NHL Free Agency 2013: The Biggest Winner and Loser from Each Major Signing

Steve SilvermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 10, 2013

NHL Free Agency 2013: The Biggest Winner and Loser from Each Major Signing

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    Signing free agents is a double-edged sword.

    For every party involved in the signing, there's a winner and a loser. Sometimes it may be difficult to determine the two and there may be more than one loser involved, but a free-agency signing will impact several parties.

    The obvious choice is to say that a team that signed a big-name player is the winner and the team that could not hold that player is the loser. But it's not always that simple.

    Here's our look at the winners and losers from the biggest signings in free agency.

    (All contract and salary information is courtesy of CapGeek.com)

Vincent Lecavalier, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Winner: Lecavalier.

    First, he got the news that his 11-year, $85 million contract got bought out. That was not unexpected, and it meant that he would receive $32,666,670 from the Lightning. Then, Lecavalier became an immediate free agent and didn't have to wait for July 5 to sign since he was no longer under the constraints of a contract.

    The Flyers beat out the Montreal Canadiens, Dallas Stars and Detroit Red Wings for Lecavalier's services, as he signed a five-year, $22.5 million deal.

    Losers: The Canadiens have had Lecavalier on their wish list for years. His name has often come up when trade possibilities with the Lightning were considered. The price was always too high for the Canadiens. However, when they had a chance to sign him after he came on the open market, they lost out to the Flyers. That won't sit well in Montreal, especially if Lecavalier has a big year with the Flyers.

Jarome Iginla, Boston Bruins

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    Winners: Boston Bruins.

    The Bruins had to make a move at the right wing position. Nathan Horton left the team through free agency and Tyler Seguin was traded to the Dallas Stars. They also decided they were not interested in bringing back late-season acquisition Jaromir Jagr.

    They brought Jarome Iginla into the fold, giving him $6 million to play for the Bruins in 2013-14. Iginla will receive that much if he can reach his performance and appearance bonus levels. If he can't, the Bruins are on the hook for just $1.8 million

    Loser: Jagr.

    The Bruins chose Iginla over Jagr. They could have brought the 41-year-old Jagr back had they chosen to, but they let Jagr know at his end-of-season interview that they were not interested in retaining his services. When Horton surprised them by saying he was leaving, they could have revisited the Jagr decision, but they did not.

Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Winners: Phoenix Coyotes.

    The Coyotes are a gritty team that has had many off-the-ice issues that have gotten in the way of their progress. However, they have a slew of talented young defensive prospects and they play hard for head coach Dave Tippett. They don't have a lot of high-level offensive players, but the signing of Mike Ribeiro changes that.

    Ribeiro (four years, $22 million) is a talented offensive player who scored 49 points for the Washington Capitals in 48 games. His creativity should make the Coyotes a more dangerous offensive team.

    Losers: Washington Capitals.

    This hurts the Capitals badly. General manager George McPhee may have wanted to keep costs in line, but the Caps lost one of their most productive offensive players. His departure puts extra pressure on Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and head coach Adam Oates. The second-year coach does not know where his second-line scoring will come from without Ribeiro.

Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit Red Wings

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    Winners: Detroit Red Wings.

    The Red Wings came on at the end of the season, making the playoffs in the final week and then beating the Anaheim Ducks in the quarterfinals and extending the eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks to a seven-game semifinals series.

    The Red Wings are moving to the Eastern Conference this season, and they are going to be quite competitive. They have added former Senators superstar Daniel Alfredsson to add speed and scoring. This should make them a stronger and more dangerous team.

    Losers: Alfredsson and Ottawa Senators.

    Alfredsson may still be a productive player, but he will not be the main man for the Red Wings. He will be a supporting player, and that may not be enough for him as the season progresses. He also may feel wistful toward his old team.

    The Senators have been hurt badly by Alfredsson's departure. He has been the face of the franchise for years, and he chose to leave.

David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Winners Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Is this the perfect signing? No.

    Did the Maple Leafs spend too much on Clarkson after inking him to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract? Probably.

    However, the Maple Leafs need players similar to Clarkson. He scored 30 goals in 2011-12, and he is not afraid to go to the front of the net, take an elbow from a defenseman and hang in and make a play.

    Losers: New Jersey Devils.

    Clarkson's the kind of player that the offensively challenged Devils can't afford to lose. They scored an average of 2.29 goals per game, ranking 28th in the NHL. It sends a bad message to the rest of the team that they did not see fit to keep this hard-working and effective player on board.

Ryane Clowe, New Jersey Devils

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    Winners: Third-line players.

    Ryane Clowe is not a superstar. He is a gritty guy who will go into the corners, fight hard for the puck and try to make a play. He will also play hard-nosed defense and he can shut down high-scoring forwards.

    But Clowe is not a scorer. He had three goals last year as he split his time between the San Jose Sharks and the New York Rangers. That was good enough to get him a five-year, $24.25 million contract. That should lift the spirits of every third-line player in the NHL.

    Losers: New Jersey Devils.

    Lou Lamoriello is one of the sharpest general managers in the league. He may be No. 1 on that list. However, he missed it with the Clowe signing. He has no need to spend so much of his limited resources on a player who is not going to put the puck in the net.

Nathan Horton, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Winners: Columbus Blue Jackets.

    The Blue Jackets took a huge step up in 2013, going from from the worst team in the NHL to a playoff contender. They have continued to grow in the offseason, as former Stanley Cup champion Nathan Horton (seven years, $37.1 million) chose to play in Columbus over the Boston Bruins.

    While Horton has shoulder problems that will keep him out of action for the first half of the season, he should be solid in the second half of the year. He has a powerful shot and is good around the net, so this is a great move for the Jackets. 

    Losers: Boston Bruins.

    It has to be quite troubling to Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien that Horton would prefer Columbus over Boston. Horton says he wanted a "new beginning," and that's why he wants to play for the Blue Jackets instead of the Bruins. That doesn't seem to make much sense for a player who has been at his best in the postseason. There may be more to the story, and the Bruins need to know the truth.

Michael Ryder, New Jersey Devils

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    Winners: New Jersey Devils.

    Bringing in Ryder on a two-year, $7 million deal is a stroke of genius for Lamoriello. Ryder is a proven goal scorer and an excellent clutch player. He had 35 goals in 2011-12 for the Dallas Stars, and he produced in the truncated season for the Stars and Montreal Canadiens. The presence of Ryder gives the Devils a true sniper who can hit the top corner from 30 or 35 feet.

    Losers: Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.

    Ryder produced well after coming back to the Canadiens for his second tour of duty. However, they were not interested in keeping him. The Bruins went after their former Stanley Cup playoff hero, but their offer apparently was not as strong as New Jersey's.

Bryan Bickell, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Winners: Chicago Blackhawks.

    Head coach Joel Quenneville got a huge lift from Bryan Bickell in the postseason. The big left wing played a very aggressive game and he came through with nine postseason goals and eight assists. The Blackhawks were set to lose this Stanley Cup hero through free agency, but he signed a four-year, $16 million deal to remain in Chicago before free agency opened July 5. That was good news as the Blackhawks get ready to defend their title in 2013-14.

    Loser: Bickell. Yes, he got a good deal from the Blackhawks, but he could have gotten a great deal had he hit the open market. Bickell should have been able to top Ryane Clowe, who signed with the Devils for $8.25 million more than he received.

Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers

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    Winners: Philadelphia Flyers.

    The Flyers' goaltending situation was shaky with Ilya Bryzgalov. They bought out their former goaltender and signed Chicago Blackhawks backup Ray Emery, who had a sensational 2013 season. Emery was 17-1-0 for the Blackhawks and split the regular-season duties with Corey Crawford. Emery will have a chance to compete with late-season acquisition Steve Mason for the starting netminder job in Philadelphia.

    Losers: Chicago Blackhawks. The Blackhawks have tried to shrug off the loss of Emery by signing veteran Nikolai Khabibulin, However, there's no guarantee Khabibulin will be able to handle the workload and play at the same level that Emery did last year. If he can't, the Blackhawks will struggle whenever Crawford needs a night off.