The Most Eye-Popping Contracts Signed So Far in 2013 NHL Free Agency

Al DanielCorrespondent IIJuly 6, 2013

The Most Eye-Popping Contracts Signed So Far in 2013 NHL Free Agency

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    As early as it is in the NHL’s free-agent summer signing spree, at least three teams have already made surprisingly lucrative deals with new players as of Saturday evening.

    Other signings or re-signings might fit under the heading of “somewhat surprising” or, at the very least, “a little daring.” Those would be the operative terms for Tampa Bay’s five-year deal with Valtteri Filppula for a $5 million cap hit and the Phoenix Coyotes’ six-year extension on Mike Smith, which makes him the priciest player on the roster.

    However, one can make a much sturdier case to deem those deals reasonable than, say, the following featured in this slideshow. Only these few signings constitute the truly eye-popping pacts made within the first two calendar days of free agency in 2013.

    Each of these contracts involve devoting substantial salary cap space to aging and/or recently injured forwards and, in turn, leaving potentially too little room to fill other needs in the coming campaign.

    Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics and salary information for this report were found via capgeek.com.

Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss

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    What makes the deals for these two new Detroit forwards eye-popping has less to do with the players themselves, particularly the younger one, and more with the way the deals impact the Red Wings’ salary stature.

    CapGeek itself said it best in a tweet that read “Red Wings have $2.3M in cap space and a glut of forwards after Stephen Weiss signing.”

    Indeed, Stephen Weiss comes with a $4.9 million cap hit, while Daniel Alfredsson consumes $5.5 million worth of space. In turn, they suddenly trail only Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg among Detroit’s priciest offensive players, of which there are 14 on the team’s NHL payroll.

    Meanwhile, the Wings barely have a quorum of six NHL blueliners on their chart with, as mentioned, only roughly $2.3 million to work with. In addition, there are some notable names in both positions who remain UFAs or RFAs, such as promising youngsters Gustav Nyquist and Brendan Smith.

    It will be interesting to see what seasoned general manager Ken Holland does to ensure the team can at least lock in a spare defenseman, whether that's Smith or somebody else.

Nathan Horton

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    Nathan Horton’s past two playoffs, in which time he charged up a 15-21-36 scoring log over 43 games, certainly makes him worth acquiring. But the reason why he missed another postseason in 2012 means he comes with a caveat.

    Horton has been through multiple concussions since becoming a Boston Bruin at the start of the 2010-11 season. Now he will spend the summer recovering from a shoulder ailment before he debuts with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

    If the worst of the 28-year-old’s health history is behind him, he should be a thoroughly worthwhile additive to the Jackets. But for now, a seven-year pact with a $5.3 million cap hit is more than a little bold when two or three seasons and/or a slightly lower hit would have been a safer starting point.

Jarome Iginla

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    Before Friday, the Boston Bruins had a little less than $12 million in cap space and had yet to re-sign goaltender Tuukka Rask.

    By the end of Friday, they had slimmed down to a little less than $6 million in spare room by signing Jarome Iginla to a one-year, $6 million pact. By late Saturday evening, there was still nothing regarding Rask.

    All the while, ESPN Boston reporter Joe McDonald wrote this week that Rask “could be asking for up to $8.5 million per year for a seven- or eight-year contract.”

    Unless the Bruins can pluck Marc Savard’s cap hit of over $4 million off the books, it will be difficult to accommodate Rask at a cost that approaches as much as $5 million. Even without the long-injured Savard in the equation, it would be tough for them to afford another specimen of offensive depth if the need were to arise.

Vincent Lecavalier

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    After the Tampa Bay Lightning bought out the final seven years of his previous deal, Vincent Lecavalier found new employment with the already offensively stockpiled Philadelphia Flyers.

    Granted, his $4.5 million cap hit over five years trims $2 million in cap space from the bought-out contract of Danny Briere, whom Lecavalier is virtually replacing on the depth chart. But that still does not leave a lot of cap space for the Flyers, who at the time of the signing had only one NHL-caliber goalie in Steve Mason on their payroll.

    Philadelphia has since obtained Ray Emery with a $1.65 million hit to fill that goaltending vacancy, thus pushing their cap payroll above the limit.

    They could rid themselves of a couple of their spare defensemen, particularly Bruno Gervais and/or Marc-Andre Bourdon. But it would leave little in the way of open space for when and if the Flyers need to make another move during the 2013-14 season.

    Even without the cap constraints, there is also Lecavalier’s recent history of injuries―which have barred him from playing the full slate in any of the past three seasons―and occasional underachievement. Those doubtlessly factored into his buyout from the Bolts and have, at times, practically made him look older than his real age of 33.

    By the time this contract is up, he will be 38, and barring a sharp turnaround in the way of health, one can only imagine if he will be worth the price in the coming years.