NHL 2011 Free Agency Recap & Analysis (Part 1)

July 3, 2011, by

Coyotes GM and former Rangers great, Don Maloney, told the press at the 2011 draft, “It’s an unusual landscape right now. Quite frankly, I’m not sure what’s going to happen July 1. It might just go berserk and the people who have money just blow their brains out.”

Well Maloney was eerily prophetic. Thanks to an increased cap ceiling ($64.4 million) and cap floor ($48.3 million), the competitive landscape of the NHL looks a lot different today than it did last week.

Teams with money did in fact blow their brains out, and teams who have hovered near the previous cap floors of $40 mill were all of a sudden forced to hand out big contracts to remain compliant. It seems like the $39 million ceiling/$21.5 million floor of the 2005-06 is but a memory.

It’s almost been impossible to keep up with all of the trades and free agent signings with all of the movement we’ve seen in the last 48 hours. For example, how the hell did I miss Daniel Carcillo signing with Chicago on a 1 year deal? That information was just buried in all of this Jagr/Richards talk.

Anyway, if you’re like me and haven’t had the time to catch up, here’s a quick analysis of everything that has gone down in the last day or two.

Jaromir Jagr (F) to the Flyers for One year, $3.3 million cap hit

Everyone and their mother thought Jagr was going back to the Penguins for the fairy tale ending. Oh well, I guess Jagr really needed that extra couple of thousand.

At first look I didn’t like this deal. Jagr has long hated playing dump and chase, which was a key component to the 2010-2011 Flyers. Systematically, they were structured very similarly to the Rangers, with an aggressive puck pursuit system. Since Jagr is too old to hit and forecheck, this signing didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

Of course, for now it appears that the Flyers have completely blown up that sandpaper strategy. Captain and key forechecker, Mike Richards is gone (LA), Carcillo is gone (Chicago), Ville Leino is gone (Buffalo), and Carter – ok he was soft – is gone (Columbus). For the first time ever, are the Flyers really going to be a finesse team? Perhaps.

Ville Leino (F) to the Sabres for 6 years, $4.5 million cap hit

As much promise as Ville Leino showed, the 27 year old is not worth $4.5 per year. Last season he put up 19 goals and 53 points. Good numbers sure, but prior to last season he played 68 games in two seasons, putting up only 20 points. Not really sure what the Sabres were thinking on this one, but hey at least their new billionaire owner, Terry Pegula, is living up to his word that Buffalo is no longer a small market team.

Christian Ehrhoff (D) to the Sabres for 10 years, $4 million cap hit

Did I mention that the Sabres are no longer a small market team? Indeed the days of poaching their young talent are gone. Technically this signing took place before July 1st, but you can’t talk about free agency and not mention that one of the better offensive defensemen of this year’s UFA class was traded to the Islanders (from Vancouver), who in turn had to trade him to Buffalo within hours because the all-star wanted nothing to do with the moribund franchise.

As far as this deal is concerned, I like the cap hit, but hate the years, but of course that’s free agency for ya. Ehrhoff had some terrific seasons on the blueline for San Jose and Vancouver, but both teams were cool parting ways with him. I’m guessing his lack of post-season success is to blame. Whether or not he’s truly an elite puck rusher or just a product of playing with great teams remains to be seen. Either way, the Sabres are locked into this guy for a very long time.

James Wisniewski (D) to Columbus for 6 years, $5.5 million cap hit

Wisniewski had a career year from the blueline with 10 goals and 51 points and he will be the 6th highest paid defensemen in the league. However, this will be his 5th team in 3 years. Is he really worth that much loot?  If he plays like he did for Montreal sure, but if he’s getting suspended for making bj gestures at opposing players, then um, no.

Tomas Fleischmann (F) to the Panthers for 4 years, $4.5 million cap hit

Dave coined this year’s free agency the “year of the cap floor.” He is absolutely correct and this deal is example A of how bottom feeder teams are overspending. Fleischmann is a 20 goal scorer coming off a season cut short due to injury (blood clots). He’s worth maybe $3 mill max.

Ed Jovanovski (F) to the Panthers for 4 years, $4.1 million cap hit

Jovanovski had 14 points in 50 games and is 35 years old. Sure, he’s only 2 seasons removed from a 10 goal season with Phoenix, but he’s 35! He can’t be bought out! This is a guy you give a 1 or 2 year deal. Four years and a $4 million cap hit? What is Miami doing? I’ll tell ya what Miami is doing. This contract is example B of “year of the cap floor.”

Scottie Upshall (F) to the Panthers for 4 years, $3.5 million cap hit

Scottie Upshall is a 3rd line player who has never cracked 20 goals and could conceivably be making the same money as Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky. Look $3.5 is nothing crazy, but the kicker in this deal is a no-movement clause. Third line players shouldn’t get no-movement clauses.

All of these deals, not to mention the trading for overpaid players like Brian Campbell (5 years, $7.1 mill per) and Versteeg ($3 mill), one has to wonder why locking up Vokoun was such an issue down in Miami.

So Suit, do you like any free agent signings?

I do, and his name is Brad Richards.

Brad Richards (F) to the Rangers for 9 years, $6.7 million cap hit

I’ve been saying since mid-season that if Brad Richards is going to be a Blueshirt, he would have to take less money than what our competitors were offering. I also said he would come in under $7 million per. Thanks for believing Matt J. Silk tie for you.

This is as good a signing as you are going to get for an elite player in his prime. Are the years a bit long? Sure. But this is free agency. The terms are never going to be perfect. However, I would rather give him more years than more cap hit. And don’t get me started on the concussion b.s. He’s had one concussion. The same number as Derek Stepan and Sidney Crosby, and no one in the Rangers or Pittsburgh fan base would not sign those two.

Alright, we’ll I’m off to the pool.  Check back later for Part 2  of our free agency analysis where I’ll tell you my thoughts on Mike Rupp and some of these other less expensive signings.


  1. Matt J says:

    Wisniewski went to the blue jackets….

  2. shelly w says:

    Have you noticed that the link to this site has been removed at The Prospect Park by Jess (lets rebuild forever) Rubenstein. Guess that’s what happens when you have the audacity to disagree with him.

  3. Leatherneckinlv says:

    I was not a fan of bringing Richards here, now that he is here Welcome to the NY Rangers Brad Richards, I will root for you and cheer you on. You now wear the jersey of my favorite sports team. I do think Richards will play with Gaborik and Wolski but I think Sather now has to make a move and get Sharp to fit in with those two to form elite line one. Having two thirds of a line simply is unacceptable, So this line should be Sharp-Richards-Gaborik. This was one of the reasons I was against bringing in Richards. Richards and Gaborik only make up 2/3rds of that line and the other winger better be able to play with them and their style of play. Cally and Dubi have roles on the other lines and should not be placed on this line

  4. bshirtb says:

    i guess the grachev watch can go now. =/