Although hindsight is usually the only way to be certain as to when a deal flops, it seems reasonable to make an immediate assessment as to what deals will backfire or pay dividends. Today was a far more reserved July 1st than the league has accustomed itself to, but there are still a few contracts that stick out – for better or for worse.
Pretty: Patrick Sharp – Chicago Blackhawks – $800,000, 1 year.
This doesn’t seem fair. Chicago has been trapped in cap jail, and suddenly, here arrives a productive asset at nearly no cost. Sharp, coming off an injury-filled season, is coming back to the Windy City at a dirt-cheap rate. If he can even find half of the production he had during his last outing, this is a monumental steal. There’s no risk here, and a ton of upside. He still has the hands and hockey IQ to contribute.
Ugly: Steve Mason – Winnipeg Jets – $4,1 MM per, 2 years
Winnipeg was seemingly the last team standing when the music stopped playing. With a goaltending market that inspired no one, the Jets decided today to place their faith in Steve Mason. Coming off a .908 save percentage year, it’s hard to see him doing much worse. But behind the Winnipeg defense, it’s hard to see him doing much better. The pricetag is what really seals this as poor value relative to play. Luckily, if things don’t pan out, it’s only for two seasons. Connor Hellebuyck better prepare himself just in case. Taken in tandem with the highly questionable Dmitry Kulikov contract, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff maybe should have taken the day off.
Pretty: Radim Vrbata – Florida Panthers – $2.5 MM per, 1 year
Vrbata is absolutely a top-six winger, and he was signed for bottom-six money. He can assist a powerplay, and slot up and down a lineup as needed. Florida desperately needed to re-coup some scoring on the cheap after letting so many of their top point-getters walk or be lost to Vegas. With bonuses added in, this becomes a good prove-it deal for Vrbata as well. Solid value was found here for both parties and for a 20 goal, 55 point player, Florida will happily run away from this one.
Ugly: Trevor Daley – Detroit – $3.18MM per, 3 years
Daley was bereft of ice time in these playoffs, and he was competing with some really underperforming defensemen. It’s not like he had a good regular season either – his Corsi For % fell off a proverbial cliff (53.7 to 46.1), and the eye test certainly agreed. He put up decent points, 5 goals and 14 assists through 56 contests, and he can still skate well enough. But long are the days where he can make a difference on special teams or drive an offense with confidence. His turnover rate and inconsistency are not what Detroit needed to stabilize the back-end, and Daley will be 36 at the conclusion of the deal. The last time Daley cut a lucrative free agent deal, Chicago had to offload him due to poor play.
Pretty: Kevin Shattenkirk – New York Rangers – $6.65MM per, 4 years
The money could end up being a slight overpayment, but at the moment it is solid value. Shattenkirk finished 4th in points among defensemen last season and St. Louis never looked the same after he left. He could instantly and single-handedly transform the Rangers’ defense from the jumbled mess they were last season. He will reliably feed the puck to the forward group, and be the quarterback of the Ranger powerplay. What makes this a beautiful deal, however, is the term. If Shattenkirk has a bad year or doesn’t fit the system, New York is not on the hook for eternity. One of the biggest pitfalls in free agency with the bigger names is offering far too many years on contracts. Time and time again, it burns teams who were looking to attract a big fish. GM Jeff Gorton deserves credit here for not going insane with the length, although he was helped by Shattenkirk’s strong desire to return home.
Ugly: Dan Girardi – Tampa Bay – $3 MM per, 2 years
Nothing about this deal makes sense. Girardi earned his buyout from New York through brutal play and horrible possession numbers. Of all the NHL defensemen who played more than 40 games, only Rasmus Ristolainen of Buffalo and Luke Schenn of Arizona had worse Corsi Against per 60 minutes – Girardi finished with 65.11 (versus a 51.67 CF60). By no metric other than shot blocks was he an effective player. He might be worth a flier in hopes of regaining form, but he’s not worth much more. This agreement is made even worse by the fact that Girardi will be stealing valuable playing time from a solid young defenseman like Slater Koekkoek or Jake Dotchin. Combined with the Chris Kunitz signing, this is a team that didn’t get any younger, or any better.