After every NHL season, teams begin scanning the market for possible options to help improve their club for next season and beyond whether through trade, drafting, or free agency. Every offseason, hundreds of millions of dollars are blown on July 1st as most of the top free agents find new homes and get a nice payday. Trade speculation always increases around draft day and early on in the free agency period. It’s total madness for hockey fans in the summer, and while there are sometimes winners, there is almost always a whole laundry list of losers. These moves can often put a team’s GM on the clock to fix his mistakes lest he get fired.
Like in any sport, there are always moves made by managers that end up being regretted almost instantly. There was more movement than usual this offseason because of the Vegas Golden Knights’ expansion draft, so teams could only protect a certain number of players. Though we are only heading into the third month of the season, there are already several moves that were made during the summer that look like big mistakes. While the GMs at the time thought these moves would work, hindsight can help them see the error of their ways, only far too late. This article will take a look at 15 of those worst moves made from this offseason that teams are wishing they could undo.
15. Montreal Canadiens: Signing Mark Streit
Mark Streit was signed as a free agent by the Montreal Canadiens on July 25th and was given a one-year deal worth $700,000. Streit was supposed to come in on a very limited role and do no more than fill up the Habs’ bottom defensive pairing after the team lost a lot of bodies on defence during the offseason.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned for either side. Streit struggled greatly and lasted a mere four games with the team. The Canadiens put Streit on waivers on October 12th, but he refused to report to the team’s AHL Affiliate, the Laval Rocket. The 39-year-old announced his retirement on October 30th. This turned out to be an awful decision made by Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.
14. Vegas Golden Knights: Signing Vadim Shipachyov
On May 4th, Vadim Shipachyov became the second player to be signed in Vegas Golden Knights history. Shipachyov was playing in the KHL and had a few teams eyeing him as he wanted to make the transition over to the NHL. The Golden Knights signed him to a two-year contract worth $4.5 million annually.
Shipachyov struggled in the pre-season and started the season in the AHL. He made his NHL regular season debut on October 15, where he scored his first NHL goal on Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask. The Golden Knights decided to return him to the minors, but Shipachyov refused to report and was suspended by his club. The day after, Shipachyov announced that he wanted to return to Russia and had his contract terminated on November 9. What was supposed to be their top centre turned out to be a great disappointment for George McPhee’s Golden Knights.
13. Pittsburgh Penguins: Signing Antti Niemi
After losing Marc-Andre Fleury to the expansion draft, the Pittsburgh Penguins needed a backup goalie and resorted to veteran Antti Niemi. Niemi signed a one-year deal worth $700,000 on July 1st but did not last long with the Penguins. He was involved in multiple blowouts and gave up 16 goals in three games. Niemi had an awful 7.49 goals-against average and a 0.797 save percentage before he was placed on waivers by the Penguins on October 23.
Since then, Niemi has been claimed by the Florida Panthers and the Montreal Canadiens who both needed backup goalies due to injuries. The Penguins have now turned to 22-year-old Tristan Jarry as the backup goalie who’s done a solid job in that position. Nonetheless, Niemi was clearly a mistake made by GM Jim Rutherford and he recognized that he made a poor decision this offseason pretty quickly.
12. Montreal Canadiens: Signing Ales Hemsky
Marc Bergevin took a low-risk gamble by giving Ales Hemsky a one-year contract worth $1 million this summer. Many fans criticized the move made by the Canadiens GM as they felt that the 34-year-old was washed up and would be preventing a younger player from getting into the lineup.
Hemsky has not played in a full 82-game season in his entire career, so he’s clearly had some injury troubles in the past. His Canadiens debut was far from impressive, as he started the season on the team’s fourth line and top powerplay unit but has been unable to get on the scoresheet. Hemsky has been out with a concussion after playing 10 games for the Habs. This is another move by Bergevin that has not paid off for the Canadiens. It’s clear that Hemsky is at the end of his career and the Canadiens are much better off replacing him with somebody already in their system.
11. Winnipeg Jets: Signing Steve Mason
The Winnipeg Jets signed Steve Mason to a two-year contract worth a total of $8.2 million on July 1st. This is the third team Mason has played for in his NHL career, which hasn’t reached the expectations that were set for him after he won the Calder Trophy in 2008-09 on the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Ontario native was pulled in his first game of the season in an embarrassing 7-2 loss in the team’s home opener against the Toronto Maple Leafs and has an overall save-percentage of 0.904 and a goals-against average of 3.45. Currently, Mason is serving as the team’s backup goaltender as Connor Hellebuyck has taken over the number one job. It seemed like the Jets believed that Mason could handle the number one job which is why they gave him a pretty high salary, but the 29-year-old has yet to deliver on their expectations.
10. Nashville Predators: Acquiring Alexei Emelin
The Nashville Predators are widely known for their very solid core of defenders. Unfortunately, Alexei Emelin is not apart of that pack. The Predators traded a third-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights on July 1st in exchange for Emelin about a week after he was taken in the expansion draft.
So far, Emelin has struggled, much like he was in his final days as a Montreal Canadiens. This has exposed Emelin several times this season, as he is not a top-four NHL defenceman. Though the Predators didn’t give up a whole lot to get the Russian defenceman, they’d probably look for an alternative had they known Ellis was going to miss most of the season. Luckily, Emelin’s contract expires at the end of the season, so general manager David Poile won’t have to keep him for long.
9. Dallas Stars: Signing Martin Hanzal
There weren’t as many top forwards available during the 2017 free agency period, so Martin Hanzal was one of the more coveted at his position. The Dallas Stars gave him a 3-year contract on July 1st, worth a total of $14.25 million. That means the former first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes is averaging $4.75 million per season, but only has one goal to show for it at the moment.
With just three points in 18 games, Hanzal has looked like one of the biggest overpayments of this year’s free agency. Due to his struggles, the Czech forward is seeing fourth line minutes and no powerplay time. Hanzal has never hit the 20-goal mark in his 10-year career, so one wonders what exactly Stars GM Jim Nill was thinking. Nonetheless, this contract is going to hurt the Stars for the next couple of years if Hanzal doesn’t step up.
8. Pittsburgh Penguins: Acquiring Ryan Reaves
The Pittsburgh Penguins moved down in the 2017 draft by exchanging their first-round pick with the St.Louis Blues’ second-round pick. In that deal, the Penguins also sent Oskar Sundqvist to the Blues and acquired tough-guy Ryan Reaves. Many fans questioned why Jim Rutherford felt that he needed to trade for a fourth line player, in a deal that made the Penguins give up their first-round pick.
The Penguins lost a lot of depth players this summer and needed to fill in some holes, though the Reaves trade probably wasn’t the wisest move by Rutherford, who could’ve easily settled for a cheap free agent signing without having to give anything up. The 30-year-old has three points in 25 games this season with 66 penalty minutes. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, it’s unlikely that Reaves will remain a Penguin beyond this season, which makes Rutherford’s deal even more of a head-scratcher.
7. Washington Capitals: Re-Signing Dimitry Orlov
The Washington Capitals lost some key defensemen in Kevin Shattenkirk and Karl Alzner during the offseason but managed to re-sign 26-year-old Dimitry Orlov. Orlov had 33 points last season, which earned himself a lengthy six-year deal worth $30.6 million ($5.1 million average).
After back-to-back seasons around the 30-point mark, it seemed like the Capitals were hoping Orlov could take the next step with some more playing time, but that hasn’t been the case. The Russian defenceman has just six points in his first 25 games this season and has not produced as much as he was expected to. Sure, there is still time for him to make up for his bad start, but if Orlov can’t prove himself soon this is going to look like a horrible deal for Brian MacLellan’s team. At the moment, the Capitals’ general manager is probably wishing he could re-do that contract.
6. Montreal Canadiens: Letting Markov And Radulov Walk
Andrei Markov and Alexander Radulov were the Montreal Canadiens’ two biggest unrestricted free agents that they needed to sign during the summer. Radulov had a good season with Montreal, with 54 points in 76 games and was often leading the Habs’ offence. Marc Bergevin chose not to offer the 31-year-old a long-term deal.
Markov has been a Montreal Canadien since they drafted him in 1998, and reportedly wanted a two-year deal worth $12 million total. The 38-year-old ended up signing with Kazan Ak-Bars for two years in the KHL in late July, as Marc Bergevin was unable to settle on a contract with Markov, who admitted he was willing to agree on a one-year deal. Having both players walk away for nothing with no plan to replace them has probably been Bergevin’s biggest mistake of this offseason and it’s starting to show with how the team’s performed so far this season.
5. Montreal Canadiens: Signing Karl Alzner
The Canadiens signed Karl Alzner on July 1st for five years with an annual salary averaging $4.625 million. At first, the salary and term didn’t seem like a bad deal for the Canadiens who were in desperate need of defensemen, but so far it hasn’t played out well for them. Not being able to get Markov back has hurt the Habs even more given Alzner’s struggles. The 29-year-old has four assists and is a minus-five in 24 games this season.
Though Alzner is not known for putting up lots of points, his defensive play hasn’t been as good as expected and he is not becoming a fan favourite in Montreal. His slower pace has not been doing him any good. It looks like the Canadiens have made a bad decision in signing Alzner for five-years and would have been much better off agreeing to a deal with Markov.
4. Florida Panthers: Losing Marchessault And Smith To Vegas
The Florida Panthers might’ve been the biggest losers of all NHL teams in the Vegas expansion draft back in June. The Panthers traded Reilly Smith to the Golden Knights for a fourth-round pick so that Vegas wouldn’t draft one of Roberto Luongo and James Reimer. The Golden Knights ended up selecting Jonathan Marchessault.
Marchessault and Smith were both top-six forwards on the Panthers and played significant roles on the team. The Panthers have struggled and haven’t been able to replace their losses up front, which has them sitting in the bottom-three of the league standings. Marchessault has got off to a great start with 8 goals and 21 points in 19 games this season, while Smith has 19 points in 22 games. It is clear that the Panthers made a terrible choice in losing both of them. It would’ve been much smarter of GM Dale Tallon to only risk losing one of his forwards instead of both.
3. Chicago Blackhawks: Trading Niklas Hjalmarsson
The Chicago Blackhawks made some of the biggest trades this offseason, letting go of both Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson to save some cap space. The Blackhawks got a pretty fair return for Panarin, but the Hjalmarsson trade has hurt them the most. The Swedish defender was an important part of the team’s defense, playing alongside Duncan Keith on most nights.
Chicago is battling for a playoff spot at the moment and have had to move a lot of bodies out over the years to stay within the salary cap. The oddest thing about this deal is that they acquired a defenseman who is on a pretty bad contract, so I’m not sure how that will help. Nonetheless, this was a tough move for GM Stan Bowman to make, but he could have done worse.
2. Edmonton Oilers: Acquiring Ryan Strome
One of the biggest trades of the offseason was the Edmonton Oilers trading Jordan Eberle to the New York Islanders for Ryan Strome. Right off the bat, many hockey fans claimed that the Oilers lost this trade by far, as the former fifth-overall pick Strome is considered somewhat of a draft bust. The Oilers traded Eberle who has scored 20 or more goals in four straight seasons and 34 in 2011-12. Up until now, Eberle has nine goals and 17 points for the Islanders, while Strome has four goals and 11 points for the Oilers.
The worst part about this? Not even a month into the 2017-18 season, there were reports of the Oilers not being happy with the deal and potentially wanting to move Strome. The Oilers are in danger of missing the playoffs and this trade will surely be highlighted as one of the biggest mistakes made by Peter Chiarelli.
1. Montreal Canadiens: Carey Price Extension
On July 1st, the Canadiens announced the colossal eight-year extension of Vezina-winning goaltender Carey Price, worth a total of $84 million. As many hockey fans know, it’s been a very difficult start to the season for Price, and there have been endless rumours going around about the possibility of him being traded along with fans calling for him to be traded. The B.C. native has a very unusual 0.890 save percentage and 3.44 goals-against average and has not looked like the M.V.P he once was.
Should Marc Bergevin have given him that contract? It may still be too early to tell, but the Canadiens are heading in the wrong direction and will have to make some changes. Surely it would be a lot easier to trade Price without such a big contract. The Habs may have even been able to get Price on a cheaper deal if they didn’t extend him so soon. There are countless questions surrounding his contract extension. Nonetheless, Price will now be looking to turn his season around coming back from a lower-body injury.
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