Pucks in Depth: Five of the best NHL free agent signings

Pucks in Depth: Five of the best NHL free agent signings

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Kevin Shattenkirk is one of the better NHL free agent signings this year

There are still some quality free agents available but, for the most part, the frenzy is over.

With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at five of the best signings made thus far.

Scott Hartnell – Nashville Predators – One year, $1 million 

At 35, Hartnell’s best days are behind him but he is still a very effective player, particularly at 5v5.

Despite having his average ice time cut from 17:18 to 12:04 in the span of two seasons, he has managed to be very productive.

Hartnell has 86 points over the last two years — an average of 43 per — and has quietly been one of the league’s most efficient scorers at 5v5.

From 2015-17, Hartnell ranks 41st in 5v5 scoring with 66 points. That’s more than notables like Corey Perry, Rickard Rakell, Derek Stepan, Ryan Johansen, Jonathan Toews, Cam Atkinson, and Patrice Bergeron, all of whom logged more ice time.

If you look at the rate stats, they paint an even brighter picture as Hartnell is tied with Blake Wheeler for 13th in points per 60 minutes played.

He may not be the fastest skater, the best passer, or possess the hardest shot, but his teams get results when he’s on the ice.

He’ll provide a big boost to a Nashville team that fell just two wins shy of the Stanley Cup, and at a very cheap price.

Mike Cammalleri – Los Angeles Kings – One year, $1 million

Staying healthy has always been a battle for Cammalleri but, when healthy, he’s still a very productive offensive player.

During his three-year tenure with the New Jersey Devils, Cammalleri averaged 24 goals and 53 points per 82 games played. That is excellent production.

Over the last few years, scoring has been an issue for the Kings and Cammalleri will certainly help them in that regard. He has his faults — he’s not great defensively and he doesn’t drive possession — but the Kings are known for their defense and ability to consistently win the shot attempt battle so he’ll be insulated. Cammalleri can focus on scoring and, even at 35, he’s still very good at it.

He has his faults — he’s not great defensively and he doesn’t drive possession — but the Kings are known for their defense and ability to consistently win the shot attempt battle so he’ll be insulated nicely. Simply put, Cammalleri can focus on scoring and, even at 35, he’s still very good at it.

He’ll be well worth the $1 million even if he only appears in half the games.

Radim Vrbata – Florida Panthers – One year, $2.5 million (plus bonuses)

Vrbata was one of the best offensive players on the market and the Panthers managed to get him signed without giving him much in the way of money or term.

Excluding the lockout-shortened season, Vrbata has put up 50+ points in four of the last five years while averaging 25 goals and 56 points per 82 games played during that stretch.

He should be able to replace some of the offense Florida lost this off-season while doing so at a very reasonable price.

Vrbata is also one of the NHL’s best players when it comes to the shootout. For some teams — like Florida, perhaps — the difference in making the playoffs and missing them could be a couple points won, or lost, in the shootout. Having Vrbata in their back pocket will be a nice plus.

There’s a high possibility Vrbata outplays this contract.

Kevin Shattenkirk – New York Rangers – Four years, $6.65 million per

The New York Rangers’ blue line has long been in need of an upgrade and Shattenkirk is certainly that.

Say what you want about his defense — while not outstanding, I think it’s better than he gets credit for — but very few can move the puck and produce offense like he can.

Lockout-shortened year aside, Shattenkirk has registered at least 43 points in six consecutive seasons and averaged 51(!) points per 82 games played in that span.

He’s arguably the game’s best power play quarterback, too, as he’s averaged an NHL-best 6.21 points per 60 minutes of 5v4 play over the last four seasons. John Carlson is a distant 2nd with 5.17 points.

Among 90 eligible defensemen (minimum 300 5v4 minutes) only four not named Shattenkirk have cracked even 5.0 points per 60.

He is a huge get for the Rangers and will round out an excellent top-4 group that also features Ryan McDonagh, Brady Skjei, and Brendan Smith.

Steve Mason – Winnipeg Jets – Two years, $4.1 million per

The Jets have had goaltending issues for a long time — even though it took them a long time to realize it — but I think they have finally found a solution in Steve Mason.

Some will be quick to point out Mason posted a .908 save percentage last season during a rocky, up-and-down season with Philadelphia.

I think that was a one-off, though, and that he’s likely to bounce back moving forward.

Why? He quietly turned into one of the better, more underrated goaltenders in the league during his tenure in Philadelphia.

In four full seasons with the Flyers, Mason stopped .930% of the shots he faced at 5v5. That was good for 3rd among 26 eligible goaltenders (minimum 7,500 minutes), behind only Carey Price (.938%) and Braden Holtby (.931%).

Considering most of every game is spent at 5v5, it’s certainly encouraging to see Mason so high up on this list — especially considering it includes the down year he had in 2016-17.

If Mason can be anywhere close to as effective stopping pucks for the Jets, he’ll be well worth the $4.1 million they’ll pay him in each of the next two years.

Written by Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)