Over the years, free agency has been a time for teams to get creative and fill out their roster needs. Today, it is crazy to see how much the dollar in free agency has trended upwards. In the 2004-05 lockout, one of the primary concerns was that too much money was being given out to players. Therefore, a strict salary cap with limits on how much money a player could make were set. Fast forward to the present, and we are seeing record breaking deals that were unimaginable after the aforementioned dispute between the National Hockey League and the NHL Players Association.
Undoubtedly, some teams have gone on to regret the major contracts they have handed out during this time frame. Think of players such as David Clarkson, Wade Redden, Mike Richards, Scott Gomez, Ville Leino, and Brad Richards. All of these are signings that general managers would love to have back and some teams are still paying these players today. So yes, there have been some overpaid NHL players. However, let us not forget that there have also been some bargains for many teams. Just think about players like John Tavares and Tyler Seguin who are underpaid in comparison to players with lesser production.
Overall, for the most part, 2016 NHL free agency has come and gone. Barring major trades, teams have a pretty good idea of what their roster will consist of going into training camp. So let us take a look at teams that overpaid for players and teams that got themselves a bargain during 2016 NHL free agency. In the end, the length of the contract is what makes most of these signings fall in the category of "overpaid."
Some of the players may be worth the money for the first few years, but after that it is where we will seriously question the signings.
15 Bargain - James Reimer
The 28-year-old James Reimer signed with the Florida Panthers for five years at $3.4 million per season this offseason. People may think this is a lot of money for a backup goalie, but on the surface, it appears he will play a bigger role in Florida. Roberto Luongo will be 38 years old soon and he himself admitted that he was exhausted at some points last season. Also, Luongo has had hip surgery this offseason and may be missing time during the regular season. Therefore, it will not be a surprise to see Reimer get a heavy workload.
Reimer did have some struggles in Toronto over the years, but much of this can be attributed to the team in front of him. He looked much better in San Jose where there was a much better supporting cast. It is likely the same will apply in Florida. Overall, this is a great signing at a good price, because it will also allow Luongo to be fresh for the playoffs and Reimer will also be prepared in the event he does indeed take over for Luongo in the future.
14 Overpaid - Darren Helm
There is no doubt that Darren Helm is a valuable asset to the Red Wings. His great penalty killing skills, hustle, and grit have made him a fan favorite in Detroit and many teams would like to have this type of player. However, there should be a point for teams to walk away when a player asks for too much money. Ultimately, the Red Wings did not walk away from Helm and signed him to a five-year contract worth an annual cap hit of $3.85 million. Helm has never had 40 points, or more than 15 goals in a season. Some may attribute this to a lack of opportunity, but Helm did have a chance to play on the 1st and 2nd lines for parts of this past season. We will see what Helm does this season, but personally I am not expecting much more production because he will be stuck behind Henrik Zetterberg, and Frans Nielsen.
It is hard to doubt the Red Wings and their history, but this signing seems like one where their money could have been distributed to other areas of need.
13 Bargain - P.A. Parenteau
Here, we have a player that is returning to his old stomping grounds on a bargain contract. P.A. Parenteau signed with the Islanders for one year at $1.25 million, bringing puck possession and more scoring punch to the team. Parenteau did have his struggles over the past few years in Colorado and Montreal, but turned his career around this past season with the Maple Leafs. In total, Parenteau scored 20 goals and added 21 assists in 77 games with the lowly Leafs.
Now, with the departure of Kyle Okposo, Parenteau should have a chance some games to play alongside one of the games greats in John Tavares. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect similar, if not better production from Parenteau, as there is no player on the Maple Leafs that rivals Tavares.
12 Overpaid - Kyle Okposo
Another player that has proven he can score 20 plus goals in a season consistently. As a result, Kyle Okposo was able to ink a seven-year $42 million contract with the Sabres. Despite the fact Okposo is a proven 20 goal scorer, we decided to put him on this list due to the fact there are too many question marks around this signing. I know there are demands in free agency, but a cap hit of $6 million for a player that has not scored 30 goals is a bit much.
Additionally, it is fair to question if Okposo's game can improve to meet the new contract expectations. After all, he had been playing with John Tavares. As a result, it is fair to ask how he will produce without Tavares. Hopefully for the Sabres, Okposo is able to develop chemistry with Jack Eichel or Ryan O'Reilly like he had with Tavares or it could be a long seven years.
11 Bargain - Jamie McGinn
Coming off a career year where he scored 22 goals and 17 assists, McGinn signed a three-year deal worth $10 million with the Arizona Coyotes. The 6-foot-1, 205 pound forward will give the Coyotes size, muscle, and add scoring to a unit that already consists of great young players like Max Domi, and Anthony Duclair. He seems like a perfect fit for these skilled forwards because of his ability to to set screens, score goals in the dirty areas, and alternate between the top and bottom six.
McGinn played for both Buffalo and Anaheim this past season. He was a bright spot for Buffalo, scoring 14 goals before being traded to Anaheim. He kept on scoring goals for Anaheim despite playing in the bottom six. He was also one of the lone bright spots for the Ducks in the playoffs during their shocking first round exit. Overall, McGinn seems like a perfect fit for the up and coming Coyotes at a very reasonable price.
10 Overpaid - Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic is a heart and soul type player that plays with a tremendous amount of grit. He has had a solid career up to this point and he will also provide protection in case anybody tries to pick on the Oilers talented forward group. Additionally, if the Oilers finally make it to the playoffs, his experience will undoubtedly come in handy. However, the seven-year contract worth $6 million per year is just too steep. Lucic has not scored more than 20 goals since the 2013-14 season and his best hockey may already be behind him. Furthermore, the rugged style that power forwards play usually results in their bodies breaking down faster than other players (Lucic is now 28).
Another important fact to remember is that Lucic essentially replaced Taylor Hall. We will have to see if replacing a legitimate 80 point threat with Lucic will be worth it for the Oilers. Overall, this seems like a major over-payment by the Oilers.
9 Bargain - Dan Hamhuis
In an era where defencemen are getting paid a ton of money, the Dallas Stars were able to sign Dan Hamhuis for a decent price. In total, Hamhuis, the former Canuck and Olympic Gold Medal Winner, signed a two-year contract worth $7.5 million. Part of the reason the Stars got Hamhuis at this price is that he had a bit of a rough 2015-16 season. A lot of this can be blamed on injuries, as Hamhuis only played in 58 games and recorded only 13 points. Still, Hamhuis is still a sold two-way defenceman that should help the Stars replace Alex Goligoski and ensure the Stars do not have to force their young and upcoming defencemen into action.
Overall, Hamhuis is not the same defenceman he once was, as age and injuries have slowed him down a bit, but he is still a very serviceable one and should help out the Stars blue line for the next two years.
8 Overpaid - David Backes
Yes, many will see David Backes as a "classic" Bruin due to his big stature and intimidating game. He also proved last season that he can still make a significant impact in the playoffs by recording 14 points in 21 games. However, spending 6 million dollars a year for 5 years on a third-line center that is already 32 (unless Backes is moved to the wing) is just too hefty of a price.
If the Bruins were cup contenders this signing would be more justifiable, but they are not and the signing comes across a short sighted instead of thinking about the long term. Why not save the cap space to try and acquire a defenceman, which seems like a much bigger and obvious need for the team. Overall, maybe this move helps Boston get into the playoffs next season, but it is definitely not the move that will put them back into contention. Well, at least they did not give him a 7 year contract.
7 Bargain - Troy Brouwer
It seems like the Flames have been missing a gritty, heart and soul type forward since Jarome Iginla left. Now, I am not saying Brouwer is anywhere near the level of Iginla, but with the limited cap space they had, the Flames did well to address this significant need. Brouwer signed a four-year, $18 million contract with the Flames and should consistently provide leadership, goal scoring, and great play in the playoffs. It would not even be a surprise to see Brouwer score between 25-30 goals playing alongside Johnny Gaudreau or Sean Monahan. Another area that seems to be overlooked in regards to this signing is the fact that the Flames were able to avoid the six year term that seemed to be handed out like candy this offseason, especially to players 30 or older.
Overall, Brouwer has tons of playoff experience, including a Stanley Cup victory with the Chicago Blackhawks. Just as recent as this past postseason, Brouwer was very dependable. He scored 8 goals and added 5 assists in 20 outings, including a game winning goal in Game 7 against the aforementioned Blackhawks. Look for this to be a good signing for the Flames, at a good price.
6 Overpaid - Loui Eriksson
Now do not get me wrong, Loui Eriksson is a great player and this signing should keep the Sedin twins happy while boosting the Canucks offence, but for how long does he make the Canucks better? Eriksson signed a six year deal worth $36 million. Six million dollars per year for a two way winger that can score 30 goals is not bad value, however Eriksson will be 31 years old before he plays a game with the Canucks. So yes, he may be worth $6 million in years one, two, and maybe even three, but what about the later years of this contract when he is at an age where most players production tends to slow down? This six year term would be more understandable if the Canucks were in cup contention and desperate to take the next step, but that is not the case. If anything, they should be in a rebuild mode and this signing is just helping delay the inevitable.
Overall, this signing may help the Canucks place better in the standings next year, but seems like a signing that they will come to regret because of the term.
5 Bargain - Eric Staal
There may not be a player from this free agency with more to prove than Eric Staal. After the worst season of his career playing in Carolina and New York, Staal will be on a mission to prove that he is still an elite centre in the NHL. As a result of the aforementioned poor season, Minnesota was able to lock up Staal for a relatively cheap contract of 3 years for 10.5 million dollars. It is not often you get a player of Staal's pedigree for such "little money" and such favourable term, but luckily for Minnesota, this was the case.
It also looks like Staal found the perfect team to prove himself, as there appears to be a direct opening at centre after Mikko Koviu on the Wild roster. When he is on his game, Stall has the skills to be a premier playmaker and scorer. My guess is that he will be able to put up between 50-60 points in Minnesota this season.
4 Overpaid #2 - Frans Nielsen
Like the Helm signing, usually it is very difficult to question anything Detroit does, given their history. However, signing a 32-year-old center to a six-year deal worth $5.25 million per season is something that has to be questioned. Perhaps it was an act of desperation by the Wings after losing Pavel Datsyuk and losing out on Steven Stamkos. Now, to be fair, Frans Nielsen is a useful player and has averaged 51 points over the past three seasons. He is also strong defensively and can play on special teams. However, like many of the players included on this list, the length of this contract is simply too long. $5.25 million per year is a decent number for Nielsen for the first couple of seasons, but the last few years of the contract will come back to bite the Red Wings.
Overall, Nielsen does seem to fit the mold of a Red Wings type player and may help short term, but paying 5.25 million for a center that is already 32 years old for the next six years is too much.
3 Bargain - Brian Campbell
Brian Campbell is back with the Chicago Blackhawks. When the rumors of Campbell making a comeback to Chicago emerged, most people knew that he would have to take less money than he could get from other teams. Still, it was remarkable to see how much less money he actually took to go back to Chicago. Campbell signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract, with bonuses (there are rumors that Florida offered a one year, $5 million contract). Campbell still plays like a top-4 defenceman and he should fit right in with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, and Niklas Hjalmarsson and more importantly, help limit their minutes over the course of the season.
Yes, Campbell is 37 years old, however his play does not reflect that (Campbell himself, has joked about how he still feels young). In total, Campbell played all 82 games last season, recording 31 points, a 4 point increase from the previous season. Overall, many teams probably cringed when they saw the Cup contending Blackhawks scoop up Campbell.
2 Overpaid - Andrew Ladd
Is it just me, or have the Islanders been discussed a lot in this article? Anyway, it is fair to say the Islanders made a major gamble by signing the soon to be 31-year-old to a seven year contract with an annual cap hit of $5.5 million. Yes, Andrew Ladd is a heart and soul type player that has won two Stanley Cups, but this signing is just too long and the money is too much.
Ladd will probably help the Islanders in a positive manner next season, and maybe even a couple seasons after that, but he is already on the wrong side of 30 and has played a rugged style that will continue to wear him down. Ladd showed decline with his low point totals last season,. His 46 points were his lowest since 2012-13 and he only played 48 games that season.
On a more positive note, who knows, maybe this signing has shown John Tavares the Islanders are serious about winning and ultimately this helps convince him to stay in Brooklyn for the long term. However, on the surface this is a questionable signing, unless the Islanders are able to win the Stanley Cup within the next few seasons.
1 Bargain - Steven Stamkos
After all the rumors and speculation, Stamkos did not even make it to free agency. Even though he did not make it to free agency, he is on this list because he dictated the whole frenzy. In the end, Stamkos signed with the Lightning for eight years and $68 million. Is it silly to call $68 million a bargain? Well, considering that Stamkos could have gotten much more on the open market, yes this is a bargain for Tampa Bay. There were rumors that teams were willing to go as high as $12 million per year for Stamkos, but instead Stamkos did a very respectable thing by taking a "pay cut."
With this signing, Tampa gets to keep their captain and one of the best players in the league. They also were able to use the extra money to resign players like Victor Hedman, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Alex Killorn.... Steve Yzerman does it again.