10 NHL Free-Agency Moves Sure to Backfire
NHL teams head to market each summer with acquisition money and a clear idea about which players to target. Sometimes they lose their man and have to settle for a less ideal option, and sometimes they target the wrong player.
This summer, NHL fans saw a little of both, including two monster mistakes destined to live in infamy.
Here are 10 moves via free agency that are guaranteed to backfire on NHL teams.
10. Shawn Thornton, RW, Florida Panthers
The Investment: Shawn Thornton signed a two-year, $2.4 million contract with the Florida Panthers.
The Role: Thornton provides energy and a physical element to the fourth line. He's a stand-up teammate and can handle his own in the fighting department. The Hockey News mentions his ability to intimidate opponents.
The Problem: Last year, the Bruins could employ a poor possession player like Thornton because of their firepower elsewhere. Florida isn't close to that kind of team, and the second year of the contract may be painful.
9. Nick Schultz, D, Philadelphia Flyers
The Investment: Nick Schultz signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Role: Schultz is a veteran defenseman with 880 regular-season NHL games on his resume. That kind of experience gives Philadelphia much-needed depth and a quality penalty-killer.
The Problem: Defensemen historically fade as they approach 1,000 games, and Schultz is moving down the depth chart in a hurry. He played 21 minutes a night in 2009-10 but has seen his playing time reduced as he gets older. In 2013-14, Schultz played only 11:54 per night after being traded to Columbus. Schultz is close to the end of his career and unlikely to help in 2014-15.
8. Martin Havlat, LW, New Jersey Devils
The Investment: Martin Havlat signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the New Jersey Devils.
The Role: Havlat is a fine offensive winger who can impact the offense at even strength and on the power play. For every 82 games he's played in the NHL, Havlat has averaged 26 goals and 63 points over his career.
The Problem: The injury list for Havlat over the years is long and consistent. If he can stay healthy, the Devils have a gem. There is no evidence to suggest that will happen.
7. Daniel Cleary, RW, Detroit Red Wings
The Investment: Daniel Cleary signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Detroit Red Wings. The contract also has a $1 million kicker for bonuses.
The Role: Daniel Cleary's role during his best days with the Red Wings was as a reliable winger who could chip in on offense. He's scored some big goals for Detroit, and the Red Wings have rewarded those performances with contract loyalty.
The Problem: The last contract was marginal, and Cleary's abilities have been eroding for some time. This deal is really questionable, and Detroit had other available options. This contract is likely to be regrettable this time next season.
6. Olli Jokinen, C, Nashville Predators
The Investment: Olli Jokinen signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Nashville Predators.
The Role: As this NHL.com article indicates, the Predators acquired Jokinen for his size and offensive ability, among other things. Nashville badly needs the markers, as it was below-average in goals scored in 2013-14.
The Problem: Olli Jokinen is 35 years old, and his 43 points in 82 games last season are not indicative of a difference-maker offensively. The Predators needed to aim higher and did little with this signing beyond effectively replacing David Legwand's offense.
5. Deryk Engelland, D, Calgary Flames
The Investment: Deryk Engelland signed a three-year, $8.75 million deal with the Calgary Flames.
The Role: Engelland is a tough defenseman who can also play the wing. This NHL.com article quotes him in regard to his future role in Calgary:
I've talked to Brad and [Burke] and Bob, and they all see more from me in my game if I get an opportunity to play a little more and become more of a leader and a bigger role on the team. They think I can grow as a player and I do too. They all see more from me in my game if I get an opportunity to play a little more and become more of a leader and a bigger role on the team. They think I can grow as a player and I do too.
The Problem: The Flames paid in full for Engelland. It's clear from the quote in the NHL.com article that the team thinks he can add to his range of skills. It rarely happens for veteran players, and if Engelland fills the enforcer role while serving as a third-pairing defender, there's a lot of waste in his contract.
4. Ryan Miller, G, Vancouver Canucks
The Investment: Ryan Miller signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks.
The Role: Miller is a marquee starting goaltender in the NHL. His contract reflects that, as does the blockbuster trade at this year's deadline that landed Miller in St. Louis.
The Problem: The Canucks are a good team but have significant holes at forward. If they find the going difficult, Vancouver will have spent heavily on a veteran goalie who can't get the team into the postseason. Miller's presence is also slowing the development of Eddie Lack. The decision to sign him came at a curious time for Vancouver.
3. Jarome Iginla, RW, Colorado Avalanche
The Investment: Jarome Iginla signed a three-year, $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche.
The Role: Iginla remains an effective scorer and is a durable, physical winger. In this Rick Sadowski article for NHL.com, the veteran explains what he can deliver:
I don't want to be arrogant, but I do believe I can still be very good and continue to be able to contribute offensively as a good player and compete and be physical and skate. I love the game as much as ever and I work as hard as ever in the summer and I look forward to doing that.
The Problem: The Avalanche are a fast, young team and Iginla is an older, slow winger. There was a time when he could have run with the impact youth in Colorado, but at 37, those days are gone. Iginla's three-year deal with Colorado no doubt involves the hopes of winning a Stanley Cup, but the team and the player are not destined to flourish together.
2. Dave Bolland, C, Florida Panthers
The Investment: Dave Bolland signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Florida Panthers.
The Role: Alain Poupart's article for NHL.com quotes Florida general manager Dale Tallon talking about Bolland and what he brings to the Panthers:
David is a unique player. He's a hockey player. The statistics don't tell the story with him. He gets the job done. He goes against other teams' top players. He's skilled, but he's gritty and he's smart defensively. The team is No. 1 with him. He's a champion in every league that he's been in, and he's got tremendous toughness and skill and all those things that we want him to lead our young guys with.
The Problem: The Panthers are paying a role player $5.5 million a year. NHL teams need offensive return for that kind of contract, and Bolland last posted a season of more than 40 points in 2008-09. He is among the highest-paid checkers in the game, and his ability to lead the young Panthers to the playoffs will be limited by his inability to make a difference on the scoresheet.
1. Brooks Orpik, D, Washington Capitals
The Investment: Brooks Orpik signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Washington Capitals.
The Role: Orpik is a tough defenseman who plays a physical game and keeps the opposition honest. He played over 21 minutes a night last season and is a horse at even strength and on the penalty kill.
The Problem: The Capitals have invested long-term in a 33-year-old defenseman with a lot of miles. Orpik is also one-dimensional—he doesn't bring any offense—and is at a point in his career where injuries will be an issue. New Capitals coach Barry Trotz addressed Orpik's challenges, as this NHL.com article by Adam Vingan indicates, and he believes the signing is a positive for the organization.
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