2016 NHL Free Agency: Ranking the Best Value Signings so Far
NHL free agency is always a crazy time—especially the first day. Several teams unloaded money on impact targets in the first 90 minutes, effectively turning free agency into an exciting hour or so—followed by several hours of discussion and waiting for a few stragglers.
Due to the intense nature of the first 90 minutes, real bargains and value contracts were difficult to find. A year ago, there were several value deals early—Artem Anisimov signed with the Chicago Blackhawks, Justin Williams signed with the Washington Capitals and Paul Martin signed with the San Jose Sharks. Teams spent some substantial dollars, but there was real value from the moment the ink dried.
On Friday, teams gave out cap and term with extreme prejudice; in other words, value took a holiday for much of the afternoon. There are value contracts out there, and a few of them landed on the first day. Here are the best value signings so far in free agency for 2016.
6. Los Angeles Kings Sign Teddy Purcell
2015-16 Stats Line: 76 games, 14 goals and 43 points with the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers.
Summary: The Los Angeles Kings landed a bona fide NHL veteran winger for a low price. Purcell is not a fast player, but he makes up for it with expert passing and positioning. He can play on a feature line or move down into a more complementary role. Los Angeles adds a plug-and-play veteran who can contribute significantly to the offense for an excellent price.
5. Arizona Coyotes Sign Jamie McGinn
The Deal: Three years, $10 million with a cap hit of $3.33 million per season, according to NHL.com.
2015-16 Stats Line: 84 games, 22 goals and 39 points for the Buffalo Sabres and Anaheim Ducks.
Summary: McGinn is a productive player who posts 1.55 points per 60 minutes at even strength and provides his team with a veteran two-way winger. McGinn has played up and down the lineup as required, so he has enough offense to step into a feature role for short periods. He is a great option, and the cap investment is fair for the Arizona Coyotes.
4. Calgary Flames Sign Chad Johnson
2015-16 Stats Line: 45 games, 2.36 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage.
Summary: The Calgary Flames entered the summer with a major hole in the net and have turned it around and then some in just over a week. After acquiring Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues at the draft, Calgary added Chad Johnson in free agency. Johnson is a fantastic get for the money after he turned his career around with a strong season with the Buffalo Sabres. The combination of goaltending brought in by the Flames is one of the best stories of this summer.
3. Florida Panthers Sign James Reimer
The Deal: Five years, $17 million with a yearly cap hit of $3.4 million, per NHL.com.
2015-16 Stats Line: 40 games, a 2.31 goals-against average and a save percentage of .922.
Summary: The Florida Panthers have acquired James Reimer at a steep price for a backup but a bargain price for a starter. Reimer is a good bet to be an above-average starter for the next several years—he led the NHL in even-strength save percentage among goalies with 35 or more appearances. Roberto Luongo—also a Panthers goalie—ranked No. 2 on that list. The team will spend too much on goaltending this season but also has a legitimate candidate to lose in the expansion draft next summer. That makes this a wise investment.
2. Florida Panthers Sign Jason Demers
The Deal: Five years, $22.5 million with a cap hit of $4.5 million, according to Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.
2015-16 Stats Line: 62 games, seven goals and 23 points while playing 21 minutes per night with the Dallas Stars.
Summary: The Florida Panthers scored on Saturday, grabbing underrated two-way defender Jason Demers. He was 54 percent in possession—Corsi for five-on-five percentage—and is the kind of player that fans don't notice until he is absent. A fine NHL veteran defenseman at this cap hit should have a good chance to emerge as a handsome return on the investment.
1. Chicago Blackhawks Sign Brian Campbell
The Deal: One year, $1.5 million with bonuses that could make it worth $2.25 million, according to ESPN.com via NHL.com.
2015-16 Stats Line: 82 games, six goals and 31 points while playing 22-plus minutes per night at the age of 36.
Summary: The Chicago Blackhawks have real cap issues—as usual—but found a way to bring back the ageless Brian Campbell. He won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010 and gives the team a mobile, intelligent and versatile defenseman for next season. The price point and ease of negotiation reveal the importance of winning—he would never sign this contract without a major chance at the Stanley Cup.