NHL Free Agents 2011: Best Value Free Agent Signings So Far

Nick DerenceContributor IIIJuly 4, 2011

NHL Free Agents 2011: Best Value Free Agent Signings So Far

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    Lets face it, 2011 wasn't going to offer the deepest pool of free agents.

    The rash of last minute re-signings made it even more shallow.

    Slim pickin's made for some fast and furious action when the clock struck 12 on Friday, and there was some stupid money flying around by mid-afternoon.

    While the competitive marketplace drove the price up on many available players, there were a few, shrewd moves made that deserve recognition.

Tyler Kennedy: Pittsburgh Penguins

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    At first glance, a $2 million cap hit on Kennedy doesn't seem like a bargain.

    Yet, when you look at what some players with comparable numbers were fetching, TK appears to have given Pittsburgh a legit hometown discount.

    Kennedy set career highs in goals (21), assists (24) and points (45) last season, appearing in 80 games.

    Compare the numbers:

    Erik Cole- 82 Games, 26 Goals, 26 Assists, 52 Points, $4.5m Cap Hit

    Michael Ryder- 79 Games, 18 Goals, 23 Assists, 41 Points, $3.5m Cap Hit

    Ville Leino- 81 Games, 19 Goals, 34 Assists, 53 Points, $4.5m Cap Hit

    Simon Gagne- 63 Games, 17 Goals, 23 Assists, 40 Points, $3.5m Cap Hit

    Radim Vrbata: 79 Games, 19 Goals, 29 Assists, 48 Points, $3m Cap Hit

    Kennedy = Bargain.

Marty Reasoner: New York Islanders

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    Reasoner is an unsung hero wherever he goes.

    A tireless worker and energy line player, he provides penalty killing prowess, timely goal scoring, a team-oriented attitude and is the type of guy that pays dividends in the postseason.

    Sadly, Reasoner has toiled on many teams without even a sniff of playoff hope. But whenever he has had the opportunity, he has produced.

    The Isles are a team on the rise. Reasoner will provide a veteran presence on a young team and lead by example.

    He will play third and fourth line minutes, provide first-line effort and do it at a reasonable cost for the Islanders.

Eric Belanger: Edmonton Oilers

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    The Oilers took significant strides towards becoming a tougher, more defensive-minded hockey team in free agency.

    Adding the likes of Ben Eager, Darcy Hordichuk, Cam Barker, Andy Sutton and capped off by the signing of Eric Belanger.

    Belanger is the type of player every team needs. He is capable of shadowing the opposition's top centers, scoring big goals, killing penalties and stripping opponents of the puck.

    He is also outstanding in the face-off circle.

    Edmonton's goal was clear the past few days, and Belanger was their finest catch and biggest bargain.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere: Colorado Avalanche

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    Considering the Avs paid a steep price to trade for Washington's Semyon Varlamov earlier in the day, Colorado secured some fantastic insurance by signing Giguere to a two-year, $2.5 million deal.

    Giguere was once one of the elite goaltenders. He won a Cup for Anaheim in 2007 and was a Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the Ducks in 2003 despite a losing effort.

    Giguere has an opportunity in Colorado to once again prove he belongs with the top names in net.

    Should he fall short, the Avalanche are only on the hook short-term and are paying him at a backup goaltender rate.

Brad Richards: New York Rangers

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    Yes, I know that Brad Richards just signed for nine years and $60 million.

    However, when you consider that he'll cost the Rangers just $1.1 million more per season than the recently signed James Wisniewski will cost Columbus, Richards looks like a true bargain.

    Richards was the unchallenged number one free agent target entering July 1st, and had no shortage of suitors.

    With the aforementioned competitive marketplace, it would be logical to assume that Richards' price tag could have far exceeded the amount he will actually collect from the Rangers.

    When was the last time New York took to paying an elite free agent, and did it at a lower than expected rate?

    ...Yeah, and it will probably be the last time too!

Tomas Vokoun: Washington Capitals

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    The Capitals' free-agent haul looks like a roller coaster ride of contract allotments.

    Washington saw fit to dish out $3 million per season to bottom six plugger Joel Ward, $3.5 million per season for aging blueliner Roman Hamrlik, $825k for Jeff Halpern, and raked in a king's ransom for goalie Semyon Varlamov in a trade with Colorado.

    However, GM George McPhee may have pulled the greatest bargain in recent memory by landing super talent Tomas Vokoun for just $1.5 million.

    No longer burdened with the task of stopping Alex Ovechkin, but back-stopping him, Vokoun has a brilliant opportunity to showcase his abilities with a Cup contender.

    His signing takes the bargain cake in my view and it could pay off handsomely for both the player and team come next spring.