NHL Free Agent Tracker 2014

The Hockey News
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The 2014 Free Agent Frenzy (aka, Overpay Day) is upon us and the gates are open. Which teams will land this year’s biggest fish and how much will they have to pay to land them?

It’s not the best free agent crop, but useful players can still be had. Matt Niskanen and Dan Boyle top the list of defensemen available, while Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller will look for a new home in net. Up front, Jarome Iginla, Thomas Vanek, Ales Hemsky and Paul Stastny will look to get their homerun deal. Where do they best fit.

What do you want your favorite team to do today, and what do you think of the moves? Let us know in the comments section below as THN breaks down each signing as it happens.


Joe Vitale, Arizona Coyotes: Three years, $1.116 million cap hit
Analysis:
On average, Vitale scores once every 20 games, so suffice to say the Arizona Coyotes did not give him a three-year deal worth $3.3 million for his offensive production. No, Vitale got that kind of money and term because he’ll embrace his role and status as a fourth-line player and will provide the Coyotes with a reliable faceoff man and penalty killer. With an annual average value of just $1.1 million, the Coyotes get a useful player for less than half the average annual salary of an NHL player. Vitale does not make the Coyotes a powerhouse, but he’s an upgrade on Jeff Halpern and he solidifies their center ice corps.–KC

 


Kyle Quincey, Detroit Red Wings: Two years, $4.25 million cap hit
Analysis:
The 28-year-old Quincey isn’t spectacular in any facet of the game, but in today’s defense-thin market, he was always going to get a raise on the $3.775 cap hit he had in each of the past two seasons. If you compare his new deal to, say, new Penguins blueliner Christian Ehrhoff’s one-year, $4-million deal, Quincey’s contract doesn’t look like a bargain. But it’s not a massive overpayment, either. He’s getting the same market value as Willie Mitchell got in Florida, and while they’re not the same player, this is the going rate for a player who, like Quincey, can give you 20 minutes of ice time a night.–AP

 


Jason LaBarbera, Anaheim Ducks: One year, $750,000 cap hit
Analysis:
At best, the acquisition of Jason LaBarbera by the Anaheim Ducks will push youngster John Gibson in training camp as the two battle for the backup spot behind Frederik Andersen. At worst, it will give the Ducks some time to allow Gibson to continue to develop in the minors without having to rush him into the NHL. Gibson is an outstanding prospect who proved himself during his first pro season in the American League and was brilliant at times during the playoffs for the Ducks, but ultimately faltered when the veteran Los Angeles Kings put the pressure on him. By having LaBarbera around at the relatively risk-free price of $750,000, the Ducks will be able bring him along at a reasonable pace and keep him in the AHL if need be. LaBarbera has ample NHL experience and can step up if the Ducks find their depth in goal challenged by injury or inconsistent play.-KC

 


Cory Conacher, New York Islanders: One year, $600,000 cap hit
Analysis:
Conacher is just 24, but the Isles will be his fourth NHL team in three years. He’s got some challenges in his game and scored just seven goals in 79 games last year, but his modest salary makes him a low-risk gamble – and if he comes close to scoring at the pace he did when he broke into the NHL, it will represent a high-reward for GM Garth Snow.–AP

 


Evgeni Nabokov, Tampa Bay Lightning: One year, $1.55 million cap hit
Analysis:
The Tampa Bay Lightning already has a Vezina-caliber candidate who can play between 60 and 65 games a season. But what their backup does in those other 20 to 25 games can mean the difference between being a legitimate contender and fighting for a playoff spot. The Lightning certainly bolstered their goaltending with the acquisition of Nabokov, a seasoned veteran who will be a good mentor for Ben Bishop as Bishop tries to hold his spot among the NHL’s elite. And Nabokov, who got a one-year deal worth $1.55 million, will be good for at least 20 starts, ensuring Bishop does not get worn down and supplying the Lightning with a backup who can deliver the goods.-KC

 


Marcel Goc, Pittsburgh Penguins: One year, $1.2 million cap hit
Analysis:
The 30-year-old Goc had to do what many veterans have to do in the salary-capped NHL: take a pay cut to stay on a team that’s not flush with cap space. But when you’re still looking for your first goal with a team you played 21 games for last season without scoring – as Goc is after coming over from Florida at the trade deadline – you don’t have much in the way of bargaining leverage.–AP

 


Joey MacDonald, Montreal Canadiens: One year, two-way, $925,000 cap hit
Analysis:
If Joey MacDonald ever ends up actually playing for the Montreal Canadiens this season, it will be because all of Carey Price, Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski have either been injured or faltered badly, so you can excuse Canadiens fans for hoping MacDonald never gets out of Hamilton with the exception of road trips in the American League. With Tokarski proving himself during the playoffs and being waiver eligible, it’s almost a given he won’t be playing in Hamilton this season, so MacDonald gives the Canadiens a proven pro goaltender with extensive experience both in the NHL and the minor leagues to back up their pro prospects. And if the unthinkable happens, he gives the Canadiens someone who can step up in a pinch.–KC

 


Brian Boyle, Tampa Bay Lightning: Three years, $2 million cap hit
Analysis:
The Lightning plucked another player away from the Eastern Conference champion Rangers this off-season, following up their signing of blueliner Anton Stralman with a three-year, $6-million deal for winger Brian Boyle. The 29-year-old forward hasn’t been able to reproduce his breakout 21-goal season in 2010-11 and had just six goals and 18 points for the Blueshirts last year. But he’ll go to the Bolts under lesser expectations and have a chance to rekindle his game. Hey, he can’t be much worse than Ryan Malone was for them last year.–AP

 


Matt Niskanen, Washington Capitals: Seven years, $5.85 million cap hit
Analysis: Nobody had better timing than Niskanen did in 2014-15. After all, the guy picked one of the leanest free agents years for defensemen to play out the last year of his contract and have the best season of his career. The laws of supply and demand allow Niskanen to negotiate a seven-year, $40.25-million deal with the Washington Capitals, who addressed their blueline deficiencies by plucking two defensemen from the Pittsburgh Penguins, not exactly a defensive juggernaut in recent seasons. Niskanen brings an ability to create offense from the back end, and more importantly, gives them a defenseman who can move the puck to Alex Ovechkin when the Rocket Richard winner busts out of his own end. One of the problems for Ovechkin is that he’s had to lug the puck too much and has become rather predictable. With Niskanen in Washington, look for Ovechkin to have a lot more opportunities off the rush. This undoubtedly spells the end of the line for Mike Green, who would have made the Niskanen acquisition unnecessary had he not almost completely lost his game. – Ken Campbell

 


Willie Mitchell, Florida Panthers: Two years, $4.25 million cap hit
Analysis: The Panthers’ spending spree continued Tuesday with the addition of Mitchell. The veteran blueliner had spent the previous four seasons with the Kings, but was squeezed by the Cup champions’ cap crunch and now replaces the amnestied Ed Jovanovski as one of the senior members of Florida’s drastically revamped roster. The 37-year-old averaged 20:19 for L.A. last year and the Panthers will need him to provide a rugged edge if they’re to succeed this season. – Adam Proteau

 


Brad Richards, Chicago Blackhawks: One year, $2 million cap hit
Analysis: Another major domino falls, and Chicago’s future is cloudy as a result. The Hawks’ need for a No. 2 center was clear, as Marcus Kruger appears destined to be more of a (great) third-liner. Richards fills a hole and, even though he’s lost a step or three, he’ll give Chicago dangerous secondary scoring. He’s also a ridiculous bargain at just $2 million. That said, the signing doesn’t bode well for Teuvo Teravainen’s chances of making the team this fall. He may have to shift to the wing if Stan Bowman and Joel Quenneville want to give him a shot. Also, cheap as it is, Richards’ contract puts Chicago well over the cap. Someone has to go, and the name that keeps popping up is Patrick Sharp. It’s hard to picture an “improved” Chicago team with Richards added and Sharp subtracted. - ML

 


Devan Dubnyk, Arizona Coyotes: One year, $800,000 cap hit
Analysis: At this time last year, Devan Dubnyk was Edmonton’s hopeful starter. By the end of the season, though, he had been a part of two other organizations and demoted to American League duty. Today, Dubnyk signs on for one year with Arizona, where he will probably be a backup so Mark Visentin can play in the AHL. Although, there’s no guarantee Dubnyk will stay in the NHL next season either. -RB

 


Matt Hunwick, New York Rangers: One year, $600,000 cap hit
Analysis: Just a depth signing for the Rangers. Hunwick spent most of last season in the American League and he’ll have a tough time finding regular minutes on a team employing Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Dan Boyle, Kevin Klein and John Moore. It’s worth noting Hunwick really found his scoring touch with Lake Erie this season, racking up 10 goals and 31 points in 52 games. - ML

 


Scott Clemmensen, New Jersey Devils: One year, $600,000 cap hit
Analysis: The Martin Brodeur era is officially over in New Jersey. Clemmensen, who will be 37 later this month, signed on to preumably play backup to Cory Schneider. But this isn’t much of an upgrade. Clemmensen is another aging goalie who had a sub-.900 save percentage in 17 appearances last season. Clemmensen was drafted by New Jersey in the eighth round in 1997 and returns to the team where he played his first few seasons. -RB

 


Ray Emery, Philadelphia Flyers: One year, $1 million cap hit
Analysis: Steve Mason looks like he’s turned a corner in his career again, but Emery was a decent back up to him this season. That combination will stick together for at least one more season as the Flyers got Emery under contract for only $1 million. At 31, Emery isn’t anything special. He posted a .903 save percentage last season and had one good start in three playoff appearances. But he made headlines with his fists, so he keeps up that Flyers image. -RB

 


Andrej Meszaros, Buffalo Sabres: One year, $4 million cap hit
Analysis: Another clever move for GM Tim Murray, who continues to cover his new team with his fingerprints. The $4 million gets Buffalo closer to the salary cap floor, and the one-year term means it doesn’t weigh the Sabres down at all. This team is still a long shot to make the playoffs, to say the least, and Meszaros makes a perfect trade-deadline chip since he’s set to become a UFA a year from now. Buffalo can easily flip him to a contender for a draft pick next March. While Meszaros is in Buffalo, he can mentor youngsters like Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov, should they make the team. - ML

 


Deryk Engelland, Calgary Flames: Three years, $2.9 million cap hit
Analysis: At $2.9 million total (about a $1 million cap hit), this was a fair deal, but $2.9 million cap hit? Apparently, there was a bit of a bidding war for Engelland, which drove up his price. But the question is…why? He can play forward or defense, so he’s versatile, but he’s a 32-year-old castoff from a broken Penguins defense. Orpik’s contract may be the worst of the day and is certainly more burdensome, but Engelland’s is just confusing. He’s a big, physical guy, so this one has Brian Burke’s fingerprints all over it. But how effective will Engelland actually be? He’s a No. 6 or 7 defenseman.  -RB

 


Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning: Five years, $4.5 million cap hit
Analysis: Pay that man his money. Stralman got a lot of attention in New York’s run to the Cup final, but he’s more than just one good spring. Lightning GM Steve Yzerman makes yet another exciting move, acquiring the puck-moving blueliner he didn’t get when Dan Boyle signed in New York. And Stralman is the better, longer-term, more defensively reliable option anyway. Stralman has gone from Toronto to Columbus to New York in his career and said he wanted to find security somewhere. He got it in Tampa Bay, which is quickly looking like a beast in the East. Could Tampa actually be the conference favorite by the time the season rolls around? Are they there already? -RB

 


Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs: Four years, $2.95 million cap hit
Analysis: Everyone’s favorite multi-lingual agitator is back. It’s clear the Leafs are trying to get tougher, having brought back Komarov after trading for Roman Polak and signing Stephane Robidas. Komarov returns from a one-year hiatus in the Kontinental League and will immediately become a first-class super-pest in the NHL. He hits early and often and can play a shutdown role. The $2.95-million cap hit feels like a fan-favorite overpay, however, as Komarov only has 42 NHL games to his name. - ML

 


Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche: Three years, $5.3 million cap hit
Analysis: Well, this is interesting. Iginla pulls a Ray Bourque by leaving Boston to chase the Stanley Cup he hasn’t won with the Colorado Avalanche. But these aren’t the same Avalanche as Bourque’s. Not even close. Earlier today, Colorado lost center Paul Stastny to St. Louis and they already had big concerns on defense. The 2013-14 Avs won the Central Division largely because of Semyon Varlamov, who will have a hard time matching his Vezina finalist numbers. This team has lots to improve on the roster still and played over its head last season, so it actually seems destined for a fall back to the pack in 2014-15. It’s hard to imagine Iginla getting his Cup here. Curious decision on his part. - RB

 


Martin Havlat, New Jersey: One year, $1.5 million cap hit
Analysis: The Devils continue their trend of picking 30-something free agent forwards off the scrap heap with the Havlat signing, which comes on the heels of a big deal for Mike Cammalleri. Havlat, whose brittleness has vastly overshadowed his talent in recent years, probably won’t excite many Devils fans as an acquisition, but this is a low-risk, medium-gain signing for GM Lou Lamoriello. We know how successful the Jaromir Jagr signing was, and the Devils are likely hoping Havlat gels with fellow Czechs Jagr, Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky. There aren’t many players capable of 50 points you can get for $1.5 million a year, and Havlat is one of them if he can stay healthy. Havlat is more likely to disappoint than not, but this deal is all about value. -ML

 


Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres: Five years, $5 million cap hit
Analysis: Moulson must have enjoyed his half-season stint in Buffalo this season because he’s back for the long-term now. At 30 years old, Moulson finally gets his big pay day and, perhaps surprisingly, it’s from the rebuilding Sabres. He was part of a project team on Long Island and now he’ll be a leader in another project organization. If he’s a 30-goal scorer, this isn’t a bad deal at all, especially for a team that doesn’t need to be spending much in the near future. But if he’s the player he was in Minnesota, it will look ugly in a few years. On the other hand, if he plays in Buffalo like he did in Minnesota, it’ll help Buffalo’s bid for Connor McDavid. Bet on Moulson being a key goal scorer in Buffalo. that’s what he does best and the days of underestimating this player are over. -RB

 


Dominic Moore, New York Rangers: Two years, $1.5 million cap hit
Analysis: The Rangers kept one of their free agents at least. Moore played a pesky and effective role on their run to the Stanley Cup final and got a fair $500,000 raise on a short-term deal to stay put and try to take another run. -RB

 


Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild: Three years, $6.5 million cap hit
Analysis: The wait is over and Vanek ends up where most of us thought he would. That he turned down a reported seven-year, $50-million offer from the Islanders a few months ago tells us how much of a hometown discount Vanek takes here in both term and cap hit. He wants to win and he’ll fit great in a stacked Wild forward corps alongside Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter. Vanek to Minnesota made sense all along because, of course, he’s a University of Minnesota alumnus and he met his wife there. Questions abound about his ability to deliver in the playoffs, but he only needs to be a cog in the machine on this deep team. A good signing and GM Chuck Fletcher has to be happy to nab the top free agent fish without handing out a long-term deal. - ML

 


Shawn Thornton, Florida Panthers: Two years, $1.2 million cap hit
Analysis: Truculence! -RB

 


Stephane Robidas, Toronto Maple Leafs: Three years, $3 million cap hit
Analysis: Robidas is a secondary, hard-working, respected veteran who is recovering from a broken leg he sustained in the playoffs. He is now the fourth right-handed defenseman on the Toronto roster, with Dion Phaneuf, Roman Polak and Cody Franson being the others. Is that OK, or does this signing mean a trade is on the way today, or soon after? -RB

 


Jonas Hiller, Calgary Flames: Two years, $4.5 million cap hit
Analysis: No longer playing 1A or 1B, Hiller fills the other No. 1 job in Western Canada after Ryan Miller signed up with the Vancouver Canucks. Neither Hiller or Miller, the two biggest UFA goalies available, got as much term or money as they did on their previous deals, which says a lot about the goalie market. On TSN, Pierre McGuire said Hiller would have been a target of his had he been hired as GM with the Pittsburgh Penguins. What if? -RB

 


Brian Gionta, Buffalo Sabres: Three years, $4.25 million cap hit
Analysis: Josh Gorges now has company in Buffalo, and that’s probably not a coincidence. Montreal is out a captain as Gionta joins the Sabres on a three-year deal. Why shell out more than $4 million a season to a 35-year-old whose ceiling appears to be 20 goals at this stage? The deal makes more sense than meets the eye. The Sabres have so much cap space that they needed to sign some players to reach the new cap floor. Better yet, Gionta is a strong dressing room presence who will help mentor young Buffalo players like Cody Hodgson. - ML

 


Mathieu Perreault, Winnipeg Jets: Three years, $3 million cap hit
Analysis: The Mathieu Perreault signing in Winnipeg is mildly puzzling. Glass half full: he’s received limited opportunities wherever he’s played and he’s found a way to score. His 18 goals and 43 points in 69 games were highly impressive considering he averaged just 13:52 of ice time per game. Glass half empty: Perreault is another depth forward on a Jets team desperate for high-end talent. Perreault is not the type of guy who will make others around him better and improve Winnipeg’s power play. That’s what this team needs most. - ML

 


Tom Gilbert, Montreal Canadiens: Two years, $2.8 million cap hit
Analysis: On the same day Josh Gorges ships off to Buffalo, Tom Gilbert comes to Montreal to replace him. That said, Gilbert replaces Gorges in terms of minutes, not role. He won’t bring the same sandpaper to Montreal’s lineup. Instead, he’ll contribute mobility and a generally well-rounded game. He’ll be useful as a second- or third-pairing blueliner who can eat minutes and man the point on the second power play unit. There’s no question the deal makes Montreal’s blueline more mobile, but is that what this team needs if it already had it in spades? With Doug Murray likely gone as well, the Habs are suddenly low on mean-spirited defensemen. That said, the Gilbert signing is more likely to block Nathan Beaulieu’s path than that of hulking Jarred Tinnordi, so maybe it’s Tinordi time in Montreal. - ML

 


Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars: Three years, $4 million cap hit
Analysis: The Stars have had two real nice summers in a row. Earlier today they acquired Jason Spezza, and now they get Ales Hemsky to play a top-six role on a nice-looking forward unit. Hemsky provides another playmaking presence – much like Spezza – so he may fit better playing alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. That’s not a bad threesome at all. And, really, this is a beautiful price. Usually teams have to way overpay free agents on July 1, but this deal is neither long in term or expensive in cap. This is actually shaving $1 million off his previous cap hit.  -RB

 


Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks: Three years, $6 million cap hit
Analysis: Called it! There used to be a time where a goalie of Miller’s stature could have gone to whichever team he wanted for lots of term and money. But, really, how many other places could Miller go where he’d be the No. 1? His desire was to go to the West Coast, which further diminished his market since the California teams have their goalies. Vancouver got a sturdy guy to play behind their transition and help make sure this thing doesn’t go completely off the rails. Once again, this is a re-tool in Vancouver, not a rebuild. And maybe in three years, Jacob Markstrom or Eddie Lack will be ready. -RB

 


Mike Weaver, Montreal Canadiens: One year, $1.75 million cap hit
Analysis: The Canadiens traded Gorges, so they kept the other reliable defensive blueliner. Weaver was acquired from Florida and played a solid, quiet role in their run to the East final. It’s a good, low-risk, low-money spend to fill a depth spot on defense. -RB

 


Brooks Orpik, Washington Capitals: Five years, $5.5 million cap hit
Analysis: This is outrageous! Brooks Orpik, a leading player on Pittsburgh’s imploding defense corps that desperately needed an overhaul this summer, somehow pulled a five-year deal out of his hat for an even higher cap hit. Orpik is slow and getting slower at 33 years old. This is a lot to pay for a guy like that today, let alone four and five years from now. Let the buyout watch commence on this head-scratching signing. -RB

 


Dave Bolland, Florida Panthers: Five years, $5.25 million cap hit
Analysis: Well, Bolland got his money. Florida Panthers ownership has stated its intention to spend money, which is good, but the team needed to spend money anyway, just to get to the salary floor. The cap hit is high, especially since Bolland will likely be on the third line behind Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad, but what will really hurt the Panthers, in my opinion, is the term. Bolland is frequently injured, so while he’s a good short-term fit to play depth behind Florida’s young core, how effective will he be in year four or five? -RB

 


Dan Boyle, New York Rangers: Two years, $4.5 million cap hit
Analysis: The Rangers couldn’t bring Anton Stralman back, so they acquired the older, more experienced, Boyle. TSN reported Boyle left money on the table to join the Rangers and former teammate Martin St-Louis. Boyle’s minutes were on the way down in San Jose and he’s not the player he once was. But in New York, he doesn’t need to log as many minutes as he was with the Sharks. Signing veterans is a very Glen Sather thing to do, but at least he got this one for a decent amount of money. Boyle may be in decline, but he’s not making No. 1 money anymore. This cap hit is actually in line with what his contribution will be. It is curious, however, that the Rangers would rather pay Boyle $4.5 million than Stralman, who signed on with Tampa Bay for that amount. -RB

 


Mason Raymond, Calgary Flames: Three years, $3.1 million cap hit
Analysis: The Flames needed a replacement for Cammalleri and they got a cheaper scorer in Mason Raymond. Raymond was picked off the scrap heap last summer and scored 19 goals for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He’s eerily similar to Clarke MacArthur, who had two good seasons with the Leafs before they let him walk after buying him low. He’s fit in well with Ottawa and Calgary could get a similar return on Raymond, who comes at an affordable price for a rebuilding team. -RB

 


Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers: Four years, $4 million cap hit
Analysis: Jokinen has proven extremely useful when placed in the right situation with the right linemates. He’s a skilled, surehanded, versatile forward who excels in shootouts. The future of the Panthers’ offense belongs to budding star forwards Aleksander Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad, but Jokinen is a nice complementary piece. He can slot it in easily on Barkov or Bjugstad’s wing and he can boost the Panthers’ power play. Having drafted Aaron Ekblad last week and also inked Dave Bolland today, GM Dale Tallon ain’t messin’ around. - ML

 


Clayton Stoner, Anaheim Ducks: Four years, $3.25 million cap hit
Analysis: More than $3 million a season for stay-at-homer Clayton Stoner? This feels like a reactive move for Bob Murray’s Ducks, who are arming themselves to compete with the big, physical forwards teams like Los Angeles and St. Louis will throw at them next season. The Ducks have plenty of young skill on the blueline with the likes of Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen and Cam Fowler, so a bit of extra muscle makes sense, especially after Stoner acquitted himself well with Minnesota in the playoffs. That said, there’s a bit of a logjam now with guys like Mark Fistric, Bryan Allen and Ben Lovejoy. Someone has to go, right? -ML

 


Mike Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils: Five years, $5 million cap hit
Analysis: The Devils love their veterans and they needed to add scoring, so of course GM Lou Lamoriello signed veteran scorer Mike Cammalleri. The Devils had the 27th-ranked offense last season – and were led in scoring by a 42-year-old. But this comes at a price. Cammalleri will be 39 when this five-year deal expires and it’s hard to believe he’ll still be a dangerous scorer at that age. He scored 26 last season, but was down around 20 in 2011 and 2012. For the short-term, the Devils acquire something they need. But boy, this could be a bad contract in a couple years. -RB

 


Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues: Four years, $7 million cap hit
Analysis: Everyone knew the Blues were after a center this off-season, but when the music stopped on the trade circuit, St. Louis still didn’t have a partner. So they went out and scooped up the best available center in free agency and didn’t have to sign him for a ton of term. The Blues got their guy for $7 million, which is worth it if he can be the first line center the Blues need. Because this team isn’t missing much. - RB

 


Milan Michalek, Ottawa Senators: Three years, $4 million cap hit
Analysis: Think of this re-signing as damage control for Senators GM Bryan Murray. With Jason Spezza shipped out of town, Murray had to send a message that he intends to keep this team competitive. Doing so is crucial if Ottawa wants any hope of signing Bobby Ryan to a long-term deal. That said, how much output will the Sens receive from Michalek now that Spezza, his most common center, out of town? Michalek, 29, is only two years removed from a 35-goal season, but played all 82 games this past season and only managed 17 goals. He’ll be hard-pressed to top that total next season unless Murray acquires more help on the open market and/or Mika Zibanejad makes a developmental leap and secures the No. 2 center job. - ML

 


Chad Johnson, New York Islanders: Two years, $1.3 million cap hit
Analysis: Long Island’s goalie overhaul is complete. They’ve already brought in Jaroslav Halak to be the starter and now Johnson comes from Boston to be the backup. And this is quite an upgrade, too. Johnson had a .925 SP in 27 games with Boston this season and .954 SP in four games with Phoenix the season before. Not that goaltending was completely to blame for the Islanders’ failures this season, but it was a weak spot. No more. -RB

 


Benoit Pouliot, Edmonton Oilers: Five years, $4 million cap hit
Analysis: Say what you want about the Oilers’ inability to improve despite all the young talent in recent years, but Pouliot at least improves their depth and gives them a different breed of player. Pouliot brings good size to the wing at 6-foot-3 and 197 pounds and, as he showed during the Rangers’ run to the Stanley Cup final, he’s drastically improved his ability to play in dirty areas and agitate opposing goaltenders. He undoubtedly gives the Oilers something they’ve lacked, but the term and cap hit probably make the fan base sweat. At $4 million a season, Edmonton needs Pouliot to be a 20-goal man. He’s never scored more than 17 goals in a season, and he’s spent the recent part of his career on much better teams with a superior supporting cast (Boston, Tampa Bay, New York). - ML

 


Mark Fayne, Edmonton Oilers: Four years, $3.625 million cap hit
Analysis: The Oilers continue to try and improve their defense and are spending to do it. They’ve already signed Nikita Nikitin for $4.5 million and are now committing to Fayne for four years. This means they don’t have to put in the kids right away, but neither is a leading guy either. Still work to do in Edmonton, but Fayne is a pretty good add. The four-year term is the price of buying a player in free agency, but the $3.625 million hit isn’t all that bad. - RB

 


Manny Malhotra, Montreal Canadiens: One year, $850,000 cap hit
Analysis:
The Montreal Canadiens know the Eastern Conference is theirs for the taking after they made a deep playoff run this past spring. Malhotra, a defensive pivot, makes them harder to play against. He was a great comeback story in Carolina after it appeared an eye injury ended his career. He finished second in the NHL in faceoff efficiency this past season at 59.4 percent. He’s a fast skater, a premium penalty killer and he gives the Habs an excellent one-two punch of two-way pivots alongside Tomas Plekanec. Better yet for GM Marc Bergevin, one year at $850,000 is a low-risk investment. – ML

 



Christian Ehrhoff, Pittsburgh Penguins: One year, $4 million cap hit
Analysis:
It’s safe to say the Pittsburgh Penguins are moving on from Matt Niskanen. Ehrhoff, who was just bought out of a 10-year deal paying him $4 million per season, will earn the same annual value in this one-year deal with the Penguins. He faded into obscurity on bad Buffalo teams in recent seasons, but is still a capable minutes eater who can play in all situations. He’s likely to see power play time with the high-octane Pens, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him post his best offensive totals since his 50-point heyday with the Vancouver Canucks. He only turns 32 this week and, at $4-million, he’s a bargain for new GM Jim Rutherford. Remember when the Oilers decided to pay Nikita Niktin $4.5 million per season last week? – ML