NHL Free Agent Frenzy: Grades for the first two days

*Editor’s Note: Maksim Vasilyev is back.  We have decided to bring him on as a regular writer.  Maksim will be helping with our NHL coverage*

The money game is going to be a big issue during the talks in NY – by talks I mean 5-year olds trying to share cookies. By 5-year olds, of course I am referring to NHLPA and NHL execs.

This is the type of stuff most sport fans ignore or just don’t care about. We want a hot dog and a beer to watch 200-pound men kill each other for that sweet nectar of glory that comes with a win. A win to rub into your best bud’s face as your team crushes his playoff hopes for a cup run…furthermore seeing his sweet, sweet tears of sad realization that another year of his precious King Henrik prime years was wasted. I mean you know, the GOOD stuff. We want the double stuff cream inside the Oreo, and we’ll let the dog have the cookie.

So the CAP stuff is boring but important, and it has been set so the teams know what they have to work with. You top out at $70 with 6 zeros and some change. The bottom floor, I like to call it the Long Island Line or LIL, of the salary CAP is set to be $54 million USD. All of this is lots of money – LOTS OF MONEY. You cannot even comprehend how many skittles you can buy with just the Long Island Line, let alone the NY Rangers bank account. So the crying game for most NHL clubs about not being able to afford to sign the creme de la creme of rookies is over. My humble opinion is that it really all comes down to your scouts and your GM hockey knowledge…with a sprinkle of luck.

The reason I bring up this CAP space hoopla is large in part to the UFA hunting season. The few big signings in my eyes so far follow:

Calgary Flames sign Jiri Hudler (4 years, $4 million AAV)

There has to be said something about the Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland and that is if he is not interested in paying a player the asking price it is because the player is not worth it. I do not remember any player that has left Detroit due to lack of money and become a good pick for another team (correct me if you dare). So that should be a red flag for anyone looking at Hudler. You know who has not been paying attention at all? Jay Feaster, that is who. This maybe the result of the market, maybe Jiri has a really good agent that predicted the UFA recession of 2012, but Jiri Hudler signed a 4 year deal worth $16 million. Johan Franzen makes less than Hudler…look it up. With this paycheck Jay Feaster made Calgary the 2nd highest paid team in the league, leaving about $4 million to lock up 3 or 4 more players.

Grade C +

Tampa Bay Lightning sign Sami Salo (2 years, $3.75 million AAV)

Sami Salo is on the very cold north side of 30 and has a huge track record of being injured. He has not played more than 70 games in his career. What Yzerman probably sees though is a solid mentor for Victor Hedman’s game (he does not need any tips on his scary face). Salo has good offensive game and is solid defensively. The price is considered to be very high by most critics, especially if he is sitting on your IR half the season, but I think this is a smart move to provide some mature game on a struggling back-end of a team that gave up the most goals in NHL.

Grade B +

Vancouver Canucks sign Jason Garrison (6 years, $4.6 million AAV)

On another hand, I wish I could get Jason Garrison pay % increase. He went from having a $700K CAP hit to a 4.6 million CAP hit. Not bad, eh? I won’t make you work for this, but here is why he makes as much as Kronwall. Worth it? Let’s talk about it after next year’s playoffs when he scores a few big goals on the PP for Vancouver and helps us avoid another city burning.

Grade B+

Detroit Red Wings sign Jordan Tootoo (3 years, $1.9 million AAV), and Mikael Samuelsson (2 years, $3 million AAV)

Jordin Tootoo and Mikael Samuelsson signing have sealed my opinion on the fact that Red Wings will not be bringing Minnesota holy child, Parise. I know there is still a chance, but I highly doubt it, call it a “guy who watches and reads too much about hockey” hunch. Both players are nice additions. One thing stands true is that Samuelsson is an upgrade over Hudler and Tootoo is a decent 4th liner to hand out some punishment. Nasty is something Detroit has been missing and Abdelkader just looks like a sweetie pie (compared to Tootoo). Tootoo reminds me of Darren McCarty, and even has a similar history of drinking problems that he has overcome.

Grade A –

Colorado Avalanche sign P.A. Parenteau, (4 years at $4 million AAV)

P.A. Parenteau went for another $4 million dollar deal. This is the favorite number for the GM’s this year. This man had one 60 point season and is 29 years old. How about them apples, eh? Garth Snow would have loved to keep the bro-romance that he had going between P.A. Parenteau and Tavares, but since he rides the LIL I mentioned above, he had no luck. Long Island dumpers, and I can say that because I live here, can’t overspend. A tight budget and only 16 skaters signed left Snow’s hands tied. While Greg Sherman is hoping for Parenteau possibly getting Matt Duchene to Tavares level of success, since they were the same Draft class (went 1st and 3rd overall respectively). Meanwhile, Colorado fans are holding their breath.

Grade A –

Dallas Stars sign Ray Whitney, (2 years at $4.5 million AAV)

Ray Whitney is a top tier-winger in NHL and I would understand a team paying top dollar for a player who crushed it with 77 points last year. What I do not understand is why a man would sign with a team that is rebuilding at a tender age of 40? Oh right, money. Ray was involved in a Bear Mountain golf course investment fiasco, that probably had a huge impact on his decision to take more money instead of signing with a cup contender like the Penguins (Penguins thought Steve Sullivan could be their Whitney last year). What does Dallas get? Well they get another winger that can put up numbers at $4.5 million per year for two years. This is a good contract to have for a solid player , while the teams waits for its young guns to mature. Dallas missed the playoffs last year by only a few points, and with some moves Joe Nieuwendyk thinks they can make the jump next year (he has a tight budget to deal with, unfortunately). He made cap space by trading Mike Ribeiro to the Capitals and picked up Derek Roy from Buffalo to get his #2 center issue filled. I mean on paper Dallas has Eriksson, Benn, Ryder, Roy, and Whitney, all of whom can put up over 65 points next year and this is good, damn good.

Grade A

…and that is the Last Word.

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  1. I disagree with your analysis of the Whitney signing. Historically, players’ performance declines sharply after the age of 35. In fairness, Whitney had a great year last season. However, in the years before that, he put up 57 and 58 points.

    That suggests to me that last year was an anomaly, and that he’s likely to crater. Consider that, historically, only three players–Howe, Recchi and Selanne–have scored more than 48 points at the age of 41 and older.

    1. The condition/training/nutrition of “Todays” players is much better. Also, if Whitney can help Radim Vrbata score 30 goals, how many goals does Benn score? 😛

      58 point is not that bad. Considering that Parise only had 66 and will have a 100 million dollar deal. It is all relative to the needs of each team.

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