2011 Off-Season Free Agency Update – NHL Handicapping Future Lines
The dust is settling now that July 1 and the start of unrestricted free-agency have passed. Who are the biggest signings?
Let’s have a look at the 10 most expensive NHL acquisitions in terms of salary-cap hit.
We’ll exclude any re-signings or deals signed before July 1 for the purpose of examining the more shocking moves of unrestricted free agency.
1. Brad Richards – New York Rangers (nine years, $6.7 million per season)
The Rangers landed the belle of the free agent ball in Richards. Many other teams were frustrated in the process. After Richards and his agency held court in Toronto, letting other teams meet with him for hours at a time, he chose a team who (a) was rumored to land him all along and (b) didn’t show up for the pitching process.
New York may get a few good seasons out of the playmaker but the Broadway Blueshirts have had terrible luck with big free-agent centers in the past (Bobby Holik, Chris Drury). Richards wisely frontloaded his contract, perhaps knowing that his concussed brain may only hold up for a few more years.
2. James Wisniewski – Columbus Blue Jackets (six years, $5.5 million per season)
It was nice to see the underrated Wisniewski, a warrior who also contributes on the power play, get the recognition he deserves. But $5.5 million per season is a little steep, is it not? Maybe Columbus wanted to send a message to Jeff Carter: it wants to win now.
3. Tim Connolly – Toronto Maple Leafs (two years, $4.75 million per season)
The cap hit may seem high for an injury-prone guy like Connolly but the move works for me. Toronto had oodles of cap space, the short contract term eliminates injury concern, and Connolly should boost the team’s woeful power-play. When healthy, he’s an excellent playmaker.
4. Tomas Fleischmann – Florida Panthers (four years, $4.5 million per season)
Fleischmann is an underrated scorer who never really got a chance to spread his wings in Washington since he had so much talented competition for ice time. He exploded for 21 points in 22 games with Colorado last season before succumbing to a blood clot. He’s reportedly healthy now and will get a chance to prove himself as a first-liner in Florida.
5. Ville Leino – Buffalo Sabres (six years, $4.5 million per season)
Like Florida, Buffalo had a ton of money to spend and wanted to snag as many above-average players as possible to show its fans that it was time for a culture change. Any team would be happy to have Leino. He’s solid at both ends of the ice, offensively creative and still young enough to get better. My guess is that he’ll be worth the $4.5-million cap hit.
6. Erik Cole – Montreal Canadiens (four years, $4.5 million per season)
Sigh. Can the Habs get through one offseason without throwing questionable money at a past-his-prime player? Erik Cole gives Montreal some sorely needed size up front but has missed 15 or more games in half his NHL seasons. He turns 33 this November and probably got a million more per year than he’s worth.
7. Tomas Kaberle – Carolina Hurricanes (three years, $4.25 million per season)
A few years ago, we all expected Tomas Kaberle to get a significant raise on his next contract – maybe to $6 million or so per season. However, even though he won a Stanley Cup this spring, he played himself out of some money. His flaws were exposed on the national stage and he had to accept a lower salary as a result.
8. Ed Jovanovski – Florida Panthers (four years, $4.125 million per season)
This move was just about optics. Dale Tallon was flexing his financial muscle and gave Jovanovski, a 35-year-old, injury-prone rearguard, more money and years than he deserved. He may help for a year or two but Florida will regret the deal after that.
9. Simon Gagne – Los Angeles Kings (two years, $3.5 million per season)
Good move for the Kings. They know their window to challenge for a Stanley Cup is now – so why not add a veteran like Simon Gagne? He’ll help at both ends of the ice and could recapture his chemistry with Mike Richards, who came over via trade.
10. Roman Hamrlik – Washington Capitals (two years, $3.5 million per season)
Goaltending and defense have been missing pieces of Washington’s puzzle for years. Getting Tomas Vokoun for nothing was huge and Hamrlik should help, too. His prime is long gone but he’s big and can eat minutes.