NHL Free Agency 2011: 10 Players Teams Overpaid for
As free agency grinds to a halt and coaches and general managers head out on holiday in their respective directions, the impact of the signings we have seen start to settle in. Us fans start seeing the bigger picture, the winners, the losers, the good signings, the bad signings, and how each of the new players will affect each team.
We also start seeing the economics of it all, for example how teams work around the salary cap and use it to their advantage. We also notice the economics of the signings, and how much money is involved in each one.
Every year there are players that are robbed in free agency and players that are criminally overpaid. They are the most fun to pay attention to when the season starts, because they are the ones with the highest expectations.
Overpaid guys are almost always players that fill a specific need for a team. Team A needs a second-line right winger and they will go out and sign Player B, no matter how much it may cost. That is the often case with the ones listed below.
So, without further ado, I give you our top ten overpaid players for the 2011 offseason...
10. Scottie Upshall
4 Year - 14,000,000 - 3,500,000
The Panthers wasted no time going out an getting Scottie Upshall. Three hours into free agency, he was under contract for the upcoming season. They really wanted him, and they consequently greatly overpaid.
Last year, Upshall split the season between the Phoenix Coyotes and the Columbus Blue Jackets, playing all 82 games and scoring 22 goals and adding 12 assists for 34 points. He added 52 penalty minutes.
Decent numbers, but let's take a look at some players who played a similar amount of games and tallied a similar amount of points last season, and see what they will be earning next season:
Cal Clutterbuck 1,500,000 (79G 34P)
Magnus Paajarvi 900,000 (80G 34P)
Kyle Brodziak 1,300,000 (80G 37P)
Brian Boyle 1,600,000 (82G 35P)
What makes it all even worse is that he has somewhat of a no-trade clause, meaning if things go horribly wrong it will be difficult for the Panthers to move him.
Scottie Upshall is a pesky, irritating, right winger who may be given the opportunity to be Jonathan Huberdeau's winger. But is he worth 3.5 Million?
9. Michael Rupp
3 Year - 4,500,000 - 1,500,000
Michael Rupp is a fourth-liner fighter who can score the occasional goal. That is what he brings to his team. That is what the Rangers will be paying one and a half million for.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were smart not to re-sign him, because Rupp asked for this much and they knew it was too much.
The 6'5 American played in 81 games last year for the Penguins and put up nine goals and eight assists to go along with 124 penalty minutes playing as the fourth line winger. He was an effective penalty killer but was essentially the team's enforcer.
He signs as the highest paid fourth liner on the market by about 550,000, an amount many of them were signed to themselves. The one exception to that is ex-Washington Capitals center Boyd Gordon, who was signed by Phoenix for about 1,325,000 a season. While he too was significantly overpaid, he is more valuable than Rupp.
8. Ed Jovanovski
4 Year - 16,500,000 - 4,125,000
At his best, Ed Jovanovski is one of the best defensemen in the league. Unfortunately, his best is several years behind him.
In his prime, he was one of the elite players in the league, putting up separate season of 17 goals and 51 points as career highs. He has also played in five All-Star games.
As he's gotten older, he's seen his production and subsequently his ice time be significantly reduced as younger, fresher, better defensemen come up through the pipeline. Last year, he managed only five goals and nine assists in a season predictably cut short to 50 games by injuries. No All-Star game performance.
The Panthers have some of those younger, fresher, better defensemen in Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov, but their ice-time will now be limited by two greatly overpaid players (the Panthers also traded for Brian Campbell).
Paying over four million for a player several years past his prime is ridiculous. The Panthers will soon feel the effects.
7. Mathieu Garon
2 Year - 2,600,000 - 1,300,000
While Mathieu Garon is going to be a solid back-up for the Lightning, paying 1,300,000 million is a bad call by Steve Yzerman.
The Quebec native has always been a back-up at the NHL level. With Dwayne Roloson in net for next season and a fairly deep crop the year after, he will likely never be anything more with the Lightning.
The main reason the signing is overpaid so much is because there are other NHL back-ups that would sign later on for significantly less. Had the Lightning management waited just a little big longer, they would have gotten a better goaltender at a better price.
Brian Boucher 950,000
Peter Budaj 1,150,000
Alex Auld 1,000,000
Brian Elliott 600,000
Ty Conklin 750,000
In fact, Yzerman could have signed former starter JS Giguere for 1,250,000, and could have picked up starter Tomas Vokoun, who went to the Caps, for only 1,500,000.
A rookie mistake by the Lightning GM. He needs to be more patient in the market. Acceptable for now; not next time.
6. Tomas Fleischmann
4 Year - 18,000,000 - 4,500,000
It is no secret the Florida Panthers experienced a major rebuild this offseason. Unfortunately, general manager Dale Tallon was a little too trigger-happy with some of his signings.
Tomas Fleischmann is a great player, arguably the best one in our Top 10, but he is their third player on this list, and he comes to the Panthers as a 27-year-old with one 20-goal season and one 50-point season under his belt in his career at a price usually reserved for 30-goal scorers.
While his potential is still high, he has struggled with inconsistency throughout his career. His best year was in the Capitals' dominant 2009-2010 season, where he managed 23 goals and 51 points as the team's third line left-winger. Last season, he played 23 games with only 10 points before the Capitals shipped him to Colorado for defenseman Scott Hannan.
There he really shone, with 21 points in 22 games. If he can produce like that, the price is definitely worth it. The problem is, he probably won't.
Caps fans would grow extremely frustrated with the player they affectionately nicknamed 'Flash's inconsistencies; sometimes showing flashes of brilliance, often lagging behind the play.
Florida have him locked up to a four-year contract. He probably won't produce at a point-per-game pace for four seasons.
5. Erik Cole
4 Year - 18,000,000 - 4,500,000
The Montreal Canadiens needed to get tougher this offseason. They needed to sign at least two physical bottom-six forwards willing to fight and willing to go in hard on the forecheck.
Instead, they became even more offensive, signing Carolina forward Erik Cole to a ludicrous four year contract that will pay the 32-year-old an average of four and a half million a year. While he will help the Canadiens a lot, they didn't address the need that has led them to be eliminated from the playoffs these past two years. When the rigours of the long season and play-offs kick in, the Canadiens falter.
Two summers ago, Erik Cole signed a new deal with the Carolina Hurricanes that would pay him an average of 2.9 million a season. At that point, the fast forward was already visibly years beyond his prime, and a player who broke his neck at the age of 28 was tiring.
Last season, however, was a bounce back one for him. He finally managed to overcome his injuries and played all 82 games, scoring 26 goals for 52 points, as a player on the Hurricanes' first line.
If he can contribute like that for the next four years, he will be worth every penny.
Like Fleischmann, he probably won't.
4. Ville Leino
6 Year - 27,000,000 - 4,500,000
This offseason, he bolted to Buffalo during a mass clear-out in Philly. His dash earned him 27 million dollars.
The undrafted 27-year-old never took off with Detroit, but last year's breakthrough season was a clear indication of how high Ville Leino's potential is. The Buffalo Sabres have picked up a tremendous player who should slot straight into the team's first-line plans next season.
There is, however, a massive risk factor associated with this signing. His contract doesn't run out until he is 33. At 27, Leino is in that age where it is typically said an athlete, in any sport, will reach his prime. He reaches that peak without having a 20 goal season under his belt, but he still has a contract that will pay him an average of 4.5 million a year.
If he continues to develop positively then this could be a coup signing by the Sabres, but what if he begins his decline now? It is only fair to assume he will, as he is inching beyond his best years.
Buffalo would, in fact, have been better off signing him to a 2 year, 5 million contract, where you don't have that commitment and you can always pull out. The Sabres are tied up for the next six years, and if Leino doesn't perform like a player who earns that much should, the team's salary cap will be severely wounded.
3. James Wisniewski
6 Year - 33,000,000 - 5,500,000
Columbus Blue Jackets
Like Leino, Wisniewski had a breakout out year last year, scoring 10 goals and adding 41 assists in 75 games in a season split between the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens. Like Leino, his efforts earned him a monster contract this off-season. Like Leino, he's 27, at his prime.
Columbus' biggest need heading into the offseason was to get an offensively minded defenseman to go along with the team's plethora of defensive ones, and you have to respect the team's resolve at going out and getting one, at any price. Nevertheless, five and a half million is too much for James Wisniewski.
The contract puts the Canadian up among the top paid players in the league. He contributes well on the power-play and is a great passer, and he comes to a better environment with players like Jeff Carter and Rick Nash in Columbus, but this was the first season he put up anything near numbers like this.
You can't give a player a contract this size when you're basing it off one season's performance.
In addition, he's been suspended twice, totalling 10 games, in the past two seasons.
His last contract, spanning one year, was worth 3,250,000. A four and a half million contract here would have been more reasonable.
2. Tim Connolly
2 Year - 9,500,000 - 4,750,000
The former Buffalo Sabres player comes to Toronto with big expectations: To be the team's first-line center. Ever since Mats Sundin left, Leafs fans have been crying out for a center to come in and take over the top spot, and they are hoping Connolly can do that, at least for the next two years, anyway.
Connolly put up 42 points in 68 games last season, including just 13 goals.
The problem with Connolly is that he is a decidedly average player. Once again, we will go back and take a look at some other forwards who played a similar amount of games and scored a similar amount of points and see compare their contracts:
Sam Gagner 2,275,000 (68G, 48P)
Brendan Morrison 850,000 (66G, 43P)
Daniel Cleary 3,000,000 (68G, 46P)
Cory Stillman - Unsigned (65G, 39P)
The point with these examples is that you shouldn't have to pay almost five million for a injury-prone player that produces at that rate.
At 30-years-old, Connolly will need to meet the fans' expectations of 60-70 points to make his size-able contract worth the money.
1. Ilya Bryzgalov
Nine-Year—$51 million—$5.7 million/year
But this was not the right way to go.
While Bryzgalov deserves to be paid heavily, his contract was only this high because he was the best goalie in the market this season. The point really hits home when you take a look at how his 2010-2011 stats compares to the other goalies in the league, all playing 55 games or more.
Wins: eighth in league
GAA: ninth in league
SV percentage: eighth in league
Yet he is being paid second most of all the goalies in the league.
Playing on a bad team isn't an excuse anymore as the Coyotes finished sixth in the Western Conference, just six points off being division champions.
Made even worse is the fact that Tomas Vokoun, a player of similar quality, signed for more than $4 million less. Not to mention the fact that 'Bryz' will be 40 when this contract runs out.
Ilya Bryzgalov needs to step up his game this season to make this contract worth it.