Winners and Losers from the 1st Day of 2014 NHL Free Agency
Whether the Capitals are winners Tuesday, well, that's another question.
More than $400 million in contracts were dispensed by teams, some of it wisely, some of it in ways that make you wonder what they were thinking (looking at you, Deryk Engelland for three years and $8.7 million to the Calgary Flames).
Who won? Who lost? There's no better time to judge the value of contracts than less than eight hours after they were signed, so let's go ahead and do that here.
All signings per NHL.com.
Winners: Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning have made themselves the class of the Eastern Conference during the offseason, something that continued Tuesday.
The Lightning added defenseman Anton Stralman by signing him to a five-year, $22.5 million contract, then signed fellow ex-New York Ranger Brian Boyle to a three-year, $6 million contract. A few days earlier, GM Steve Yzerman re-signed Ryan Callahan, who was acquired at the trade deadline from the Rangers, for six years and $34.8 million.
The Callahan contract isn't great, but acquiring Jason Garrison from the Vancouver Canucks for a second-round pick fortified a defense that only got stronger by signing Stralman.
Tampa Bay also signed Evgeni Nabokov to give Ben Bishop a veteran backup in net, something that was lacking last year.
The Lightning finished with 101 points last season despite Steven Stamkos missing three months of the season with a broken leg. With these upgrades, they are the team to beat in the East entering this season.
Losers: Washington Capitals
Brooks Orpik. Five years, $27.5 million.
The Capitals could have added Paul Stastny for five years and five dollars and this still would have been a terrible day for Washington.
Instead, they also gave Matt Niskanen seven years and $40.25 million.
That's 12 years and $67.75 million to land the Pittsburgh Penguins' fourth- and fifth-best defensemen.
It was no secret that the Capitals were in the market for a defenseman. They were interested in Niskanen, and having former Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden in the mix certainly made the Caps a more attractive destination. It turns out it helped land not just Niskanen, but Orpik as well.
Orpik will be 34 years old when the season begins and has been an absolute disaster the past three years as his speed and mobility have diminished. According to ExtraSkater, he has been a negative possession player, both raw and relative, both regular season and postseason, the past three seasons.
How do you think those numbers will look over the course of this five-year contract?
Niskanen has some upside, however, although Orpik should cancel that out. The 27-year-old played well when Orpik, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Rob Scuderi all went down at the same time with injuries last season, but he has not proved himself to be a top-pairing defenseman for longer than half a season.
Niskanen alone would have been a nice day for the Caps, but overpaying Orpik is too big a cloud hovering over the organization.
Winners: New Jersey Devils
Finishing has been a problem the past two years for the New Jersey Devils, who have been one of the best possession teams but haven't been all that great at scoring goals.
By signing Michael Cammalleri to a five-year, $25 million contract, they have addressed that problem.
By landing the talented but perpetually injured Martin Havlat for one year and $1.5 million, they took a small risk that could reap huge returns.
The Devils lost Mark Fayne to the Edmonton Oilers, but the they have a bushel of young defensemen ready to step into the breach, including former first-round pick Adam Larsson.
Cammalleri had 26 goals in 63 games last season, something that was very appealing to a Devils team that finished 27th in goals last season and has struggled since losing Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk the past two offseasons. Cammalleri is 32 and his best days may be behind him, but if he can just get to 25 goals, he'll be a huge addition.
Havlat, meanwhile, had the final two seasons of his contract bought out by the San Jose Sharks after playing only 48 games last season. He has played fewer than 60 games in six of the past nine seasons and at age 33, getting 70 or more games out of him seems unlikely.
But if he can stay healthy, the Devils did very well to boost their offense.
Losers: New York Rangers
Those are downgrades across the board for the reigning Eastern Conference champions, who did re-sign fourth-liner Dominic Moore.
The one major addition was Boyle, who, at 38 years old, should be effective enough after signing a two-year, $9 million contract. But with Stralman signing a five-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning for five years and the same cap hit, why wouldn't the Rangers keep the younger, better blueliner?
Boyle should help the power play—he had six power-play goals last season—but he won't be working with talents like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau or Joe Pavelski in New York. It's a break-even signing, at best.
The Rangers did nothing to replace Richards or Pouliot on Tuesday, and Glass is about the worst fourth-line forward a team could sign and is a huge downgrade over Dorsett, who was dealt during the draft. A well-placed fire hydrant could put up better possession numbers than Glass.
The Rangers made their run to the Stanley Cup Final on the strength of their depth and did very little to replenish it on the first day of free agency.
Winners: Dallas Stars
The Dallas Stars wanted to add a center behind Tyler Seguin and did so without giving up all that much. With a dearth of free-agent centers available, the Stars acquired Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators for Alex Chiasson, two prospects and a 2015 second-round pick.
Not longer after, the Stars added Ales Hemsky, who spent the final six weeks of last season in Ottawa, to a three-year, $12 million deal.
That's some efficient, quality work by Stars general manager Jim Nill.
Spezza has one year left on his contract, but a successful season with Dallas could get him to stay longer. He had 23 goals in 75 games last season, a number he could improve upon as Seguin and Jamie Benn draw most of the attention.
In Hemsky, the Stars land a player who had great chemistry with Spezza after arriving at the trade deadline from Edmonton. Hemsky had 17 points in 20 games and has a great chance to match those numbers with Spezza as his center again this season.
For a look at how underrated Hemsky is, check out this piece by Adam Gretz over at SB Nation.
The Stars also signed Anders Lindback to serve as the team's backup goaltender.
Losers: Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings came into free agency with a pressing need—a top-four defenseman, preferably one that is right-handed.
At the end of the day, the Red Wings came up empty.
It's admirable that general manager Ken Holland doesn't want to break the bank to land either an aging player or someone he feels isn't worth the contract, but it says a lot that Boyle and Ehrhoff took less money or shorter deals to go elsewhere.
The Red Wings went through the entire first day without signing a single free agent from another team. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press wondered if Detroit is still a desirable destination, which it seems like it is not.
At 7:13 p.m. ET, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported the Wings re-signed Kyle Quincey to a two-year deal, so they ended up getting a defenseman after their first four choices (at least) turned them down.
Winners: St. Louis Blues
Any time you can land the top center on the market, you've made your team better and had a good day.
Paul Stastny's cap hit is immense ($7 million), but the four-year term makes it great for the St. Louis Blues. The team ignored scoring at last year's trade deadline, opting to add goaltender Ryan Miller instead, then watched the goals dry up as the season concluded and playoffs began.
The 28-year-old had 25 goals and 60 points in 71 regular-season games last season, and it's reasonable to think he can match that over the course of the contract. According to Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, general manager Doug Armstrong envisions center David Backes moving to right wing to accommodate Stastny's arrival.
All the West powers are deep at center, and the Blues showed they're willing and able to keep up with them.
Winners: Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild were in the market for offense, and they added it without spending too much to do so.
Thomas Vanek agreed to a three-year, $19.5 million contract and will bring with him 556 points in 663 career games. The 30-year-old had 27 goals and 68 points in 78 games with the Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens last season.
The Wild finished 24th in scoring last season, making Vanek a welcome addition. A lot has been made of his disappointing postseason with the Canadiens, but he still has 20 goals in 53 career playoff games.
The Wild could still use another defenseman, but a look at the cost of some of the top guys shows staying out of that fray was for the best.
Losers: Colorado Avalanche
Sure, the Avalanche signed Jarome Iginla to a three-year, $16 million deal, but their lack of willingness to pay Paul Stastny will be a huge detriment toward them making the postseason against next season.
Trading P.A. Parenteau on Monday for a 36-year-old Daniel Briere also weakened the team.
To summarize, the Avs got weaker down the middle and older overall. Considering they defied the possession stats to reach the playoffs last year, it may take some more luck for them to get back there again.
One problem for Iginla when he was with Pittsburgh in 2013 was his inability to stay with his speedy linemates. The Avalanche have speed throughout their lineup, which makes this look like it's not an ideal fit.
Winners: Pittsburgh Penguins
Let's take a quick glimpse at the money given to the unrestricted free agents of the Pittsburgh Penguins by other teams:
- Brooks Orpik: Five years, $27.5 million
- Matt Niskanen: Seven years, $40.25 million
- Jussi Jokinen: Four years, $16 million
That's a lot of overpayments for players who may never match the numbers they posted last season.
The Penguins' big move was signing defenseman Christian Ehrhoff to a one-year, $4 million deal, an absolute bargain. He will slide into the second pairing and replace the offense lost on the power play by the departure of Niskanen.
Throw in the fact the Penguins upgraded at backup goaltender by signing Thomas Greiss to a one-year, $1 million deal and retained the services of Marcel Goc with a one-year, $1.2 million deal, and it was a nice day for a team that had very little space to operate under the cap.
Losers: Toronto Maple Leafs
It doesn't say much for your franchise as a destination for players when someone chooses to go to the worst team in the league instead of yours.
That's what Josh Gorges did Tuesday, when he accepted a trade to the Buffalo Sabres after nixing one that would have sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I still think as much as Buffalo has some good young players they want to develop, the goal has to be to make the playoffs," said Gorges on Sportsnet (via Yahoo Sports' Greg Wyshynski).
While the Sabres have no chance at the postseason, it says a lot that he'd rather go there than to the Leafs.
As for signings, the Leafs gave a three-year deal to Stephane Robidas, who is 37 years old and broke his leg twice last year, and a four-year deal to Leo Komarov, who spent last season in the KHL after serving as a member of the Leafs in 2012-13.
There is still time for the Leafs to make themselves better during the offseason, but that certainly didn't happen Tuesday.
All contract figures via CapGeek.com.
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