July 02, 2014

History Made! Free Agent Frenzy

According to TSN, the more than HALF A BILLION DOLLARS committed by NHL teams to over 70 NHL players on the first day of Free Agent Frenzy 2014 is a new first-day record.

TSN said the previous record was $384 million spent back in 2009.

There are a couple of obvious factors as to huge numbers we saw on Tuesday. One is the salary cap (and the floor) jumped significantly, making a lot more new money available. Two is the new meet-and-greet period held 5 days prior to the start of free agency. This allowed players, agents and teams to narrow down their lists ahead of time, facilitating more signings on day one.

There has been a lot of debate as to whether this new five day window is a positive or a negative thing. Players and agents probably like it, but I've heard some grumblings from NHL teams. They claim it can be inflationary and also, since it happens so close to the NHL Draft and GM meetings, spreads organizational resources too thinly. Management teams wanting to focus more on the draft are being pulled away from that to focus on free agents.

We can now start analyzing just how inflationary the 2014 free agency period has been. There was a lot of concern that combination of the significant salary cap bump and the relatively week unrestricted free agency class would make for a lot of regrettable contracts in the not so distant future.

I have not taken the time to truly analyze the numbers, as, like most of us, my head is still spinning as I try to figure out who went where. But aside from the Washington Capitals spending huge money on Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen, and aside from the fact that NHL teams committed A HALF A BILLION DOLLARS in one day, I am actually pleasantly surprised at the restraint and, dare I say it, common sense shown in many cases on Tuesday.

Here's some more thoughts on Free Agent Frenzy 2014:
  • St. Louis landed Paul Stastny - arguably the most coveted free agent on the unrestricted market - for a very reasonable 4 year term was impressive. The money wasn't cheap at $28m but to be able to lock him up from age 28 through 32 - his prime years - without over-paying for his aging years is impressive.
  • I have to believe Christian Ehrhoff could have cashed nicely as there is always a premium on top defensemen, especially this year. But he took a 1 year, $4m gamble hoping to have a big season with Sidney Crosby and Co. in Pittsburgh. I haven't seen a forecast of possible 2014 UFAs, but Ehrhoff seems not to be concerned about a possibly more crowded field crimping a big contract next year.
  • I also like Pittsburgh adding Thomas Greiss as a back up goalie at just $1m. And they re-signed UFA Marcel Goc at $1.2m. He doesn't score a lot, and he's getting older, but I'm surprised someone did not offer him more. He's a very underrated player.
  • Buffalo added some nice veterans to help bring along their group of young kids. Veteran defenseman Andrej Meszaros on a one year contract was particularly shrewd. Watch Buffalo to trade him at next season's trading deadline and pick up a draft pick or two.
  • Edmonton really underwhelmed. They added some depth but none of Nikita Nikitin, Keith Aulie, Mark Fayne or Benoit Pouliot will make a significant impact.
  • Florida added some veteran help, which should make goalie Roberto Luongo happy. David Bolland, coming off of serious surgery, at 5 years/$27.5m jumps out at you, however.
  • Dan Boyle is said to have turned down far more lucrative offers to sign a 2 year/$9m deal with the Rangers. I really like that addition.
  • Washington's big splash on defense was expensive, but I like that they picked up goalie Justin Peters to share the load with Braden Holtby. He is one of the NHL's better kept secrets.
  • Vancouver signed goalie Ryan Miller to a hefty 3 year/$18m deal. The only really comparable goalie on the market was Jonas Hiller, who signed in Calgary for 2 year/$9m. Miller for 3 years suggests to me the new Canucks management are not sold on Eddie Lack as a workhorse start, and nor should they be.
  • Winnipeg also really underwhelmed. Given that and the fact that they rarely make trades, Winnipeg fans may soon be clamoring for better results. The honeymoon period is over for the Jets and their inactive management.
  • Given all the signings on Tuesday I was surprised to see Radim Vrbata not get signed. No doubt he will, probably very soon, as he is one of the few offensive forwards left.
  • Is it possible that we will see that no NHL team wants the NHL's all time winningest goalie? There's no real openings for a starting goaltender anymore, and Martin Brodeur does not really want to uproot his life just to be a mentoring back up, does he?

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