Most of the best free agents are gone in the first few days of July, but sometimes the best value signings occur later on in the summer. There are generally at least a couple of guys who sign late, or who fight for a contract in training camp, and end up providing value for years. Here’s a list of some guys who should give you hope that your team can still make a savvy signing.
- Clarke MacArthur – At the 2010 trade deadline, the Buffalo Sabres shipped MacArthur to the Atlanta Thrashers for third and fourth round picks in 2010. Over the full season he put up 16 goals, 35 points in 81 games, including three goals, nine points in 21 games for the Thrashers. This led to a $2.4MM, one-year arbitration award, which Atlanta rejected. The Toronto Maple Leafs then signed MacArthur to a one-year, $1.1MM deal, and he broke out for 21 goals, 62 points in 82 games that season. After signing a two-year extension, he put up another 20 goal season in 2012. MacArthur struggled the next year, never quite fitting with new Leafs’ coach Randy Carlyle. He was scratched often, before injuries forced him into the lineup in the playoffs, where he scored two goals in five games. The Ottawa Senators signed him two a two-year deal, and after a 24 goal, 55 point season, gave him a new five-year deal, worth $4.65MM per year. MacArthur’s injuries have slowed him down, but it’s hard to argue he wasn’t a great value signing.
- Anton Stralman – At 25-years old in 2011, Stralman failed to earn a roster spot after a professional tryout with the New Jersey Devils. He’d been traded or let go of by the Maple Leafs, Flames, and Blue Jackets over the last two years, and was just looking for a job. In November, a Rangers team with a depleted defensive group decided to take a chance on him. Stralman quickly proved himself to be of value, and played in the top-four of a Rangers’ team that went to the Stanley Cup Finals. Unfortunately for the Rangers, in a cap world, you don’t always get all the benefits of your own good work, so Stralman signed a five-year, $4.5MM per year deal with the Lightning in July of 2014.
- Teemu Selanne – It might seem weird to have Selanne here, given he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame, but it was different in 2005. Everyone was a late signing, given that the lockout pushed the start of free agency until August 1st. Still, Selanne had to wait until the 21st to get a one-year deal for low money, which many thought was about getting one last NHL season in before retirement. He was 35, had declined in his time with the Sharks, and then failed to live up to expectations in Colorado. Instead of ending his career, Selanne scored 40 goals and 90 points. The next year, he led the Ducks in scoring, winning the 2007 Stanley Cup. Selanne’s run with Anaheim, who he had previously played for from 1996 to 2001, would last not one year, but nine.
- Dan Cleary – The salary cap coming around in 2005 was a huge problem for the Detroit Red Wings. They ended up having to buy out the contracts of Derian Hatcher, Ray Whitney, and Darren McCarty, and since the end of 2004, had to move on from Dominik Hasek, Curtis Joseph, and Brett Hull. At the time, Cleary was a former top prospect who couldn’t stick with the Blackhawks, Oilers, and Coyotes, and was just looking for work. He came to Detroit’s training camp while they were desperate to fill out a roster, and signed the day before the season started. He had only three goals, 15 points for the Red Wings that year, but the team liked him well enough to keep him, and he went on to score 2o goals, 40 points in 2007. He’d hit the 20 goal mark two more times, and stay with the Red Wings until 2015, winning the Stanley Cup in 2008.
- Matt Moulson – Moulson was a 25 year old veteran AHL scorer when the Islanders signed him in July 2009. It wasn’t a late signing, but it was definitely overlooked. 29 games into his NHL career, all with the Kings, he was never assumed to be a future impact player. He had been taken in the 9th round by Pittsburgh, and even the articles on his signing group him in with minor leaguers. Moulson responded by making the team out of camp, playing on the top line with John Tavares, and scoring a total of 97 goals over the next three seasons. The goals haven’t come quite as easily to Moulson since he joined the Buffalo Sabres, but at 33 he’s had a strong run in the NHL. If the only free agents a team signed were the flashy ones they gave five-year deals to, he may have never been able to prove himself.