2015 NHL Free Agency: The Best and Worst Signings

Lyle Richardson@@SpectorsHockeyFeatured ColumnistJuly 9, 2015

2015 NHL Free Agency: The Best and Worst Signings

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    It's been over a week since the NHL's unrestricted free-agent market opened on July 1. As usual, most of the best players were signed up within the first two days. Enough time has elapsed to assess the best and worst signings thus far.

    The absence of top free-agent talent and the limited salary-cap space available for most teams resulted in fewer big-contract signings compared to previous years. Some teams still invested too much to address their roster needs, while others made more sensible acquisitions. 

    The following slideshow examines the best and worst NHL unrestricted free-agent signings since July 1. Player quality, contract terms and roster needs factored into this compilation. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments section below.

Worst: Colorado Avalanche Sign Francois Beauchemin

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The contract: The Colorado Avalanche signed defenseman Francois Beauchemin to a three-year contract. It's worth an annual salary-cap hit of $4.5 million. 

    Analysis: Beauchemin put up good numbers last season with the Anaheim Ducks as one of their top-pairing defensemen. It's not surprising the Avalanche, lacking skilled blue-line depth, signed him. However, they're paying Beachemin $1 million more per season than what he made on his previous deal. That's a risky investment for a 35-year-old rearguard.

    Verdict: The Avalanche paid too much for too long on an aging asset. Beachemin will likely be in significant decline by the final season of his contract. By that point, his contract will be using up valuable cap space needed to acquire or retain younger assets.

Best: Toronto Maple Leafs Sign Shawn Matthias

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    The contract: The Toronto Maple Leafs signed center Shawn Matthias to a one-year, $2.3 million contract.

    Analysis: Matthias, 27, is a solid, affordable addition to the Maple Leafs' third line. He's a big (6'4”, 223 pounds), versatile forward who skates well and possesses good defensive skills. Matthias also has a decent scoring touch, netting 18 goals last season

    Verdict: The rebuilding Maple Leafs add some much-needed size and two-way skill to their checking lines for a reasonable price. If Matthias pans out for the Leafs, he could earn a lucrative extension. 

Worst: San Jose Sharks Sign Paul Martin

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    Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    The contract: The San Jose Sharks signed defenseman Paul Martin to a four-year contract. It's worth an annual salary-cap hit of $4.85 million. 

    Analysis: Martin, 34, is an experienced all-around blueliner who should be a good short-term addition to the Sharks' defense corps. While his new cap hit is reasonable, the contract length is excessive. The Sharks invested a significant chunk of payroll on a player who will be steadily declining over the coming four years. 

    Verdict: Committing $4.85 million annually for a player turning 35 next March is not a wise long-term investment. Over time, his contract could create a salary-cap headache for management. 

Best: Washington Capitals Sign Justin Williams

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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

    The contract: The Washington Capitals signed right wing Justin Williams to a two-year contract. It is worth an annual salary-cap hit of $3.25 million. 

    Analysis: Williams, 33, played on three Stanley Cup championships and won the 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. His experience should be beneficial to the Capitals, who've struggled to get beyond the second round of the postseason. His offensive consistency provides invaluable scoring depth at right wing. His new contract is also quite reasonable.

    Verdict: By signing Williams, the Capitals addressed their need for scoring depth at right wing and for experienced playoff leadership. They also didn't overpay for the privilege.

Worst: Boston Bruins Sign Matt Beleskey

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The contract: The Boston Bruins signed left wing Matt Beleskey to a five-year contract. It's worth an annual salary-cap hit of $3.8 million. 

    Analysis: Fresh off a 22-goal season, there was no doubt the 27-year-old Beleskey would land a significant raise via free agency. However, this is a risky move by the Bruins. While the cap hit is reasonable, five years is an excessive commitment to a winger with only one 20-goal season.

    Verdict: The Bruins invested long term in a player who could be a one-hit wonder. If Beleskey fails to build upon his career-best season, his cap hit will become a burden. It'll also provide more ammunition for critics of Don Sweeney, the Bruins' new general manager.

Best: Calgary Flames Sign Michael Frolik

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    The contract: The Calgary Flames signed right wing Michael Frolik to a five-year contract. It's worth an annual salary-cap hit of $4.3 million. 

    Analysis: Coming off back-to-back 42-point performances, the 27-year-old Frolik should mesh well with the Flames' promising young forwards. Though the term is lengthy, it's a reasonable cap hit for a creative playmaker who can skate at center or on the wings. 

    Verdict: The Flames addressed a need for a second-line right wing and did so for market value. Given Frolik's performance over the past two years, his skills and experience should make him a worthwhile addition for this rising team.

Worst: Detroit Red Wings Sign Mike Green

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    The contract: The Detroit Red Wings signed defenseman Mike Green to a three-year contract. It's worth an annual salary-cap hit of $6 million. 

    Analysis: Green brings experience and puck-moving skills to the Wings' defense corps. A third-pairing defenseman in Washington last season, the Wings are hoping he'll regain his once-stellar form. The length of the deal is fine, but the 29-year-old Green hasn't been a $6 million-per-season performer for some time.

    Verdict: The Red Wings paid big bucks to a blueliner who's probably no longer capable of skating regularly on the top defense pairing. They're taking what could be an expensive gamble on Green. 

Best: Edmonton Oilers Sign Andrej Sekera

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    Bruce Kluckhohn/Getty Images

    The contract: The Edmonton Oilers sign defenseman Andrej Sekera to a six-year contract. It is worth an average salary-cap hit of $5.5 million. 

    Analysis: Sekera, 29, has considerable experience as a top-pairing blueliner. He's a solid two-way performer capable of logging big minutes. While the term of his deal is a tad long, the cap hit is reasonable for a player of his skills. 

    Verdict: The Oilers finally addressed their need for a top-two defenseman, paying fair market value for a skilled all-around rearguard. Sekera's experience and talent should provide a much-needed boost to their young defense corps.

    Players stats via NHL.com. Salary information via General Fanager

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