The opening day of the NHL Free Agency market lived up to the hype of “frenzy”, with over $300 million in new contracts handed out.
Here’s my assessment of the day’s notable signings.
Daniel Alfredsson, Detroit Red Wings (one year, $3.5 million base salary, $2 million in bonuses). The most shocking move of the day. Never expected Alfredsson would leave the only NHL team he’s ever played for. His former club, the Ottawa Senators subsequently acquired his replacement via trade in Bobby Ryan, who’ll certainly provide more offense in that long term for the Senators than Alfredsson, though Ryan will have to play under the latter’s lingering shadow for a while.
As for the Red Wings, it’s an affordable short-term move. They have the cap space to take him on, and he should be a good fit on their second line this season. With Wings superstars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg ageing, the window for winning another Cup with that duo is closing. Adding Alfredsson next season could help them in that regard.
Logan Couture, San Jose Sharks (five years, $30 million). Lost in the UFA signing frenzy was the Sharks re-signing of Couture, who many now consider the face of the franchise. The 24-year-old center improves with each passing year, and is on the cusp of becoming a superstar in his own right. Smart move by the Sharks to re-sign him now.
Nathan Horton, Columbus Blue Jackets (seven years, $37.1 million). If Horton can stay healthy over the course of this deal, it could be a worthwhile move for the Blue Jackets. He’s an undeniably talented forward and clutch scorer, especially in the playoffs. Because of injuries (especially concussions and a nagging shoulder injury), he hasn’t played a full NHL season in five years. I understand why the Blue Jackets made this move, which is a calculated risk. I just hope Horton stays healthy enough to make it worthwhile for both sides. Meanwhile, due to off-season shoulder surgery, he won’t be joining the Jackets until November.
Jarome Iginla, Boston Bruins (one-year, $6 million). Interesting that Iginla signs with the team he spurned in favor of a trade last season to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s reportedly a bonus-laden contract ($1.8 million base, $3.7 million bonus after 10 games played, remainder in performance bonuses), which seems an affordable deal for the Bruins. Iginla usually starts slow each season but by mid-season his game picks up. Last season, however, was the first time Iginla, 36, appeared noticeably slower. It could be due to the shortened season and having played most of it for the woeful Calgary Flames, but it could also be age finally catching up with him. Still, it’s only a one year deal. If it doesn’t pan out, the Bruins aren’t handcuffed by it.
David Clarkson, Toronto Maple Leafs (seven years, $36.75 million). Sorry Leafs fans, but your club overpaid for Clarkson. I realize he’s a local boy (Mimico), plays with a physical edge and has a 30-goal season on his resume. He’s also 29, and only reached 30 goals and 40 points once in his career.. If this were three years shorter and $1.5 million per season cheaper, it could be worthwhile. Clarkson’s now going to be under considerable pressure to play up to that contract in arguably the most demanding hockey market in the world. I wish him the best of luck, he’s gonna need it.
Tyler Bozak, Toronto Maple Leafs (five years, $21 million). More of a re-signing, I like this deal better than the Clarkson one. It’s certainly more affordable than the eight-year deal his agent proposed, or the $5 million per season he was thought to be seeking. While I still consider Bozak a better second-line center, he’s got terrific chemistry with scoring star Phil Kessel. I think this move was made with re-signing Kessel in mind between now and next summer. Still a bit pricey, but better than it could’ve been.
Stephen Weiss, Detroit Red Wings (five years, $24.5 million). At this stage of his career, Weiss is a good second-line center, which was just what the Wings sought. His speed and offensive skills should make him a good fit with the Wings puck possession game. My only concern is his recent injury history, though that could be more the result of a shortened season. If he stays healthy, this should work out well for the Wings.
Mike Ribeiro, Phoenix Coyotes (four years, $22 million) Though a tad expensive (over $5 million per season), Ribeiro is a reliable playmaker, making him invaluable for a team in need of offensive depth like the Coyotes. Though his playoff stats don’t measure up to his regular season numbers, I think he’s a good addition for the Desert Dawgs anemic offense.
Valtteri Filppula, Tampa Bay Lightning (five years, $25 million). The Lightning were willing to pay what the Red Wings wouldn’t. Filppula is a versatile forward with good offensive skills, but his inconsistency is a concern. Though a bit pricey, if he can become a more consistent offensive presence, he should be a good fit on their second line. For me, this deal’s about a year too long and $1 million per season too expensive, but if the Bolts weren’t willing to pay, somebody else would’ve.
Viktor Stalberg, Nashville Predators. (four years, $12 million). After a 22-goal, 43-point season, Stalberg struggled last season with the Blackhawks. He’ll get his chance to regain his scoring touch with the Predators, who are in need of scoring depth. His addition also means the end of Sergei Kostitsyn’s tenure in Nashville. The deal’s a little lengthy and it’s about $500K per season too expensive, but this won’t break the bank for the Preds.
Ryane Clowe, New Jersey Devils (five years, $24.25 million). Clowe is a rugged left winger with three fifty-plus point seasons on his resume, but the 30-year-old really struggled during this shortened season, which unfortunately was ended by concussion. I could have understood this signing if it were for three years at, say, between $3.5 to even $4 million per, but this one is too long and commits too much for a player who may be passing his prime.
Michael Ryder, New Jersey Devils (two years, $7 million). Ryder is getting the same term and dollars as his previous contract. He’s a streaky scorer, but when he’s on his game he’s capable of 50-60 points. Offensively, he should be an adequate replacement for David Clarkson. This was a more sensible signing by the Devils.
Rob Scuderi, Pittsburgh Penguins (four years, $13.5 million). The Penguins are paying a lot to bring back Scuderi, who departed via free agency four years ago. He should provide more experienced defensive depth and leadership on their blueline. Investing four years at $3.375 million per on a 34-year-old defenseman does seems a bit much. Still, his experience could benefit their younger blueliners.
Andrew Ference, Edmonton Oilers (four years, $13 million). Defense was the Oilers weak link for several years now, so it’s no surprise they landed Ference. He’s a physical, defensive blueliner who can play big minutes when needed. His experience should prove worthwhile for the young Oilers. Considering some of the other signings today, the dollars for Ference seem reasonable, though the term is perhaps one year too long.