Monday, July 4, 2011

5 Best NHL Free Agent Signings

July 1 is of course Canada Day. It's a great day to enjoy being around family and friends while taking in some BBQ and fireworks. It's also the day where for a few select Canadian kids they become more wealthy than they've ever dreamed of.

Yes, Canada Day is also known as NHL Free Agent Day. In between flipping burgers on the BBQ, hockey fans are asking "hey did we sign <enter name of overrated player> yet?" Depending on who your team signed some fans are not only ordering their jersey but are planning that Stanley Cup parade route for next summer.

Yesterday I touched on some of the deals that left a lot of hockey fans scratching their heads. These are the signings that make some GM's look like brilliant men.

#5. Eric Belanger (C) - Edmonton Oilers
The Contract: 3 years/$5.25million - Cap hit of $1.75million
Why it's a great deal: Last season the Oilers had a lot of things missing from their lineup. Scoring, toughness, faceoffs, goaltending, you name it and it was wasn't there. GM Steve Tambellini saw a very young team that could be a few years away from greatness and addressed some immediate concerns like toughness and faceoffs. While the signings of Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk were good, the signing of Eric Belanger was even better. The Oilers are acquiring one of the best faceoff men in the NHL who can play in pretty much any situation and get you 40 points. There's a good chance that Belanger will be the Oilers fourth line centre this season and that's a huge upgrade over Andrew Cogliano or Colin Fraser.

#4. Matt D'Agostini (RW) - St. Louis Blues
The Contract: 2 years/$2.3million - Cap hit of $1.15million
Why it's a great deal: In his first full season in the NHL D'Agostini scored an impressive 46 points in 82 games for the Blues last year. Not too shabby for the 24 year old who had a limited role with the team last season. Now compare this deal with the Ville Leino signing that I wrote about yesterday. Leino in his first full season was 27 and had 53 points while playing in more of an offensive role with a better team in the Philadelphia Flyers. I'd have to say that Blues GM Doug Armstrong did a pretty good job here.

#3. Andrew Brunette (LW) - Chicago Blackhawks
The Contract: 1 year/$2million
Why it's a great deal: I have to admit first that I'm a big Andrew Brunette fan. My buddies give me a hard time when I draft him every single year in our hockey pool. Why do I draft him every year? I draft him because he's a consistent player. Yes, he's 37 year's old but he's also guaranteed to get you at least 50 points. Plus, he never gets hurt, he's appeared in all 82 games 7 out of the last 9 years. Last year he had an off year playing for a terrible Minnesota Wild team and got 46 points but look at Chicago's left side and it's a little bare. Don't be surprised to see him put up some big numbers on Chicago's second line next season.

#2. Max Talbot (C) - Philadelphia Flyers
The Contract: 5 years/$9million - Cap hit of $1.8million
Why it's a great deal: It's important to know that according to TSN this deal may be in violation of the salary cap because the final two years of his contract are less than half of the first two years of the deal. According to the story he'll earn $2.5m and $2.25m the first two years then $1m for the last two years. Regardless, it sounds like they'll figure this out and make it work. It's a good thing because the Flyers are acquiring a great third line player who has a Stanley Cup to his name. Talbot doesn't get a huge amount of points (21 last season) but he's a big game player who will no doubt be great for them in the playoffs. One thing to note is that he was a very popular Penguins player so those games in Pittsburgh next year will be very interesting.

#1. Tomas Vokoun (G) - Washington Capitals
The Contract: 1 year/$1.5million
Why it's a great deal: Interesting that I said the worst contract so far was the Ilya Bryzgalov signing. Similar to the Oilers, GM George McPhee saw a hole in his lineup and not only filled it but did it for a great price. The Capitals finished first in the East last year only to once again lose early in the playoffs. One of their biggest weaknesses was their 3 goalie carousel of young and inexperienced goalies. McPhee went out and got the 35 year old who is a veteran of 11 NHL seasons and put up a very respectable 2.55GAA and 6 shutouts last year for a terrible Florida Panthers team. The only knock against Vokoun is that he's only appeared in 5 NHL playoff games. But with a one year contract the Capitals have nothing to lose. At least they're not on the hook for 9 years like the Flyers are with their goalie.

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