10 NHL Free Agents Teams Will Be Tempted to Overpay, but Shouldn't
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NHL teams are not feeling the impact of the new salary cap this year.
However, next year will be a different story. Teams will be forced to keep their players' salaries at the $64.3 million mark or below (source: SI.com).
A reduction in salaries paid to players was the primary reason owners locked players out for four months this season prior to the two sides agreeing to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The NHL will have its usual complement of players available through free agency next summer.
Teams will be tempted to offer big-money contracts to a number of players.
Here are 10 players teams should avoid giving multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts to this summer.
(All salary figures are from capgeek.com.)
Alex Semin, Carolina Hurricanes
Alex Semin was a free agent at the end of last season after a seven-year run with the Washington Capitals. Despite having a powerful shot and a knack for scoring goals, Semin was ignored by the large majority of NHL teams.
The only offer that got Semin's attention was a one-year, $7 million bid by the Carolina Hurricanes that Semin signed.
Semin has scored three goals and seven assists in 14 games this season and he has a plus-10 rating.
Semin has hustled and played well this year. However, he has not always played as hard in the past.
Teams that are considering giving Semin a long-term, big-money contract should reassess their position and hold on to their money.
Once Semin gets a big deal, he may be inclined to take several nights off next year.
Niklas Backstrom, Minnesota Wild
Niklas Backstrom is a good goalie for the Minnesota Wild.
He is earning $6 million this season.
However, Backstrom is not an elite level goalie. The 35-year-old from Helsinki, Finland is in his seventh year in the NHL and he has a career 2.42 goals against average along with a .918 save percentage.
That's probably not good enough to help a good team become a great one, or an average team become a good one.
Backstrom deserves a contract, but he does not deserve to be paid at the elite goalie level.
Lubomir Visnovsky, New York Islanders
Lubomir Visnovsky has been a productive defenseman in the NHL. He scored 68 points as recently as the 2010-11 season with the Anaheim Ducks.
However, Visnovsky is 36 years old and is earning $3 million this season (prorated) and the Islanders are taking a $5.6 million cap hit.
At the end of the lockout, Visnovsky did not want to leave the KHL and play for the Islanders.
That should tell any team that Visnovsky's heart is not with the NHL and that he would much rather be playing in the KHL in the future.
Sergei Gonchar, Ottawa Senators
Sergei Gonchar, 38, has had a solid NHL career as an offensive-minded defenseman.
However, he is clearly nearing the end of his career.
While he has scored as many as 26 goals in his career, he has not reached double-figures in goals since scoring 11 in 2009-10.
The injury to Erik Karlsson may mean that the Senators will ask more of Gonchar from an offensive perspective this year and that could allow him to put more impressive numbers on the board.
However, teams should not be taken in if he does. Gonchar is earning $5.5 million (prorated) this year and he should not be getting anything close to that in the future because he's no longer an elite player.
Mike Ribeiro, Washington Capitals
Mike Ribeiro is a clever offensive player who is off to a solid start with the Washington Capitals this season.
He uses his balance and skating ability to weave past opponents, set up teammates, and put himself in a position to score.
He has 18 points in his first 15 games with the Caps.
But while Ribeiro's presence can be felt, he is not the kind of player who is going to help his team win. He has not played consistently in his career and he doesn't always pay attention on the defensive end.
Ribeiro is earning $5 million (prorated) this year with the Caps. However, he has had negative plus-minus ratings in three consecutive years with the Dallas Stars from 2008-09 through 2010-11.
Teams that offer Ribeiro long-term, big-money contracts may regret it. He's just good enough to get his team beaten.
Tim Thomas, New York Islanders
Tim Thomas decided to sit out this season.
He was scheduled to earn $5 million to be the goaltender for the Boston Bruins, but shortly after the team was eliminated from the 2012 playoffs by the Washington Capitals, Thomas informed Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli (source: NHL.com) that he wanted to take the year off.
That unusual decision did not stop the New York Islanders from trading for Thomas (source: CBSSports.com). They know that the goalie does not plan to play this year, but the Islanders were able to absorb the salary cap hit without having to pay Thomas.
Thomas has said he still wants to play in 2013-14. The Islanders can "toll" the contract, which would force him to play for them next season. They could also let the contract expire, which would allow him to become a free agent during the summer.
Thomas is a two-time Vezina Trophy winning goalie who has also earned the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP.
However, his flaky decision making—he infamously skipped a Bruins' White House visit (source: sportingnews.com) in addition to taking a year off—could make Thomas a risky investment for any team.
Tim Connolly, Toronto Maple Leafs
Tim Connolly was waived by the Toronto Maple Leafs and is playing for the AHL's Toronto Marlies this year (source: Rotoworld.com).
He is being paid $4 million and the Leafs are taking a cap hit of $4.75 million for Connolly this season. The 31-year-old scored 13 goals and 23 assists last year for the Leafs.
He will be a free agent at the end of the season. If he gets signed, it will likely be at the league's minimum or slightly above.
Andy McDonald, St. Louis Blues
Andy McDonald is a clever player who maneuvers well on the ice and knows how to find open teammates or take the shot when he has the opportunity.
McDonald, 35, is an important player for the St. Louis Blues. He has scored three goals and eight assists in his first 15 games this season. The Blues are taking a cap hit of $4.7 million on McDonald this season.
He is a good player who deserves a decent contract. However, he should not get a big-money, long-term deal.
McDonald played 25 games last year as he was sidelined the majority of the season with a head injury.
Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars
Brenden Morrow is earning $4.1 million (prorated) from the Dallas Stars.
The 34-year-old left wing will be a free agent at the end of the season. He has exceeded the 30-goal mark twice in his career. However, he scored 11 goals in 57 games last year.
He has scored three goals and four assists in his first 16 games this year.
He does not seem to be the kind of player that can be counted on for consistency.
Nik Antropov, Winnipeg Jets
Nik Antropov has the size and skills at 6'6" and 245 pounds to be a dominating player in the NHL.
He is certainly paid like a top performer. He is earning $4.75 million (prorated) this season and the Jets are taking a cap hit of $4,062,500.
Through his first 14 games with the Jets this season, Antropov has a goal and three assists.
Based on his productivity throughout his career, there is no way that Antropov deserves a big contract. His productivity has gone down consistently since the 2009-10 season.