One Team’s Trash: Possible Cheap Free Agent Signings

Every summer, there are always a good handful of players who become unrestricted free agents in late-June after being bought out or not qualified by their respective teams. This happens because these players either want too much money, underperformed relative to their contracts or are let go due to monetary or salary cap reasons. While some of the players who get bought out are just awful, there are usually a good handful of bought out or non-tendered players worth taking a flier on. The Hurricanes signing one of these players might sound like "dumpster diving," but with not a lot of cap space to work with, finding an undervalued player could be a good way for Carolina to boost their defense.

The CBA allowing two compliance buyouts also means that more players are going to be available through this method and some quality players could become unrestricted free agents in the next couple of days. We've already seen Vincent Lecavalier become a free agent after being bought out by the Lightning and he signed to a much more reasonable contract than what he had previously. Danny Briere and Tom Gilbert were also bought out and should be available at reasonable costs.

Does this mean the Hurricanes should pursue one of these players, though? It depends on the situation. Just because player is cheap doesn't mean he is a good fit. While some of these players were bought out for salary cap purposes, some of them were just awful players and struggled to stay in their respective team's lineups. Many of them also have injury concerns which make them a risky gamble to take on even at a low cost.

Still, going this route isn't a terrible option for the Hurricanes because there are some undervalued players out there who can be solid additions to a team that still needs help on defense. It's possible that a player may have had a down year and would be worth taking a short-term risk on, especially in this year's free agent market. After the jump, we'll take a look at some of the defensemen who just became available and sort out the ones who were overpaid from the ones who are just bad. We will also discuss whether or not they would be a good fit for the Hurricanes defense.

Before we get started, I should mention that none of these players are ideal for the Hurricanes (they were bought out for a reason), so we'll look at how good of a fit they would be on a scale from 1-10. 10 being the highest and one being the lowest.

Tom Gilbert

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 82 16.44 2.19 2.4  2/6 1.5 -6.72 48.1
2008-09 82 15.74 2.81 2.42  2/7 2.6 -3.49 48.2
2009-10 82 15.96 2.94 2.51  2/7 8.1 -6.01 49.6
2010-11 79 17.4 2.89 3.26  2/8 6 -3.36 51.4
2011-12 67 17.61 2.29 3.08  2/7 3.3 -4.02 47.8
2012-13 43 15.61 1.59 1.47  5/6 -2.4 -1.16 51.7

How good of a fit is he? 7

There are a lot of things about Gilbert that makes him a good target for the Hurricanes. He plays big minutes, kills penalties, can work the power play if needed and he has decent size. He is a very solid two-way defenseman but is coming off a pretty bad year with the Minnesota Wild. That team is in a bit of a cap bind right now and doesn't need him to play big minutes with Ryan Suter & Jonas Brodin's emergence. Prior to last season, Gilbert was a tough-minute player for the Edmonton Oilers and was tasked with carrying some pretty bad defense partners in some years (Strudwick, Peckham, Whitney). Taking that and how bad of a possession team the Oilers have been in those seasons, Gilbert's performance with Edmonton is fairly solid.

The problem with Gilbert is that his defensive play has never been great and his territorial performance over the years has also never been particularly impressive. I don't know how much of this has to do with him playing on bad teams, but he probably won't see much of an upgrade in teammates on the Hurricanes defense if he signs here. Although, it certainly won't be as bad as it was in Edmonton at times. At $2-3 mil. per year, Gilbert could be a very solid addition to the Canes defense and a back-up option for tough minutes if Pitkanen gets hurt or Sekera isn't up to that role. Gilbert is also very good at handling the puck, which is a plus in this system.

Hal Gill

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 81 15.34 0.08 4.17  4/8 -2.2 -0.48 51
2008-09 62 14.33 0.05 3.13  2/7 -1.1 -2.9 44.7
2009-10 68 14.76 0.07 2.91  5/9 -8.9 -11.42 46.4
2010-11 75 15.53 0.07 3.58  2/10 -8.1 -2.47 45.9
2011-12 76 13.49 0.02 3.3  3/9 -8 -8.54 44.3
2012-13 32 10.73 0 2.45  6/6 -1.3 -9.08 40.8

How good of a fit is he? 4

The Hurricanes need help on the penalty kill and Gill should bring them that. Gill's specialty is blocking shots and getting in the way of opposing forwards and that will help a Hurricanes defense that's looking the bulk up. He is also one a couple years removed from playing tough minutes on the Montreal Canadiens blue-line. The problem is that Gill can barely skate, will get eaten alive by more skilled forwards and isn't very useful at even strength anymore. He was a third-pairing defenseman and regular healthy scratch for the Nashville Predators last year because of this. Gill might help the Hurricanes penalty kill, but the last thing they need right now is a marginal NHL defenseman and that is all Gill is at this point of his career.

Keith Ballard

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 82 16.2 0.67 3.35  1/8 -8.4 -7.5 39.6
2008-09 82 16.86 2.3 2.32  4/7 7.3 -2.82 48
2009-10 82 16.89 1.97 2.59  1/6 -9 -17.85 41.8
2010-11 65 13.7 0.21 1.58  3/7 -13.7 -5.59 44
2011-12 47 13.76 0.21 0.98  7/7 -13.9 -2.23 44.6
2012-13 36 13.77 0.26 1.04  5/6 -1.7 2.18 49.3

How good of a fit is he? 5

Four years ago, Ballard would be the tough, rugged defenseman that the Hurricanes desperately needed. Now? Not so much. After a bad final year in Florida, the Vancouver Canucks overpaid to get him and he has struggled to be much of af it there. Allain Vingeault basically used him on the third defense pairing and his numbers have been pretty brutal until this year. Part of the reason for that could be due to the Canucks sheltering Ballard much more than he ever was in the past, which goes hand-in-hand with him being mainly used as a third pairing guy.

This doesn't mean Ballard isn't worth taking a chance on, though. He is only 30 years old and I have a hard time believing that his play fell off that much since leaving the Panthers. His skillset fits the Hurricanes needs and he would be a decent fit if he can return back to his Florida form. The Canes should be weary of giving him tough minutes because he has never been able to handle those in his career, but as a top-four guy or penalty kill specialist, you could do a lot worse. A change in scenery helps some players.

Carlo Colaiacovo

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 28 14.01 0.28 2.23  6/7 3.7 9.33 47.2
2008-09 73 13.76 3.4 0.4  7/7 5 1.25 55.8
2009-10 67 13.53 2.93 0.29  6/7 17.8 14.56 59.6
2010-11 65 14.74 2.71 0.31  6/6 -0.2 5.26 58.5
2011-12 64 15.88 2.01 0.28  1/6 3.6 8.39 50
2012-13 6 15.02 2.44 0.62 N/A 5.2 11.32 60.7

How good of a fit is he? 5

The usual concern with Colaiacovo is injuries, but I think those are a tad overblown except for last season where he played in only 15 total games counting the playoffs. However, there are still a lot of other reasons for the Hurricanes to stay away from him. For one, he has never been trusted with heavy penalty kill minutes and that's what the Hurricanes need right now. He was also never much of a tough-minute defenseman except for one year with the Blues (2011-12). Cola's defense partner that year was Alex Pietrangelo, who is one of the best defensemen in the NHL and it's pretty easy to see who was carrying the waters on this pairing. Outside of that year, Coliacovo was a borderline top-four or third pairing defenseman and he doesn't seem like that big of an upgrade for the Hurricanes.

Mike Komisarek

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 75 16.73 0.33 3.25  1/9 -5.4 -11.86 41.1
2008-09 66 16.34 0.2 3.09  2/9 -1.1 -7.35 39.8
2009-10 34 16.92 0.35 1.96  4/8 4.6 12 53.4
2010-11 75 11.89 0.04 1.51  5/6 -6.6 -9.68 41.6
2011-12 45 14.68 0.06 1.62  3/8 -6.5 -7.72 42
2012-13 4 12.94 0 2.4 N/A -15.1 -26.66 45.7

How good of a fit is he? 2

Komisarek is similar to Ballard, only twice as worse. Like Ballard, Komisarek was a decent shutdown defenseman who as overpaid in free agency and he became more of an anchor with his new team. He had one good year with the Leafs that was cut short by injuries and after that, he was relegated to third pairing duty and barely played in the NHL last year. When guys like Korbinian Holzer, Mike Kostka, Mark Fraser and Ryan O'Byrne are getting minutes over you, then it's not a good sign. Komisarek was also sparingly used with the Toronto Marlies in the AHL playoffs, which should serve as a huge red flag for anyone thinking about taking him on as a reclamation project. He might be a defensive defenseman, but that doesn't mean he is good.

Matt Hunwick

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 13 8.99 0.78 0.52  7/10 -3.4 -7.18 43.1
2008-09 53 14 1.59 0.91  5/8 -2.6 -3.56 53.2
2009-10 76 15.4 0.56 1.26  7/7 -5.3 1.03 51.9
2010-11 73 14.4 1.76 1.67  7/7 -4.1 -8.67 49.5
2011-12 33 15.2 1.07 1.11  6/7 4.5 5.86 55
2012-13 43 17.04 1.12 2.47  3/6 1.3 -2.05 47.8

How good of a fit is he? 5

Hunwick isn't a bad defenseman and he had some good results while playing big minutes for the Avalanche last year. However, this is only one season and he seemed pretty overslotted in that role. Prior to that, Hunwick was mainly a 5-6 defenseman and not much of an upgrade over anyone the Hurricanes had on their roster last year. The fact that he kills penalties and didn't drown in tough minutes last season makes Hunwick an interesting target, though. I was a little surprised that the Avalanche decided to buy him out because they don't exactly have a lot of options on defense right now.

Greg Zanon

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 78 13.69 0.17 3.89  3/7 -15.9 -9.94 41.3
2008-09 82 16.31 0.09 3.56  2/8 -11.4 -9.69 42
2009-10 81 18 0.28 3.05  1/7 -3.1 -6.09 41
2010-11 82 17.72 0.12 2.91  2/7 -12.2 -17.71 37.3
2011-12 56 15.55 0.06 1.66  4/8 5.1 -3.65 47.8
2012-13 44 16.15 0.11 2.55  5/6 -9.5 -10.05 49.6

How good of a fit is he? 3

Zanon is a player who would have been a great pickup three or four years ago but now, he isn't very serviceable. He was once lauded as one of the best shot blockers in the NHL and a great defensive defenseman and today, shot blocking is the only thing he is really useful for. Part of the reason why he has to block so many shots is because he isn't mobile and spends way too much time trapped in his own zone while the other team has the puck. This is the type of play that the Hurricanes are trying to get away from, so that doesn't make Zanon that good of a fit here. The only thing that makes him an attractable signing is his ability to kill penalties, but the Canes would be better served finding someone who can do that while not being a liability at even strength.

Steve Montador

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 73 9.49 1.54 0.44  7/9 7.7 3.12 52.9
2008-09 78 13.26 1.06 1.29  8/8 7.5 7.19 56.8
2009-10 78 15.36 0.42 0.77  5/7 8.5 6.36 55
2010-11 73 16.59 0.41 1.97  4/7 -3.5 -0.84 56.8
2011-12 52 12.73 1.45 0.13  7/7 6.9 12.23 61.5

How good of a fit is he? 4

The Hurricanes love puck-moving defenseman, but Montador isn't someone who they should target. He has always been a good player at keeping the puck in the other team's end of the rink and has played top-four minutes, but he has been a sheltered for most of his career. He also doesn't have a ton of experience of killing penalties and his play seemed to fall of a bit since joining the Chicago Blackhawks. This goes without mentioning that he spent all of last season in the AHL. Not a bad player, but not what the Canes need. 

Jeff Schultz

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 72 14.19 0.18 3.03  5/7 -5.7 7.75 52.2
2008-09 64 15.42 0.27 3.13  3/7 -10.3 4.01 56.7
2009-10 73 16.31 0.2 2.58  4/7 3.8 8.52 53.4
2010-11 72 16.52 0.07 2.3  4/8 -6.2 -2.62 50
2011-12 54 13.71 0.01 1.24  4/7 -10.2 -4.94 50.1
2012-13 26 12.66 0 1.47  8/9 -8.2 -7.84 44.7

How good of a fit is he? 4

Schultz was able to parlay one great season into a four-year contract extension and since then, his play has fallen off considerably. Once Bruce Boudreau left, Schultz hasn't received much playing time in Washignton and it's pretty clear to see why when you look at his underlying numbers. Sure, he was given tough territorial assignments this year but a player who isn't being asked to play that much against other team's top lines shouldn't be getting beaten that badly at even strength.

That being said, Schultz can kill penalties and has experience playing top-four minutes, so he might draw some interest from the Canes. They might be better served signing someone who can skate, though because everything about Schultz indicates that he is a worse version of Jay Harrison and not much more than that.

Kris Russell

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 67 10.85 3.12 0.09  8/8 11.2 11.47 67.4
2008-09 66 12.06 3.24 0.06  7/7 11.2 10.7 72.1
2009-10 70 14.99 2.48 0.43  8/8 6.5 -0.8 54
2010-11 73 13.67 2.62 0.36  8/8 5.4 5.35 59.2
2011-12 55 14.21 1.84 0.33  6/6 -1.6 4.15 55.9
2012-13 33 14.47 0.6 0.58  7/7 -4 1.51 56.7

How good of a fit is he? 2

Russell is far from the worst defenseman on this list, but he is the exact opposite of what the Hurricanes need right now. As a small, smooth-skating power play specialist, signing Russell would be the equivalent of re-signing Marc-Andre Bergeron and the Hurricanes would be better suited looking in another direction.

Michael Sauer

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2008-09 3 8.87 0.33 0.15 N/A -37.6 -33.83 60
2010-11 76 15.31 0.14 1.45  4/8 5 2.17 51.5
2011-12 19 15.8 0.29 1.83  3/11 -1.3 -9.79 43.1

How good of a fit is he? 4

Sauer was not qualified by the New York Rangers and that isn't good news regarding his concussions problems. There is some speculation that his career could be over, which is a shame because he is still pretty young and showed a lot of promise in his first few seasons with the Rangers. If his health wasn't such an issue, then I wouldn't mind the Hurricanes taking a chance on him but that obviously isn't the case right now. If he were healthy, then the Rangers would have re-signed him by now.

Johnathon Blum

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2010-11 23 15.33 1.39 0.48  4/8 -9.6 -13.1 50.3
2011-12 33 14.57 1.2 1.59  7/9 -7.7 -14.6 44.4
2012-13 35 12.75 1.16 0.09  5/7 0.2 -5.11 42.7

How good of a fit is he? 4

Blum was another player who wasn't qualified and it's pretty easy to see why the Predators chose not to keep him around. Blum has put up brutal underlying numbers in his first few years in Nashville while playing borderline top-four minutes. However, he was also given some tough territorial assignments during that time and showed some improvement last year. Blum has promise as a young defenseman and might be worth taking a chance on if the Canes want young depth. I don't think he fits the team's needs since his profile is similar to that of Bobby Sanguinetti, but some team will probably want him.

Colten Teubert

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2011-12 24 12.21 0.01 0.34  9/9 -5.1 -6.96 47.7

How good of a fit is he? 3

There are two ways to look at Colten Teubert. On one hand, he is a pretty big defenseman who has ha lot of potential as a former first round pick of the Los Angeles Kings. He also hasn't been tested much in the NHL, so that makes you wonder what he could do if he was given more of a chance. However, the fact that he wasn't able to crack the Oilers defense this year doesn't give you much confidence in him and his body of work in the NHL isn't impressive. Either way, he is unproven and that doesn't fit the Canes needs.

Yannick Weber

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2008-09 3 9.43 4.74 0 N/A 14.1 0 35.7
2009-10 5 13.01 0.77 0 N/A 7.8 0 48.5
2010-11 41 13.18 1.85 1  9/10 10 10.66 58.3
2011-12 60 11.4 2.76 0.85  7/7 -9.2 -10.62 56.5
2012-13 6 11.33 1.68 0.31 N/A -9.9 -1.77 35.5

How good of a fit is he? 3

Weber has played two "full" seasons in the NHL, one where he posted impressive numbers while playing sheltered minutes and another where he was awful. Even taking his upside into account, I think most will agree that he doesn't fit the Hurricanes needs. He is more of a power play specialist whose best asset is having a powerful slapshot. He hasn't played beyond the third pairing throughout his career and has also been used at forward, so that should put him off the Canes wishlist unless they have plans for him in the AHL.

Theo Peckham

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2008-09 15 11.34 0.04 0.25  8/8 -19.6 -21.17 46.7
2009-10 15 14.28 0.09 0.92  8/9 -12.6 -28.28 38.9
2010-11 71 15.62 0.08 2.37  1/8 -6.6 -12.18 47.1
2011-12 54 13.83 0.06 2.4  5/7 -6 -10.61 51.2
2012-13 4 15.48 0.14 1.68 N/A 6 -9.69 44.8

How good of a fit is he? 2

The only upside Theo Peckham has is that he is young because his body of work in the NHL thus far has been abominable. The Oilers gave him plenty of chances to play significant minutes and he posted some ghastly numbers during that time. Even when he was protected, the team was getting shredded whenever he was on the ice at even strength.I should also mention that he was waived by his ECHL club during the lockout and played only four games in the AHL, as well. There's not real point for the Hurricanes to even consider signing him. 

Tomas Kaberle

Year GP TOI/60 PP TOI/60 PK TOI/60 Qoc Rk Corsi Rel. Corsi ON OZ%
2007-08 82 17.35 5.04 1.26  2/6 0.6 4.26 52.4
2008-09 57 16.96 4.42 1.07  6/7 7.4 6.58 57.5
2009-10 82 16.98 4.21 0.1  5/8 7.7 11.47 58.3
2010-11 82 17.16 3.86 0.28  5/7 -1 -1.02 51.8
2011-12 72 13.3 3.56 0.11  6/7 -0.6 -5.2 53.1
2012-13 10 11.01 2.38 0.06   17.4 15.26 62.2

How good of a fit is he? 0

In a word, no.

So there you have it. Ballard & Gilbert are the Canes best "cheap" options out of the players this year with Schultz, Hunwick and Colaiacovo also getting possible consideration. There are usually a couple of good players available through buyouts and that appears to be the case this off-season.

Stats courtesy of Behind the Net

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