The NHL free agent period is by far one of the most interesting times of the year for hockey fans because we are able to watch the decisions our favorite teams make. Each year, we are quick to realize which signings are beneficial for these teams and which ones appear to be detrimental. It is absolutely clear that July 1 is a day in hockey that can make or break each hockey team. Every decision has a consequence.
However, with this list, we will be primarily evaluating free agents who chose the wrong teams. The reasons why these players qualify for this list will truly vary, but all the carry the same amount of impact. Whether it be because a certain player wants to win the Stanley Cup or may be a bad fit because of their role with their new team, each of these players screwed up with their decisions.
With that said, here is a list of 8 NHL Free Agents who chose the wrong team and where they SHOULD have signed.
16. Brian Boyle Signs With New Jersey Devils
On July 1, Brian Boyle signed a two-year, $5.1 million contract with the New Jersey Devils. This came as a bit of a surprise to fans because Boyle previously stated that he hoped to return to Tampa Bay. Although this a good contract for the veteran center, the destination he chose is the not the correct one because the Devils surely will not win a cup in the next two years.
Boyle is a player who deserves a Stanley Cup because he has been a part of many contending teams over the years, including the 2013-14 Rangers and the 2014-15 Lightning. During those seasons, he lost in the Stanley Cup finals both times. With that said, it appears that he will have no chance of coming close to that position when he is on the Devils. He will be 34 at the end of his contract too, so time is truly ticking away.
15. Brian Boyle Should Have Signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning was the best destination for Boyle and he should have found a way back there. They only missed the playoffs last year because Steven Stamkos got injured and they easily are still a contending team. With a roster that includes young stars like Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman, this is a team that realistically could win at any time.
`For Boyle to have returned to Tampa Bay, he would have needed to take a smaller salary. The Lightning is a team that has too many stars that are due for big contracts. Yet, in Boyle’s situation, he should have been willing to take a smaller paycheck for the opportunity to return to a city he loves and to win a Stanley Cup. Instead, Boyle will now play on a New Jersey team that most likely will not even make the playoffs during his stay there.
14. David Desharnais Signs With the New York Rangers
This offseason, David Desharnais signed a safe, one-year, $1 million contract with the New York Rangers. Yet, this may not have been the best decision made by Desharnais because the Rangers have a pretty solid group down the middle already. There is no way that Desharnais can beat out Kevin Hayes or J.T. Miller for a second or third line center spot, so he is destined to be on their fourth line.
Although Desharnais is not a top-6 guy, he does not seem like the type of player who could benefit as a fourth line center. He is primarily a playmaker and is not known for being a strong defensive player, which is a necessity for a fourth liner in today’s NHL. His offensive production will definitely be limited in that role as well, which could truly hurt his chances finding a new team next offseason.
13. David Desharnais Should Have Signed With New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils are in a position where they need to sign as many players as possible because they have a lot of cap room. Desharnais would have been in great fit in New Jersey because they are very weak down the middle. Desharnais could have slotted himself on the third line and even been given powerplay time. This would have helped his offensive numbers a lot more and even could have helped him find a permanent home.
The Devils are in rebuilding mode and a veteran like Desharnais could have helped them immensely with their young talent. Desharnais has shown signs of being a very productive playmaker when he had a larger role during his stint with the Montreal Canadiens. In New Jersey, Desharnais could have had the chance to redeem his career, rather than being a fourth line center or even depth player.
12. Sam Gagner Signs With the Vancouver Canucks
Sam Gagner signed a solid three-year, $9.45 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks this offseason and that very well could end up being a mistake. The Canucks are a team that truly seems to lack an identity and a player like Gagner needs that. The Canucks are very similar to the way the Oilers were during Gagner’s stint with them. Needless to say, Gagner has proven that he struggles with teams that in the rebuilding phase.
Gagner very well could end up having a decent few seasons with the Canucks, but he needs players that can help him. He is a very talented playmaker in the NHL, but he definitely plays to his full potential when his linemates help carry the offensive load. In Vancouver, Gagner very well could have a tough time proving to his critics that his success in Columbus last season was not a fluke. That may be challenging when he is joining a team similar to how the Oilers were during his stay there.
11. Sam Gagner Should Have Re-signed With Columbus Blue Jackets
Clearly Gagner has never heard the phrase, “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.” Gagner had an unbelievable turnaround season with the Columbus Blue Jackets this past season and should have stayed there. He set a career high in points with 50 and appeared to have found a stable spot with an NHL team. Keep in mind, he signed with the Blue Jackets as a last resort contract for $600,000.
Gagner fit the Blue Jackets’ system perfectly and had a great supporting cast of players around him. In Columbus, he had the chance to play for a winning team and compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. When comparing Vancouver and Columbus, it is clear that Columbus is in a far better position for success right now. With that said, Gagner should have stayed with Columbus to play in a system he was not only familiar with, but succeeded in.
10. Trevor Daley Signs With the Detroit Red Wings
Two-time Stanley Cup winner, Trevor Daley, signed a three-year, $9.534 million contract with the Detroit Red Wings and this very well appears to be a mistake. The Detroit Red Wings are right at the beginning of their rebuild and Daley joining them after playing in Pittsburgh just does not make much sense. Daley’s next three seasons will be full of a large amount of losses and that is something that veterans seem to hate the most.
Daley is joining a team that is just at the beginning of dark times and appear to have no beginning in their rebuild. With that, Daley will no longer have the chance to compete for the Stanley Cup until he is 36 when his contract expires. Although playing for an Original Six team is always an honor, the Red Wings just seem to be a bad fit for Daley.
9. Trevor Daley Should Have Signed With the Boston Bruins
Trevor Daley would have fit with the Bruins very well, due to his physical play and strong defensive skills. The Bruins are always in search for a left-handed defenseman and Daley would have been the perfect player to fill that role, short term. With the core the Bruins have, they are in a position where they are trying to win now and are desperate to start picking up the players that could make it become a reality.
As a veteran player who has won two Stanley Cups, Daley would have been a solid addition for the Bruins. He would have received a good amount of playing time because the Bruins lost a handful of defenseman this offseason and needed replacements. Most importantly, the Bruins would have been the better choice for Daley because he getting replaced in Boston would be less likely, which would have given him a more secure place on an NHL team.
8. Karl Alzner Signs With the Montreal Canadiens
Without much surprise, Karl Alzner signed a five-year,$ 23.125 million contract with the Montreal Canadiens and this has future buyout candidate written all over it. Karl Alzner is not a bad NHL defenseman by any means, but the term and money is a bit excessive. As a defensive defenseman, Alzner is inevitably going to decline by the middle of the contract and will instantly become a burden on the Canadiens’ salary cap.
What makes matters worse for Alzner is that playing in Montreal is incredibly challenging, due to their very passionate fan base. Once Alzner’s play begins to diminish, the city of Montreal will notice it extremely quickly and will not be afraid to voice their dissatisfaction. With that said, Alzner’s time in Montreal very well could be remembered solely for the negatives, rather than the positives. If the Canadiens end up winning a cup though, this could end up being far better.
7. Karl Alzner Should Have Signed With the Vegas Golden Knights
Throughout the offseason, it was known that the Golden Knights were very interested in Alzner and had talked to him numerous times. Although Vegas definitely will not compete for a Stanley Cup for quite some time, Alzner would have been a great fit there because he would have had the chance to be a true leader with a new club. In this position, his cap hit would not matter as significantly and he would have had the chance to play with far less pressure.
It is fair to assume that Vegas fans would have an easier time accepting Alzner’s inevitable decline as well. At this point, they are just ecstatic to finally have a professional sports team in their city and most likely would be willing to watch lifetime AHLers play for their team. At the end of the day, Alzner could have been an integral piece with Vegas and had the chance to even wear the C.
6. Justin Williams Signs With the Carolina Hurricanes
Justin Williams made a surprising decision this free agency period and signed a two-year, $9 million contract to return to the Carolina Hurricanes. Williams was a huge part of Carolina’s 2006 Stanley Cup Championship so this signing provides a strong bit of nostalgia for Hurricanes fans. The idea of Williams returning to Carolina is a great one for the team and the NHL altogether; it may have been the wrong choice by the 35 year old veteran.
Williams made it perfectly clear that he wanted the chance to compete for another Stanley Cup and it is unlikely that he will have this opportunity playing in Carolina for only two seasons. Although the Hurricanes had an amazing offseason that saw them bring four former Stanley Cup champions, including Williams, this team is not ready to win now. This contract very well could end all chances of Williams ever winning another Stanley Cup again.
5. Justin Williams Should Have Signed with the Edmonton Oilers
If Justin Williams wanted to take his chances to win the Stanley Cup, he should have signed with the Edmonton Oilers. Although the Oilers are just beginning their times as contenders, they have two franchise centers in Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl that heighten their chances immensely each season. With that stated, Williams would have been an awesome fit with the team and provided a strong veteran role for the young contenders.
The Oilers are one key player away from truly winning the cup and Williams very well could fit that role perfectly. It is no surprise that Mr. Game 7 is a clutch playoff performer who always helps a team’s chance of winning the Stanley Cup. Although the move from Washington to Edmonton would have very challenging in terms of distance, Williams should have came there for the chance to win one more cup before he retires.
4. Alexander Radulov Signs With the Dallas Stars
Alexander Radulov signed a massive five-year, $31.25 million contract with the Dallas Stars this offseason and that very well could have been the wrong move made by the Russian winger. Although him having the opportunity to play on a line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn is truly frightening for the rest of the NHL, this is not automatically a good decision. Radulov needs to find a way to fit into his new team and that is not always definite when it comes to him.
The biggest obstacle for Radulov coming to Dallas is that he is now playing under head coach, Ken Hitchcock. Hitchcock is a coach who stresses defense first and that is something that Radulov may not be able to do because his primary focus is offense. With this, these two very well could clash and this could result in a bad tenure for Radulov.
3. Alexander Radulov Should Have Re-signed With the Montreal Canadiens
Although this still shocking to the NHL, Radulov turned out to be an amazing fit for the Canadiens and truly should have stayed there. Montreal gave him the chance to revive his NHL career and be known as a superstar once again. He worked very well playing with Max Pacioretty and Phillip Danault last season and it appeared that he began to play well at a consistent level.
At the end of the day, Radulov is a player who needs stability to play at his highest level and Montreal provided him that. Although he would received one less year with Montreal if he decided to go back, he definitely should have. He became a fan favorite there and easily was one of their most important core players. This luxury will not set in stone in Dallas until he proves he can bring consistency there too.
2. Patrick Marleau Signs with the Toronto Maple Leafs
Patrick Marleau shocked the NHL world when he decided to leave San Jose after 20 years and signed a three-year, $18.75 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. First and most importantly, Marleau had been a key part of San Jose’s core for so long and it is crazy to think that he left with them still as a contender in the league. Keep in mind, San Jose was two games away from winning their first Stanley Cup during the 2016 playoffs.
Marleau leaving for Toronto is a mistake not only for loyalty, but also for the fact that Toronto may not be closer to a cup than San Jose. It would be more understandable if he left for a proven contender like the Chicago Blackhawks, but Toronto is not necessarily there yet. There is no doubt that they could be before the end of Marleau’s contract, but San Jose could end up winning by then too.
1. Patrick Marleau Should Have Resigned With the San Jose Sharks
Twenty years with a franchise is enough of a reason why Marleau should have stayed in San Jose. San Jose is still a team that very well could win a Stanley Cup before Marleau retires, so it is truly shocking that he decided to leave them. When Joe Thornton resigned with the Sharks, it seemed far more likely that Marleau would return and try to win a Cup with his fellow 1997 NHL Entry Draft top pick.
If San Jose wins the Stanley Cup without Marleau, it will instantly lead him to feel regret and will even be depressing for lifetime Sharks fans. Marleau was such an integral part of not only their successful seasons, but also their franchise as a whole. Seeing Marleau in a Maple Leafs’ jersey will be extremely weird to get used to, but at the end of the day, he will always be remembered as a member of the Sharks.
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