NHL Free Agency: 6 Worst Free-Agent Signings This Summer
The NHL free agency period was a blur; a few players were definitely signed by GMs who weren’t seeing clearly.
One of the harsh realities of the new NHL that there is a very slim margin for error when it comes to contracts.
In the past, big-budget teams could afford to carry bloated contracts while still building a winner. Now, a couple of overpaid bench warmers can torpedo a team’s chances for the entire length of those contracts.
Bringing in a bargain free agent is always valuable, but whiffing on a free-agent deal can be absolutely deadly.
Jaromir Jagr to the Philadelphia Flyers
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Jaromir Jagr is back. After a relaxing vacation to Russia and the KHL, Jagr has returned to North America as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
I don’t doubt that Jagr still has something left in the tank, but whatever that something is, it certainly isn’t worth $3.3 million. Given the state of the cap, as well as the amount of money that Philly has invested in other key players on the roster (one of whom will show up later on this list), Jagr’s contract just eats up too much cap room that could have been used on something else.
Possibly a certain something else named Dan Carcillo.
Carcillo isn't a star, but he's been incredibly important for the Philadelphia Flyers over the past few seasons. He’s talented enough to chip in 10 to 15 goals, but it still willing to do all of the little things necessary to get his team a win. He embodies the personality of his team.
The little things have never been Jaromir Jagr’s strength.
At this point in his career, Jagr is essentially a hockey’s answer to Steve Kerr. He can shoot, but he’s really not going to do anything else well.
His skill set just doesn’t match up with the way the game is played in this era of the NHL. Jagr can contribute on the power play, but beyond that, he can’t help the Flyers.
Ilya Bryzgalov to the Philadelphia Flyers
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Yes, it’s important to have a good goaltender, but Ilya Bryzgalov’s contract is an overreaction to Philadelphia’s recent playoff failures.
Bryzgalov is a proven winner, but so was Jean-Sebastian Giguere, right up until the moment when Bryzgalov stole his job.
Netminders are a volatile bunch. I don’t expect that Bryzgalov will suddenly lose his touch, but it’s not out of the question.
Who’s to say that some other goalie may not come out of nowhere and be the Bryzgalov to his Giguere?
No position has been impacted more by the international expansion of hockey than goaltender. It seems every season some young Finn, Swede, or Russian bursts on to the NHL scene.
Of course, it’s impossible to predict where and when these new talents will emerge, but the fact remains that there are plenty of capable goalies still out there.
Even knowing all of that, the Flyers gave a nine-year contract to a player who’s already 31 years old. Given the widespread rumors surrounding some of these long deals, it’s fair to question whether Bryzgalov will play out the entire length of this contract, but no matter what, he’s sure to be pulling a premium salary well into his late thirties.
The Philadelphia Flyers overreacted to their problem, spending most of their available resources to plug the largest hole in their lineup. It might work out, but if it doesn’t, their $51 million mistake will drag the Broad Street Bullies down for nearly a decade.
Jason Arnott to the St. Louis Blues
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Jason Arnott can still be a useful player in the NHL. He might even be able to earn the $2.5 million that he’s set to make on his one-year deal in 2011. But there’s no way that he’s worth that much to the St. Louis Blues.
The Blues finished last season ten points out of the eighth spot in the Western Conference and third in the Central Division. I’m sure that the team wants to improve, building for the future has to take precedence for a team that occupies the same division as the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.
While Arnott is exactly that type of player that can help elevate a good teams to contending status, his talents are wasted on a lower-level team. Arnott’s presence is just eating up salary and playing time.
In the new era of the NHL, teams need to spend every penny wisely. Although Arnott’s one-year contract won’t cripple the Blues, it just doesn’t make any sense.
Jaime Langenbrunner to the St. Louis Blues
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Again, the St. Louis Blues are investing in a player that doesn’t fit their team. Jaime Langenbrunner (Jason Arnott’s former teammate, coincidentally) is still a serviceable player, but at 36 years old, he’s clearly not a part of the Blues’ long term plans.
Perhaps St. Louis is just looking for some veteran leadership to help shape the careers of young studs like T.J. Oshie, but it’s silly to spend nearly 10 percent of the salary cap on middling players who won’t be with the team long term.
There’s certainly value in bringing in a few experienced players to shepherd the youngsters along, but at some point, those youngsters need to take the reins. Eric Brewer has been a solid captain for the Blues for the past few years, and Doug Armstrong should let him continue in that role.
Langenbrunner, along with Arnott, can makes the Blues better in 2011, but neither will do much to steer the team’s fortunes beyond next season.
Brooks Laich to the Washington Capitals
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The Washington Capitals are absolutely stacked on the front line. Even outside of Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Alexander Semin give the Caps plenty of scoring punch. So why did the team just invest $27 million for six years of Brooks Laich?
Laich is a solid player, but an average of $4.5 million per year is a bit much for a forward who finished 2010/11 with 49 points, good for 109th on the NHL scoring list.
As a point of comparison, free agent forward Jussi Jokinen scored 52 points in 2010/11. He also re-upped with his team, the Carolina Hurricanes, this offseason. Jokinen’s contract three-year deal is worth only $9 million.
Spending like this is exactly the type of misdirected move that will keep the Capitals from jumping to the next level. An extra $1 million here or there doesn’t seem like a debilitating mistake, but when a few of those mistakes are added together, the team is ultimately robbed of opportunities to spend more money on players that actually deserve it.
Tomas Kaberle to the Carolina Hurricanes
I can’t be mad at Tomas Kaberle. He parlayed a nice performance for the Stanley Cup champs into a fat new contract with a team looking to build a winning mentality.
There’s certainly some truth to the thinking that players who’ve won a Cup can teach a few things to players who haven’t, but that experience has been severely overvalued in this case.
Kaberle is a great distributor, but at 33, he just doesn’t skate well enough to be a top defenseman. His Stanley Cup experience is nice, but it can't make up for his deficiencies in speed and agility.
He’ll probably be worth the $4.25 million that he’ll make in the first year of his three-year deal, but by the time 2014/15 rolls around, Kaberle’s contract will be an albatross.