a career renaissance in Detroit, I don't see him being worth that much. He can function as a replacement for Valtteri Filppula and thrive with better linemates but as of this moment, I'm not a fan of this deal. Just seems like Detroit gave him more term and money than they needed to.

Andrew Ference to the Oilers for 4 years at $13 mil. ($3.25 mil. cap hit)

Four years and over $3 mil. for a 34-year old defensive defenseman. What could possibly go wrong here? Ference was one of Boston's worst defensemen for the last three seasons and really doesn't bring a lot to the table other than his toughness. That isn't enough to command four years and a salary north of $3 mil., especially since he is barely a top-four defenseman. Chances are he will end up playing that role in Edmonton, though and that will end up poorly.

Matt Cooke to the Wild for 3 years at $7 mil. ($2.5 mil. cap hit)

If there is one player who has benefited the most from playing on Jordan Staal's wing, it is Matt Cooke. His ability to drive possession went down the toilet this year and I doubt that he improves on the Wild. Cooke is a useful penalty killer and good defensive player, but he isn't the type I would give a three year contract to. The Wild giving him this deal is especially confusing with the team in cap hell and regretting a lot of multi-year deals to depth players in recent years (Mitchell, Nystrom, Konopka, et.c)

Mike Ribeiro to the Coyotes for 4 years at $22 mil. ($5.5 mil. cap hit)

Ribeiro is still an excellent play-maker and a great power play specialist, but his even strength play has declined a lot over the last two seasons and it's not going to get any better. Phoenix has the forwards who can protect Ribeiro from playing the toughs, but I see this ending badly for the Coyotes in a couple years.

Valtteri Filppula to the Lightning for 5 years at $25 mil. ($5 mil. cap hit)

Filppula isn't a bad player, but he always struck me as someone who feeds more off his linemates rather than anything else, and he usually got to play with Henrik Zetterberg in Detroit. Still, he fills a need for Tampa Bay as the second line center and someone who can drive possession, but how much of an upgrade is he over Vincent Lecavalier, if at all? It's tough to say. Not a bad player, but I don't think he is worth $5 mil per year or a five-year contract.

Signings I Hate

Ryane Clowe to the Devils for 5 years at $24.25 mil. ($4.85 mil. cap hit)

Clowe had only three goals last season and was basically a third liner for the Sharks for over half of the season. Yet he was somehow able to parlay that into a long-term contract with a cap hit of nearly $5 mil. His intangible qualities must be REALLY good for the Devils to justify giving him this contract. He obviously isn't going to be as bad as he was last season, but he is getting slower and I think he is a fringe top-six forward at this point of his career. The only hope for New Jersey is for Clowe to find his 2010-11 form.

Matt Hendricks to the Predators for 4 years at $7.4 mil. ($1.85 mil. cap hit)

Other than being a shootout specialist, nothing I have seen from Hendricks suggests that he is worth almost $2 mil. per season. He is a fourth liner and you can generally find someone to do the same things as him for half of the cost. The Predators carrying his $1.85 mil. cap hit over four years has the potential to look very bad.

Eric Nystrom to the Predators for 4 years at $10 mil. ($2.5 mil. cap hit)

Nashville hands out another four year contract to a bottom-six forward and what makes this one especially bad is that Nystrom is a puck-possession sink hole. That really isn't what the Preds need right now. Nashville's lines will be interesting next season to say the very least.

David Clarkson to the Leafs for 7 years at $36.75 mil. ($5.25 mil. cap hit)

Clarkson does a lot of good things. He drives possession, draws penalties, plays a decent two-way game and isn't afraid to stick up for his teammates. None of these things are worth $5.25 mil. on a seven year deal, though. Clarkson has never been that great offensively, as he has scored at a top-six rate  twice in the last six years and getting a lot of shots on net seems to be the only thing he excels at. The Leafs need someone like him who can drive possession, but it isn't going to be worth his price tag and they are going to be hating this contract when he is in his carrying a $5.25 cap hit in his mid-to-late-30's. The sad part is that they could have kept Macarthur at almost half the cost and gotten similar results minus the intangible qualities that Clarkson supposedly brings. 

Tyler Bozak re-signs with the Leafs for 5 years at $21 mil. ($4.2 mil. cap hit)

Bozak has Phil Kessel to thank for this contract. He depends heavily on his linemates to succeed and his reliance on Kessel is something that is hard to ignore. His point production has actually been pretty underwhelming the last three seasons when you take his ice-time into account and his play away from Kessel has been miserable. The Leafs decided to waive a better player in Mikhail Grabovski a day before free agency and then followed it up by re-signing a worst player. The only saving grace is that this contract isn't nearly as ridiculous as what Bozak originally wanted.

Evgeni Nabokov re-signs with the Islanders for 1 year at $3.25 mil.

Nabokov was one of the main reasons why the Islanders lost in the first round of the playoffs, so re-signing him at over $3 mil. makes total sense.

Nikolai Khabibulin signs with the Blackhawks for 1 year at $2 mil.

Khabibulin has been either terrible or injured during his tenure with the Oilers, so I was surprised to see him get a contract. He is also 40 years old and has back issues, so Corey Crawford better be prepared to start a lot of games next season. This does not seem like a wise gamble for the Hawks.

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