NHL Free Agency 2011: 5 Best Value Signings so Far

Isaac SmithAnalyst IJuly 9, 2011

NHL Free Agency 2011: 5 Best Value Signings so Far

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    Last Friday marked the kick off of NHL Free Agency 2011.

    As some teams opened up their checkbooks and started signing free agents, people began to raise eye brows at some of the length and dollar figures of some of the contracts that were signed.

    As a Red Wings fan, I was most unimpressed with the signing of Jonathan Ericsson for $3.25 million a year for three years. I cannot strongly say that he will be worth it in the long run, but hey, I'm not Ken Holland.

    As for the rest of the league, there are a select few players that are worth much more than what their contracts for the upcoming season would indicate.

    This article examines the five best value signings in free agency thus far.

1. Tomas Vokoun Signs with the Washington Capitals

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    The Florida Panthers' GM, Dale Tallon, is an aggressive genius.

    Tallon has made monumental signings and trades in this past week of Free Agency (and prior to July 1st as well) to turn the Panthers from a team that has not made the playoffs since the lockout to a legitimate playoff contender.

    Key signings and acquisitions include forwards Scott Upshall, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, Sean Bergenheim, and Marcel Goc.

    On the back end, Tallon also signed Ed Jovanovski and acquired Brian Campbell from the Blackhawks.

    Although all of these signings look nothing short of spectacular on paper (minus Campbell's large cap hit), Tallon failed to retain the services of goaltender Tomas Vokoun, a move that could seriously cost the Cats over the next couple seasons.

    Vokoun has not had a GAA over 2.70 since 2000-01 and a save percentage of over 91.9 in every season since the lockout.

    If those numbers do not stand out to those reading, then perhaps the fact that the Washington Capitals signed him for a mere $1.5 million dollars for this upcoming year will raise some questions.

    Vokoun previously had a $5.7 million cap hit with the Panthers, so taking a ~70 percent pay cut to play with the Capitals raises multiple eye brows about why Vokoun and Tallon did not sit down to more serious negotiations if Tallon was going to be completely re-vamping the team through free agency and trades.

    Tallon's faith in Jose Theodore, who has had a GAA of above 2.70 for five of the last six seasons, is questionable to say the least.

2. Niclas Bergfors Signs with the Nashville Predators

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    Another player that Dale Tallon overlooked goes elsewhere.

    Tallon was unimpressed with Niclas Bergfors' seven points in 20 games.

    But Tallon missed the big picture.

    Bergfors put up 36 points in a season, split between Atlanta and Florida.

    Atlanta and Florida? 36 points? Hello?

    Anyone who puts up 36 points while splitting time between those clubs for a season deserves at least a high five and a pay raise.

    But Bergfors didn't even take a big raise, signing for just $575,000 for one year.

    Talk about value. There are other players in the league who make three or four times that amount and put up less points than Bergfors.

3. Brian Boucher Signs with the Carolina Hurricanes

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    Anybody? Alright, maybe not. The Brian Boucher era in Philadelphia ended with a bang and the Flyers were swept by the Bruins in the second round.

    But Boucher was not all to blame. Yes his playoff performance was brutal, (4-4 record, 3.13 GAA and 90.4 save percentage) but his regular season numbers (18-10-4 record, 2.42 GAA, and 91.6 save percentage) are nothing to put down.

    Boucher will at least be a proven back-up goalie in Carolina instead of being rotated in a three-man merry-go-round goaltender set in Philadelphia.

    He was signed for two years at $1.9 million, and his cap hit over two years at $950,000 is also very friendly.

    Boucher will provide some valuable experience off the bench and can obviously still start (and win) games as well.

4. Sheldon Souray Signs with the Dallas Stars

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    I'm waiting to get all the hate mail from the Oilers fans for putting Sheldon Souray on this list.

    I mean, the guy is hated in Edmonton by pretty much everyone in the organization and by most of the fans as well.

    But this signing of a one-year contract for $1.65 million is too good of a steal for me to leave it off this list.

    Souray is just two years removed from a 53 point season in 2009 (including a surprising 23 goals), and his addition to the Stars will bolster a defense that includes the likes of Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski, Nicklas Grossman and others.

    Souray brings a hard shot and a veteran presence and will be a good fit with the Stars organization if he can stay healthy.

5. Mike Commodore Signs with the Detroit Red Wings

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    Every year, Red Wings fans complain about the team's toughness and grit.

    Well, this season that will not be the case.

    With the signing of Mike Commodore at a value bet of $1 million for a year, Wings fans can rest assured that Commodore (along with the free agent acquisition of Ian White) will ensure that the Red Wings are not lacking in grit or toughness.

    Commodore was bought out by the Columbus Blue Jackets and cleared re-entry waivers.

    Red Wings GM Ken Holland reached out to him and signed him for a low risk, high reward contract.

    Commodore also brings a right handed shot to Detroit's blue line, something they were looking to pick up after the recent retirement of Brian Rafalski.

Who Wins the Cup Next?

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    Ultimately, we hype up the big name free agents coming onto the market. We hold them to the highest expectations and expect them to come up with clutch goals, hits or saves. But the value bet free agents make or break a Stanley Cup championship team.

    Players step up and make plays and make a name for themselves. As big name free agents go, it will be these smaller signings that end up making a difference and clinching a Cup for a team.