When July 1st rolls around every year, excitement around the NHL goes through the roof. Top players are available for nothing but money and fans want their favorite team to shell out the dollars and cents to improve the club. Unfortunately, the deals that are made on the unrestricted free agent market are so often flawed and doomed to fail. Teams overpay for over-the-hill veterans or lock up players already in their prime for far too long. Former NHL GM Brian Burke has long held the belief that more mistakes are made on the first day of free agency than any other.
Every year we get a reminder of just how tricky the free agent market is. In 2017 we saw players like Karl Alzner (five years, $23.1MM), Patrick Marleau (three years, $18.8MM) and Kevin Shattenkirk (four years, $26.6MM) all sign contracts that would be regretted down the road. Alzner has spent time in the minors after clearing waivers, Marleau has already been bought out of the last year of his deal and Shattenkirk could potentially face the same fate later this summer if the New York Rangers are desperate for cap space.
Just one year after the 2018 frenzy and there are already several deals that look like mistakes. Jack Johnson’s long-term deal (five years, $16.3MM) has Pittsburgh Penguins fans shaking their heads, while the Calgary Flames can’t find a spot for James Neal (five years, $28.8MM). Ilya Kovalchuk (three years, $18.8MM) looks like a shadow of what he once was.
Given the history of failure in this period, you can only assume that there will be teams deeply regretting things they did just a few days ago. Even just a year from now they might be trying to buy out some of the contracts they signed, or shipping them somewhere else to free up room. Which will be the worst? Which contract will be so unbearable a year from now that fans will be hollering for its removal? Cast your vote below and make sure to leave a comment explaining why:
Only contracts signed July 1, 2019 have been included
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