Top 15 NHL Free Agency Signings From 2015: How Did They Fare?

The free agent class of 2015 wasn't terribly exciting when compared to recent years, but that doesn't mean it wasn't full of players who were capable of making an impact. No matter what a team needed, there was a player that could fill that role. If you needed more offense from the blueline, there were players available who could provide that. If you needed to keep the puck out of the net, there were plenty of defenseman and goaltenders available for that. If you need some more scoring up front, there were players available who made a career out of it. In the end, if your team had any deficiencies, there were plenty of options to change that.

In order to get the players you want, you have to be willing spend money. Of the 15 players on this list, teams spent a combined $205.7 million to get these players under contract. Do some teams regret spending all that money? You bet. Some players just don't end up meshing on a team. Fortunately teams are more careful today when it comes to giving out long term contracts. They only have to ride out a bad contract for a couple of years before they can rid themselves of their mistake. However, on the flip side, some teams probably had wished they locked down certain players for a longer amount of time. Once their current contract is up, they are certainly going to want a raise.

In today's salary cap world, you can't build a team by signing every player you want. You have to be very selective in finding the player that fits your teams needs. You will see in the following list, what teams signed the right player and what teams ended up wasting valuable cap space.

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15 Brad Richards

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Detroit Red Wings

Contract: One Year/$3 Million

In the Summer of 2011, Brad Richards was the top free agent every team was clamouring to get under contract. Flash forward five years and Richards is barely hanging on to his NHL career. After being bought out by the Rangers in 2014, Richards signed a one year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. Richards had a reduced role with Chicago, but was still able to once again get his name on the Stanley Cup.

The Red Wings signed Richards hoping that he might have more in tank than he showed in Chicago. Richards ended up only recording a career low 28 points. If Richards still wants to play next season, there will be a few teams who would still offer him a contract based on his past accomplishments alone.

Grade: C

14 Karri Ramo

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Calgary Flames

Contract: One Year/$3.8 Million

Karri Ramo made his return to the NHL with the Calgary Flames in 2013, after playing four seasons in the KHL. In his first two seasons with the Flames, he was more than servicable, helping the underdog Flames make the playoffs in 2015. At the end of the 2014-15 season, Ramo decided he was going to test free agency.

There must have not been too many suitors for Ramo as he ended up resigning with Calgary. Ramo's 2015-16 season was a roller coaster of a season if there ever was one. He was the Flames starter on opening night, but after struggling in a handful of games, he was sent down to the minors. A week later Jonas Hiller was injured and the Flames recalled Ramo. He finished the season with a 17-18-1 record, with a 2.63 GAA and a .909 save percentage. Those aren't exactly the most attractive numbers and it wouldn't be a surprise if Calgary let Ramo walk as a free agent.

Grade: C-

13 Eric Fehr

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

Contract: Three Years/$6 Million

After his dismal injury plagued 2011-12 season with the Winnipeg Jets, it was looking like Eric Fehr's NHL days were numbered. However, Fehr had a bit of a career resurgence when he rejoined the Washington Capitals. He would play three more seasons with the Capitals, establishing himself as a solid third line player, including recording 19 goals during the 2014-15 season.

Despite showing that he was able to produce and stay healthy, he had to wait almost a month after free agency began before he signed with the Penguins. In his first season in Pittsburgh, he showed why teams were wary of signing him, as he once again struggled with staying healthy. When Fehr was on the ice, he wasn't all that productive. If Fehr can stay healthy and improve his production a bit, he is a bargain with his current contract.

Grade: B-

12 Justin Williams

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Team: Washington Capitals

Contract: Two Years/$6.5 Million

Justin Williams was just a season removed from winning the Conn Smythe Trophy when he signed a two year deal with the Capitals. The versatile winger had spent six plus seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, where he consistently scored around twenty goals a season and was good for at least forty points. Despite Williams having great regular season success, the Capitals were more interested in what he brought come playoff time. Williams is known for stepping up his game during the playoffs, especially in series deciding game sevens.

The Capitals have had tons of recent regular season success, but have had trouble getting out of the second round of the playoffs. Washington was hoping that Williams would be the player to finally get them over that playoff hump. With the Capitals, Williams recorded 52 points, his most since the 2011-12 season. Unfortunately, Washington was defeated in the second round of the playoffs at the hands of Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Williams is still a bargain at his current contract.

Grade: A-

11 Antoine Vermette

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Team: Arizona Coyotes

Contract: Two Years/$7.5 Million

Antoine Vermette was traded by the Arizona Coyotes to the Chicago Blackhawks at the 2015 NHL trade deadline. He would go on to score a couple of huge playoff goals for the Blackhawks, helping Chicago capture the Stanley Cup. When free agency opened, the Coyotes were happy to bring back the veteran forward. In his second stint with Coyotes, Vermette struggled in the first half of the season to put points on the board, but he picked up his game in the second half. He finished the season with 17 goals and 38 points. The Coyotes have a ton young talented players in their lineup and they need veteran players like Vermette to balance out roster.

Grade: B-

10 Johnny Oduya

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Dallas Stars

Contract: Two Years/$7.5 Million

During the 2014-15 season, the Dallas Stars allowed the fourth most goals in the NHL. They knew that come free agency, they had to find some defensive help. Two weeks after free agency opened, they were able to lock down a contract with Johnny Oduya, who was coming off a Stanley Cup win as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks.

Oduya has been known as a very consistent defensive defenseman, ever since he entered the league in 2006-07. He seemed like the exact kind of player the Stars have been lacking. Oduya had a great first season in Dallas as a solid second pairing guy. His 21 points were the most he's had since the 2008-09 season. Oduya only has one more season left on his contract and it would hurt for the Stars to get him under contract for a few more years.

Grade: A

9 Joel Ward

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Team: San Jose Sharks

Contract: Three Years/$9.75 Million

Joel Ward might just be the most underrated player in the entire NHL. It doesn't matter where he plays in the lineup, he always seems to produce. When he isn't scoring goals, he is making life miserable for opposing players with his never give up attitude. Ward is capable of playing on both the powerplay and penalty kill.

Prior to signing with San Jose, Ward played four seasons for Washington, where he scored a combined 43 goals in his final two seasons with the Captials. In his first season with the Sharks, he started where he left off with Captials, scoring 21 goals and 43 points, while continuing to score clutch goals in the playoffs. At the age of 35, Ward should be slowing down, but he seems to be defying father time. After one season, it looks like the Sharks got a bargain deal for the versatile Ward.

Grade: A+

8 Francois Beauchemin

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Colorado Avalanche

Contract: Three Years/$13.5 Million

The Anaheim Ducks weren't willing to give Francois Beauchemin a three year contract that he felt he could get if he hit the open market. The Ducks didn't want to commit long term on a player who was in his mid thirties and had multiple knee surgeries in his career. The Colorado Avalanche were happy to take Beauchemin off the Ducks hands and gave him the three year contract he was looking for.

Beauchemin had a fantastic year with the Avalanche. He played big minutes for the team and ended up suiting up for all 82 games. His 34 points were the most he's had since his rookie season, all the way back in 2005-06. Beauchemin proved to the Ducks that he still has more left in the tank than they thought. If he can stay healthy for the remaining two years of his contract, he will be a much need veteran presence on the Avalanche blueline.

Grade: B+

7 Antti Niemi

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Dallas Stars

Contract: Three Years/$13.5 Million

The Dallas Stars weren't too confident with their goaltending situation, which had Kari Lehtonen entrenched as their starting goalie. They felt like needed to bring in another veteran goalie, so they acquired Antti Niemi's rights just before the opening of NHL free agency. The Stars had no problem getting the former Stanley Cup winning goalie under a three year contract. The Dallas Stars now have $10.4 million in cap space committed to their two goalies.

Niemi would end up splitting equal time in the Stars net with Lehtonen. He compiled a record of 24-13-5, with a 2.67 GAA and a .905 save percentage. Lehtonen's number's were almost identical to Niemi's, as neither goalie was able to take the ball and run with it. Come playoff time both goalies struggled, with Niemi sporting a terrible .865 GAA in five games. The Stars were trying to improve their goaltending with the signing of Niemi, but if anything it just got worse and more expensive.

Grade: C

6 Mike Green

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Team: Detroit Red Wings

Contract: Three Years/$18 Million

Mike Green was, at one point, the premier offensive defenseman in the NHL. He had back to back 70-plus point seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10. After those two fantastic seasons, Green hit the injury bug hard. Green has been able stay healthy the past few seasons, but his numbers have been in a bit of a decline.

The Red Wings were looking to add offense to their blueline and Mike Green was the best option available. Green had an decent first season with the Red Wings, leading all Detroit defenseman in points with 35. With a cap hit of $6 million, it is a pretty steep price to pay for a player whose production seems to be falling season after season.

Grade: B-

5 Matt Beleskey

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Boston Bruins

Contract: Five Years/$19 Million

Matt Beleskey had somewhat of a breakout year with the Anaheim Ducks in 2014-15, when he scored a career high 22 goals and added another eight goals in the playoffs. Beleskey's previous career high for goals in a season was only 11. This raised red flags for some teams. Was the 2014-15 season just a lucky one for Beleskey? Or was he the real deal? The Boston Bruins were hoping for the latter when they signed him to a four year contract.

Beleskey had pretty solid first season with the Bruins, scoring 15 goals and 37 points. He also added some grit, which the Bruins were in need of after trading away Milan Lucic.

Grade: B

4 Paul Martin

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Team: San Jose Sharks

Contract: Four Years/$19.4 Million

Paul Martin has been one of the most consistent defenseman in the NHL ever since he broke into the league back in 2003-04. He's a solid all-around defenseman who is capable of playing big minutes. Prior to signing with San Jose, Martin spent five seasons playing for Pittsburgh.

In his first season with San Jose, he was his usual consistent self. He played on the second pairing, as well special teams, and put up a respectable twenty points. In the playoffs, so far, he has five points and is a +7. As long as he can stay healthy, Martin should continue to be a solid veteran presence on the Sharks blueline for the remainder of his contract.

Grade: A-

3 Michael Frolik

Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Calgary Flames

Contract: Five Years/$21.5 Million

Prior to signing in with the Flames, Michael Frolik spent the previous two season in Winnipeg, where he enjoyed two of the most productive seasons of his career. He recorded 42 points in each of his two seasons in Winnipeg and proved to be arguably the team's best two-way forward.

After failing to come to terms with Winnipeg, Calgary was happy the lock up Frolik for five years. Frolik started right where he left off in Winnipeg with Calgary, putting up 32 points in 64 games, while still being defensively responsible. He did miss 18 games due to injury, but he has been a relatively healthy player throughout his career, so the Flames shouldn't have anything to worry about. At the age of 28, Frolik should continue to be a solid player for the Flames for the remainder of his contract.

Grade: B-

2 Carl Soderberg

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Colorado Avalanche

Contract: Five Years/$23.75 Million

Carl Soderberg was about to hit free agency when Colorado acquired his rights in a trade with Boston. He immediately agreed to a five year contract worth nearly $24 million. Some experts were already declaring this the worst free agent signing of the offseason. Soderberg had only played two full NHL seasons at this point and was almost thirty years old.

In his first season with the Avalanche, Soderberg made all his critics look stupid, as he set a career high 51 points. Soderberg's impact was felt more than just on the stat sheet, as he was Colorado's best two-way forward last season. Although it has only been one season, it looks like Soderberg and the Avalanche are a perfect fit.

Grade: A-

1 Andrej Sekera

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Team: Edmonton Oilers

Contract: Six Years/$33 Million

Andrej Sekera was one the top defenseman available in free agency. The Oilers were in dire need of a acquiring a solid veteran defenseman, so they made Sekera the highest paid defenseman on the team with a cap hit of $5.5 million per season. Sekera is a good puck handling defenseman, who had a break out year with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2013-14, when registered a career high 44 points.

Sekera had an okay first season with Edmonton, recording 30 points, but was a minus 15. The Oilers again finished near the bottom of the standings, and there is a good chance they will add a defenseman in the first round of the draft. Sekera seems to be overpaid for a middle of the road offensive defenseman, but will provide veteran leadership for the Oilers young up and coming defensemen.

Grade: C+

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