Well then. NHL free agency began July 1, and, as far as I can tell, every person who wasn't under an NHL contract in the world now has a new deal. Seriously, pretty much every notable name has been signed already. The NHL landscape has changed. Some interesting deals have gone down. Some are puzzling, some look great. I'm just going to go through ESPN.com's free agency list, which is in alphabetical order, and point out the ones I find most notable.
The first name that comes up is Dave Bolland. It isn't the biggest deal, but it may be bigger than it should be. He was a bit of a polarizing figure in Toronto, but he has that "veteran presence" and "Stanley Cup experience." Now, he's taken those...traits... to Florida. The Panthers, who have dished out a bunch of free agent deals in recent years under Dale Tallon, and Bolland and Tallon used to be in Chicago, have given Bolland a five year, $27.5 million deals. Yes, Bolland, who is 28 and thus not likely to improve, is getting over five million bucks a season. That's more than Matt Moulson. This for a guy who, over the last two seasons, has played 58 games and scored 26 points. He's not good at faceoffs. He doesn't drive play. This is an awful deal. I don't get it at all.
Two Boyles have gotten deals. One is leaving the Rangers, one is joining. Brian Boyle has turned his size and a solid playoff run into a three year, $6 million deal, which I'm all for at that price. Meanwhile, aged, but still productive, defenseman Dan Boyle is leaving San Jose for the Rangers. The deal is for two years and $9 million, which is not insignificant for a 37-year-old, but Boyle should be worth it. Boyle scored 36 points last season, he can still help on the power play, and he can still move the puck.
Mike Cammalleri is headed to New Jersey on a five year, $25 million deal. That's almost Dave Bolland money! He's experienced a bit of a Renaissance since he returned to Calgary, and he scored 26 goals in 63 games last season. The Devils need scoring, and Cammalleri can help.
Christian Ehrhoff got bought out of his big contract in Buffalo, and now he has signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Get this, though: The deal is for one year and $4 million. That's a straight steal for the Penguins. Ehrhoff, I imagine, is looking to turn a good season into another big contract, and he will get that chance while playing with the likes of Sidney Crosby. Hey, I guess when you get buyout money, you can afford to take a bit of a pay cut.
Buffalo signed Brian Gionta for veteran presence, I imagine. It's a three year deal, so he likely won't be around when the Sabres are ready to contend. Thomas Greiss is headed to Pittsburgh, another guy on a one year deal. Not a bad backup for Marc-Andre Fleury. Marty Havlat is headed to New Jersey for $1.5 million. Worth a flyer for the Devils. Could be a steal if he finds any degree of his former self.
Ales Hemsky is joining Jason Spezza in Dallas for three years and $12 million. I like this for the Stars. Hemsky is a good player, and he did quite well with the Senators in his brief time there. Look out for the Stars, teams in the West. Jonas Hiller, who found himself the odd man out in Anaheim, is now going to Calgary on a two year, $9 million deal. The Flames really needed a goalie, and Hiller is a good one, perhaps even a really good one. I don't know if he makes the Flames a playoff contender, but he doesn't hurt.
Boston has lost a couple of players. Jarome Iginla signed a three year deal for $16 million. I'm of two minds here. For one, Iginla did score 30 goals and 61 points in 78 games last year. He clearly still has talent. However, he's also 37, so he will be 40 when this deal ends. By then, I imagine his numbers will be significantly worse, and he has a cap hit over $5 million. The Avalanche are sort of in a no man's land between building and contending. We'll have to see how this plays out, I guess. Also, the Islanders signed Boston's backup Chad Johnson. He was a pretty good backup. This team had awful goaltending. I like this for New York.
Milan Michalek is the one guy staying in Ottawa. Ryan Miller signed a three year $18 million deal with the Vancouver Canucks. It appears that minor slide late last season didn't hurt his bottom line. Nor should it. Miller is a very good goalie, and he's only 33. The Canucks really needed a goalie, if only for trade fodder. I also like Al Montoya going to Florida as a backup, although what does that mean for Jacob Markstrom. Also, the Panthers have signed Willie Mitchell for two years and $8.5 million. Again, I don't see this deal making financial sense for Florida. Are they desperately overpaying to try and lure free agents? Is this where they are stuck?
Matt Moulson is back in Buffalo for five years and $25 million. He showed he can score away from John Tavares, and he's only 30. I'm fine with this. Washington has a new GM, a new excellent head coach in Barry Trotz, and now they've gashed Pittsburgh's defense. The Capitals have signed both Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to huge deals. Orpik got five years and $27.5 million. Yes, Brooks Orpik. Niskanen, meanwhile, got a whopping seven years and $40.25 million. Wow.
Orpik is a defensive defenseman, but we're talking about a guy who doesn't score, takes too many penalties, and doesn't really drive possession despite a good PDO. He's also 33. I can't abide this deal. Is he better than the guy who he will be replacing, whoever that is? Yes. Is he good? Not really, and he'll only get worse. Niskanen, to be fair, is 27 and coming off a great season. He scored 10 goals, and had 46 points, although he also took 16 more penalites than he drew. His possession stats are fine, but he doesn't kill penalties or anything. He's a good, perhaps very good, player. He's the 15th highest paid defenseman in the NHL.
Are you looking for the steal of steals? Brad Richards to Chicago. One year, $2 million. Amazing. He clearly wants a Cup. He just may get one. The biggest deal of the day, on a per year basis, unsurprisingly went to Paul Stastny. St. Louis signed him away from Colorado for four years and $28 million. That's obviously a bit of an overpay. He's getting more money than Anze Kopitar and Nicklas Backstrom, for example. At least they didn't go in long term on him, although Stastny is also probably happy to get paid, and then get the chance to get paid again when he's 32. I really like Stastny as a young player, and while he never hit the levels I imagined, he did score 25 goals and 60 points in 71 games last year. He's good at faceoffs and stuff too. Not a good deal. Not a bad deal.
Two more big deals to get to. Anton Stralman, the advanced stat darling, got a five year $22.5 million deal from Tampa Bay. I like the advanced stats, so I like this deal. Stralman drives play and is only 27. He's in his prime. He's not even getting five million a year. The Lightning opened up some cap space, and they put Stralman in it to pair with Victor Hedman. I like that.
Lastly, Thomas Vanek, as everybody expected, is going to Minnesota. He got $19.5 million over three years. Vanek slipped down the stretch, but it didn't seem to cost him any cash. He still scored 27 goals last season. He still has two 40 goal seasons to his name. He should get at least 25 goals a season for the Wild the next three years, and they aren't locked in long term. I like this deal.
Technically, some more players are left to be signed, so keep an eye out.