With how rare it is to acquire talent in the NHL, most teams find themselves coming out of the offseason with their pockets emptied by free agents and the ridiculous prices that the market sets on them.
Once free agency hits, mediocre players become hot commodities and teams usually overpay to get them.
Sometimes, however, good deals are signed and both parties come away winners.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 “value” contracts that were signed during this offseason.
James Reimer – Toronto Maple Leafs – Two-years, $4.6 million / $2.3 million cap hit
With career numbers of a .914 save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average, Reimer has established himself as a very capable goalie in the league. While he may not be a true number one goaltender, he is at worst a goalie who is good enough to play 30-40 games in a split role. With a two-year contract for only $2.3 million per season, the Leafs should have no problem finding a trade partner if need be.
Lars Eller – Montreal Canadiens – Four-years, $14 million / $3.5 million cap hit
Never eclipsing 30 points in any of his five seasons in the league, Eller has yet to establish himself as a reliable forward in the NHL. With that said, this past postseason Eller finished behind only Subban in scoring, with 13 points in 17 games. At only $3.5 million until the age of 29, the Canadiens might have gotten themselves a steal if that kind of production continues.
On to the top 10.
10. Marcel Goc – Pittsburgh Penguins – One-year, $1.2 million
Our list starts with a tremendous signing to help improve the depth of the Penguins’ forward unit. Goc, as you may know, was acquired by the Penguins from the Florida Panthers on March 5 of last season in exchange for a 2014 5th round pick and a 2015 3rd round pick. He finished out last season playing 12 games on the Penguins fourth-line, while also becoming their main penalty killer. He will resume both roles this coming season, as well as the role as a key faceoff man behind Crosby (Goc won 53.4 per cent of draws last season). If needed, Goc can put up some points as well, consistently scoring around 10 goals and 30 points over the last five seasons. Getting a man with such a vast wealth of abilities for $1.2 million was an excellent pick-up by the Penguins.
9. Kimmo Timonen – Philadelphia Flyers – One-year, $2 million
Considering the Flyers are getting pretty much the exact same version of Timonen that they’ve had for the last seven seasons for only $2 million, compared to his previous salaries of $6 million or above, they got a very good deal. Last year, Timonen collected 35 points in 77 games, which is right around the mark he was at with the team in the six seasons prior. At 39 years old, it’s pretty safe to assume Timonen might finally regress a little bit this season, so the salary makes sense. Still, it’s hard to imagine that Timonen couldn’t have gotten more money elsewhere. Good signing for the Flyers.
8. Martin Havlat – New Jersey Devils – One-year, $1.5 million
Havlat became a free agent after the San Jose Sharks chose to buyout the remaining year on his six-year, $30 million deal that he originally signed with the Minnesota Wild. Havlat has battled injuries the past two years, and has seen his point production fall drastically, amassing only 40 points in 88 games. The one-year, $1.5 million deal he signed this offseason with the Devils is basically a no-risk move, as it gives the 33 year old Havlat a chance to find his offensive groove again, while giving the Devils some offensive talent at a discounted rate. Should Havlat return to his old self, this will have been a very successful contract.
7. Dany Heatley – Anaheim Ducks – One-year, $1 million
Thirty-three years old, former Wild and Shark, former offensive dynamo; sound familiar? Just like Havlat, Heatley has been an extremely gifted offensive player throughout his career. Also, just like Havlat, his offensive production has fallen massively off the tracks the past two seasons. Heatley, who is a two time 50, 40, and 30 goal scorer, scored 11 goals in 36 games during the 2012-13 season and just 12 last year in 76 games. By signing a one-year, $1 deal with the Ducks, Heatley has put himself in a great position to see if there is anything left in the tank, as he could end up on the first-line wing beside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. At worst, Heatley will find himself on the second-line with Ryan Kesler as his centre; not bad. Should he not be able to find his offensive flair, the Ducks won’t be hurt by this contract because of the single year and low cost. Good move.
6. Mike Ribeiro – Nashville Predators – One-year, $1.05 million
One-year, around $1 million, am I starting to sound like a broken record? Ribeiro became a free agent this offseason after the Arizona Coyotes bought out the remaining three-years on his four-year, $22 million contract that he had just signed last summer, citing “behavioral issues” as the cause. Because of the buyout money that Ribeiro will be receiving from the Coyotes ($1.94 million until the end of the 2019-20 season), the Predators were able to swoop in and get him for a low cost. For Nashville, it was a stroke of luck that he became available, as they were in dire need of an offensive centre to play alongside the newly acquired James Neal. In Ribeiro they get just that, as he has hovered near, or above the 50-60 point mark for most of his career (47 in 80 games last year). Nashville should also get props for signing former standouts Derek Roy and Anton Volchenkov to nearly the same deals as well.
5. Christian Ehrhoff – Pittsburgh Penguins – One-year, $4 million
Another player who became a free agent after a buyout (Buffalo bought out the remaining seven years of his 10-year, $40 million deal), allowed the Penguins to find their replacement for Matt Niskanen rather inexpensively. Ehrhoff is still a very good defenseman and should thrive in the fast-paced, offensive Pittsburgh system. Should he have a good season this year, Ehrhoff will be in line for another big pay day next offseason (maybe not in the 10 year range though). Another steal of a deal for the Penguins.
4. Ales Hemsky – Dallas Stars – Three-years, $12 million / $4 million cap hit
After his line-mate (Jason Spezza) got traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Stars, it wasn’t long before Hemsky followed him to the big city of Dallas. The Stars’ top-six looks absolutely deadly, and according to reports, Hemsky is going to be slotted in alongside Tyler Seguin and Jaime Benn on the first-line. This bodes well for Hemsky, very well. Playing on a line with two of the best scorers in the game will allow Hemsky and his playmaking nature to thrive. It is very easy to see him going back to his near point per game level that he played on between 2005 and 2011. Four million dollars per year for a point per game producer? Dallas will take that. Yet another win for GM Jim Nill.
3. Marian Gaborik – Los Angeles Kings – Seven-years, $34.125 million / $4.875 million cap hit
After being traded to the Kings last year, one thing stood out, the old Gaborik is back. Gaborik collected five goals and 16 points through 19 games with the Kings to close out the regular season, and then come playoff time, he exploded. In the playoffs (in which the Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup) Gaborik collected 14 goals and 22 points in 26 games while playing alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. It’s easy to picture Gaborik scoring 30 goals or more next season, and at only $4.875 million, that is a bargain. Sure the seven-year term is a little lengthy, but as long as the Kings keep contending, it’s in the back of their minds. Great value for a great player, and a great team.
2. David Legwand – Ottawa Senators – Two-years, $6 million / $3 million cap hit
After losing Spezza via trade, it became clear that the Sens’ needed help down the middle. That is a scary position to be in, especially when the average price of a top-six free agent centre is in the $4 – $6 million range. Somehow, the Sens managed to acquire a proven top-six quality centre in Legwand, who consistently sits at the 40 – 50 point range, all while providing solid two-way play, for way less than market value. At only $3 million per season, the cap floor loving Sens got their man at a price that worked for them; can’t complain with that. Good response by GM Bryan Murray to losing Spezza.
1. Brad Richards – Chicago Blackhawks – One-year, $2 million
The Blackhawks management must have been salivating at the mouth when the Rangers bought out the remaining six years on Brad Richards’ nine-year, $60 million deal. If that wasn’t enough, the management team likely jumped for joy when they actually signed Richards to this extremely inexpensive deal for a player of his stature. Sure, despite the Rangers making it to the Stanley Cup finals Richards had a very rough go in the playoffs, managing only 12 points in 25 games, but, let’s not forget he had 20 goals and 51 points in the regular season. Those numbers certainly aren’t deserving of the contract he was signed to, and I agree with the buyout, however, those numbers also certainly aren’t anything to look past. If Richards can amass 51 points on the Rangers, what can he do on a team where his wingers are likely to be Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane?! The Blackhawks finally have their second-line centre that their otherwise elite team has been missing. All I can say is watch out NHL.