The NHL’s flood gates were opened on Canada Day for the start to the new year’s free agency frenzy. Already, the majority of the most impactful UFAs are off the market and the new contracts do not seem to stopping anytime soon. July 1st is one of the biggest days on the NHL calendar and teams are already taking form for next season.
The amount of money thrown around during the first few days is typically outrageous and a number of players are annually overpaid. But there are also deals that turn out be instrumental in a teams overall success. With the first few days of free agency in the books let us grade some of the deals that have been making headlines.
4 Bad NHL Free Agent Signings
Karl Alzner (D) –> Montreal Canadiens – 5yr(s)/$23.1 Million
The Canadiens signed Alzner with the desire of beefing up an already decent defensive corps. Signing Alzner accomplishes the need to protect Carey Price but Montreal never seemed to have any problems with their current core.
The Habs still have an alarmingly thin amount of quality centreman and the deal with Alzner does not help them fill that void now or in the future; be it by trading for a centre or signing one. Alzner may be a rock in terms of play style and durability but his highest point total in a single season is 21. Montreal may be overcompensating for a problem they never had.
Nick Bonino (C) –> Nashville Predators – 4yr(s)/$16.4 Million
Bonino brings experience and decent scoring to the team in which he defeated in last years Stanley Cup Finals. However, Bonino may not be the strongest choice for a top-six forward. Bonino fits well in Nashville but if Mike Fisher decides to return for 2017-18, there will be a clog of mid-tier centreman on Nashville’s roster. Calle Jarnkrok, Fisher and Bonino are all on the lower end of top-six forwards which can become a problem when the Predators match-up against teams like the Penguins. The Predators will be deep but not ‘elite’ down the middle of the ice and could still use some help replacing James Neal.
The only way this deal works out is if Jarkrok is able to step and become a true second-line centre. He has five years left on his affordable $2 million a-year deal.
Dmitry Kulikov (D) –> Winnipeg Jets – 3yr(s)/$12.99 Million
The Jets are looking to solidify their defensive pairings with this signing, but $4.33 million per-year seems like a significant overpayment. Kulikov has shown he is a capable defenseman but has underperformed for the majority of his career; including last season. Not to mention he was a whopping -26 in only 47 games.
There is also a good chance that he may become buried on the Jets depth chart. Tyler Myers, Dustin Byfuglien, Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey will most likely all command more ice than Kulikov leaving him stranded on the third pairing. Kulikov certainly still has some potential but there are very few possible situations where this deal does not end up as a bizarre over payment.
Michael Stone (D) –> Calgary Flames – 3yr(s)/$10.5 Million
After acquiring Stone from Phoenix during the regular season, the Flames inked the 27 year old to a new deal. This also comes just around a week after GM Brad Treliving traded for the former Islander Travis Hamonic. Because of this, Stone faces an uphill climb similar to that of Kulikov’s. Calgary’s top-two defence pairings seem to already have been made up and the decision to keep Stone seems odd. Even if Stone does find time on the second pairing, there is very little reason for the Flames to play him on either the powerplay or penalty kill. All of Calgary’s top-four defenders are locked up for at least another three years each and Stone is just pushing the Flames closer to the cap.
4 Great NHL Free Agent Signings
Martin Hanzal (C) –> Dallas Stars – 3yr(s)/$14.2 Million
Dallas looks like they are trying to build something special right now and Hanzal is another great addition. The majority of Dallas’s centreman are offensive minded and Hanzal brings a different look to a deep position group. Hanzal can solidify the centre position for the Stars and take care of valuable penalty killing minutes. Dallas just lost their third line centre-Cody Eakin-to the Vegas Golden Knights but Hanzal should come in and easily fill the hole. Even though Hanzal’s deal is close to $4.75 per year, he is a necessary piece for Dallas if they are looking to compete for a Stanley Cup
Kevin Shattenkirk (D) –> New York Rangers – 4yr(s)/$26.6 Million
Usually $6.65 million per year is not a steal in free agency but for a player of Shattenkirk’s caliber, a deal could not get much better. Shattenkirk is one of the league’s premier offensive defenders and will become the Rangers new powerplay quarterback. Over the past four seasons, Shattenkirk has put up a minimum of 44 points and is coming off a season where he notched a career high with 56.
The reason this deal is so good for the Rangers is both the dollar value and the term. At 28 years old, Shattenkirk will get to play out the majority of his prime with the Rangers and if he continues to play at a high level towards the ladder end of his contract, they can still resign him. The Rangers are getting a premium on defence without breaking the bank and should now have one of the leagues most dominant defensive-cores.
Joe Thornton (C) –> San Jose Sharks – 1yr(s)/$8 Million
With Patrick Marleau signing a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Sharks franchise may be changing face just a bit but they did the right thing in keeping Thronton. The $8 million price tag may seem high but when you consider the deal is only for a single year, the price looks good for a player who just a season ago put up 82 points in 82 games.
Thornton is obviously not the youngest player: he turned 38 just this week but the Sharks window is closing and he has always proved to be a valuable asset to their team. Even if he is aging, Jumbo has the potential to return to form in 2017-18 and maybe contribute another 65+ point season.
Brian Boyle (C) –> New Jersey Devils – 2yr(s)/$5.1 Million
This may seem like a confusing signing on the surface but when it is broken down, it makes a ton of sense. Boyle has been an in-house favourite wherever he has played and GM Ray Shero wants to inject some of that personality into a rebuilding team. Though Boyle is more of a role player, he is a good bottom-six forward and should help ease Nico Hischier into the NHL.
If things do not work out in New Jersey during either years of Boyle’s contract, the Devils can also flip him at the March 1st trade deadline for valuable draft picks. Boyle might spend most of his time penalty killing, but his assets besides scoring are what make this such quality signing.