The unpredictable, wild, and wacky world of the National Hockey League's free agency period is less than a month away. All 30 teams will be looking to add players to their teams who will hopefully add something to their respective lineup, and take them to where they want to go, be it respectability, the playoffs, or to the Stanley Cup.
Since the advent of free agency, which allowed players to sign with a team of their choosing without having any compensation having to be given to individual's former club, we have seen players signed to deals that end up being a bargain. On the flip side of that, we have witnessed numerous massive contracts given out to forwards, defenseman, and goalies alike, that don't only end up not working out, but also result in the player being overpaid. The salary cap instilled following the 2004-05 lockout and the term limits established in the 2013 CBA have curtailed the problem somewhat, but not completely. Every year, we still see GMs make foolish mistakes during free agency that cripple their franchise for years. However there is a reason why hockey fans get pumped around July 1st and that's because they know their team could find a gem without giving up an asset.
Because of this, we here at TheSportster give you the Top 8 NHL Free Agents Who Will Be Overpaid This Summer and 8 Who Will Be Bargains.
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16 Trevor Lewis (Overpaid)
As a member of the Los Angeles Kings for the last eight seasons Trevor Lewis has served as a gritty Center on the team's bottom two lines, as well as a vital part of club's penalty kill unit. The 29-year-old has two Stanley Cup titles on his resume, and is a prime candidate to get a more than generous contract this summer as a free agent.
The only problem with that, is Lewis doesn't actually give you much in the other team's end. In 424 regular season games, he only has 35 goals. While he is a career checking-forward, you can be sure that there will be a club this July who will see Lewis as a player who is capable of more production. That thought process is what puts him on the overpaid side of the ledger.
15 Chris Kelly (Bargain)
This one comes with a huge asterisk due to the fact that Kelly has been extremely injury prone the last few seasons. Besides missing all but 11 regular season games last year with a broken left femur, the Boston Bruins' center missed a total of 75 contests from the 2012-13 to the 2014-15 campaign. When he actually is on the ice, the 35-year-old is a solid two-way player who excels on the penalty kill, and was a key member of the 2011 Bruins team that won the Stanley Cup.
Although a return to the Bruins isn't out of the question, any team who brings in Kelly, will be getting a difference maker with a winning pedigree at a bargain price due to his age and recent injury history.
14 Alex Golgoski (Overpaid)
The 30-year old made $4.6 million in the final year of his contract, and is coming off a season in which he registered 5 goals and 32 assists for the Dallas Stars. His timing couldn't have been any better, as he is set to hit a free agent market thin on offensive defensemen. Because of that, you can be sure that Goligoski will be sure to get big contract this summer that will see him get overpaid. At 30 years old, it could be the last big contract of his career.
13 P.A. Parenteau (Bargain)
Appearing to be done after two consecutive down years with the Colorado Avalanche and Montreal Canadiens (the Habs bought him out) in which he scored 14 and 8 goals respectively and missed over 25 games in each campaign, Parenteau signed a one-year deal for $1.5 million with the Toronto Maple Leafs last offseason. The move paid off for both sides, as the 33-year-old led the team in scoring with 20 goals, and was second in points with 41. While he has never scored more than 20 goals in a season, he has seemed to have rejuvenated his career, and would add production to any team's 2nd or 3rd line, and not take up a ton of cap space in the process.
12 Dan Hamhuis (Overpaid)
Mr. Vancouver himself, hits the free agent market, after reportedly turning down a number of trades that would have sent the 33-year-old to a Stanley Cup contender at this year's trade deadline due to him exercising his no-trade clause.
Durability is somewhat of a concern, as the Canucks' alternate captain has missed at least 20 games in two of the last three seasons. Disappearing in big games is also a bit of an issue as well. Furthermore, his teams have also only been out of the 1st round once. Despite all this, we've seen summer after summer, that teams tend to ignore common sense, and just throw money at overrated players in free agency.
11 Tom Gilbert (Bargain)
If he didn't suffer a knee injury late in the regular season this year, Tom Gilbert would have most likely been traded by the Montreal Canadiens to a team looking for a little extra help on the back end at this year's trade deadline. Unfortunately for the 11-year veteran, the injury knocked him out for the rest of the season.
His age (he'll turn 34 next season) will most likely mean that he won't be getting a big money long term deal. Expect the defensemen to get a one to two year deal that will pay him somewhere between $2-3 million, from a club looking to solidify their third defensive pairing, as well as their second power play unit. For a player with Gilbert's skill, that will be a bargain.
10 Kyle Okposo (Overpaid)
When healthy, John Tavares' right hand man, Kyle Okposo is a skilled winger with the ability to put the puck in the net, as well as set up his teammates with beautiful passes. This past regular season, the 28-year-old was second on the team with 64 points. In the playoffs, he repeated the feat, by recording 8 points, second to Tavares' 11. Despite the impressive stats, he is injury prone. So far in 9 NHL seasons, Okposo has yet to play a full 82-game schedule. In fact, he has only surpassed the 70 game mark four times.
Given his impressive point total when he is in the lineup, Okposo, who only made $2.8 million in the final year of his deal, will surely be looking for a well-deserved raise. The question that needs to be asked is how much more will he get. Teams should be aware, because given his injury history and that he won't have Tavares as a linemate. However, with teams always looking for scoring, chances are that the speedy winger will get a huge pay raise this summer.
9 Cam Ward (Bargain)
Taking a quick look at teams that need a goaltending upgrade, you would have to say the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dallas Stars, and Buffalo Sabres. That's not exactly a long list, but neither, is the number of soon-to-be free agent goaltenders who have a Stanley Cup ring on their resume as Cam Ward does.
A combination of injuries, and playing on some brutally bad Hurricane teams over the last couple of years, has led to a decline in Ward's numbers. Finally out of Carolina, expect Ward to get either a one-year prove it deal, or a multi-year deal that pays him somewhere between $3-5 million a year, which is a good bargain for an NHL goalie with Ward's credentials.
8 Loui Eriksson (Overpaid)
The speedy Swede is set to hit free agency after spending the last three seasons with the Boston Bruins. The former Dallas Star has 504 regular season points in 725 career games, and even had 30 goals in a contract year. Eriksson, who made $4.25 million this year, reportedly turned down a four-year offer from the B's back in January.
Nevertheless, you can be sure that there will be at least one general manager whose team lacks scoring punch, that will ignore past injuries, and failure to produce when his team really needs it, and will overpay Ericksson to acquire his services.
7 Lee Stempniak (Bargain)
The epitome of a bargain bin player, Stempniak signed a one-year $850,000 deal with the New Jersey Devils last September, after having to agree to join them on a professional tryout first. In 63 games as a Devil, the winger put up an impressive 16 goals and 25 assists which ranked third and second on the team respectively. His production led to him being acquired by the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline. In 19 games with the B's the 11-year vet recorded 10 points. While it's safe to assume that the 33-year-old who has now played for 9 NHL teams, won't have to tryout for anybody this offseason, you can also be sure that he will also get a well deserved raise this summer. However nobody will go overboard.
6 David Backes (Overpaid)
The team's captain, as well as the heart and soul of the St. Louis Blues, David Backes has been a force at both ends of the ice since making his debut for the organization in the 2006-07 season.
Backes is on the overpaid list, because while he had a memorable playoff run, it was the first time since the 2011-12 season that his team had made it out of the first round. Secondly, he mostly plays on the team's 1st line with Vladimir Tarasenko, but only put up 45 points in the regular season. Finally, the 6-foot-3, 221 pounder, is already 32 years old, and has a lot of mileage. As we have seen before however, teams who believe they are one player away from hoisting or competing for the Stanley Cup, will ignore the warning signs.
5 Matt Cullen (Bargain)
As evident by the Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup run, the 39-year-old center has been a difference maker on both ends of the ice, with his speed, vision, goal-scoring, and play-making on offense, combined with his superb play in his own end, that has led to him playing not only on the penalty kill, but also on key defensive faceoffs in the game's dying seconds. Obviously given his age, Cullen won't be looking to break the bank as a free agent this summer. He is however in phenomenal shape, and doesn't appear to be slowing down. Getting him on a one-year deal for less than $3 million would be a bargain for any team.
4 Andrew Ladd (Overpaid)
The former Winnipeg Jets captain is set to hit the open market. Ladd is a leader and difference-maker who can instantly make any team better. More importantly, he is a two-time Stanley Cup winner as a member of the '06 Carolina Hurricanes and the '10 Chicago Blackhawks. One of the biggest names on the free agent market, the 4th overall pick of the 2004 NHL draft, made $4.4 million last season between Chicago and Winnipeg, and is two years removed from posting the best numbers of his career, when he put up 62 points.
What puts him here, is the fact that Ladd appears to be a player who puts up points on bad to average teams. More importantly, during his five years in Manitoba, the NHL's version of Kevin Love, only brought the Jets to the playoffs once, where they got swept in the first round.
In his second stint with the Blackhawks, including the playoffs, Ladd got on the stat sheet 14 times in 26 games, but his presence did nothing to help the club as they were eliminated in the 1st round. Yes he won two Cups, but those were on two very stacked Carolina and Chicago teams. Despite his struggles, he still has a big name, which will result in him getting overpaid this summer.
3 Keith Yandle (Bargain)
I told you I'd get to him. The 10-year veteran is a top four defenseman who is not only reliable in his own end, but will give your power play a boost, as he excels in the offensive zone as well, where he ranks 6th among NHL blueliners in points over the last five seasons with 225.
Durability is also something the 29-year old brings to the table, as he has played in all 82 regular season games in nearly every year of his career. While he is sure to get a raise on the $5.25 million he made this year, be it from the Rangers or somebody else, the consistency and production he brings on both ends of the ice will make his next deal, whether it is worth between $5-7 million a year, a sure-fire bargain.
2 Steven Stamkos (Overpaid)
The biggest name on the upcoming free agent market, Steven Stamkos, is an electrifying sniper and play-maker. (Pan to Toronto Maple Leaf fans everywhere smiling and nodding.) The only thing that has stopped the Markham, Ontario native in his career so far, has been his health.
In 2014, the 26-year-old suffered a broken right tibia, which caused him to miss almost four months of action. This past year bad luck struck again as Stamkos was diagnosed with blood clots (thoracic outlet syndrome).
If Stamkos does bolt, say to Toronto to play for his home-province Leafs, he would surely help sell more tickets, jerseys, and make the team better, but he wouldn't be bringing the Cup with him. Winning hockey's holy grail has already proven to be near impossible in T.O. The task will be made even more difficult to pull off given that Stamkos would be making somewhere between $8.5 to $10 million per year, which would in turn hamper the Leafs, or any other team's efforts to build a solid team around him. If he does stay in Tampa, it will likely force the franchise to have to get rid of some players who have played an integral in the team's success because they will have to overpay someone who has a history of healthy/injury issues, and whose team, has proved they can already win without him.
1 Milan Lucic (Bargain)
Looked at as a major addition last offseason after his trade from the Boston Bruins to the Los Angeles Kings, Lucic did not disappoint, as he led his new team in regular season points with 55. Besides his scoring, the physical winger's style of play also fit in well, on a squad that excels in both categories, with players like Marion Gaborik, Anze Kopitar, and Tyler Toffoli, and Dustin Brown at their disposal.
Unfortunately for both sides, Lucic all but disappeared during the playoffs, as he didn't register a single goal, and the Kings, who have been title contenders for the better part of the last five years, were ousted in the first round by the San Jose Sharks. Despite his postseason struggles, his regular numbers point out that the soon to be 10-year vet, is obviously still a difference maker. He is also only 28 years old. With his time in Boston and L.A, winning is all he knows, so expect him to take less money for a chance to keep on winning.
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