As the current NHL regular-season draws to a close, it’s a good time to look back on last summer’s notable free-agent signings and identify the best of the bunch. Here’s a listing of each player, the team they signed with, their contract and a brief assessment of their performance in the first year of their new deals.
Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues: Four years, $28 million. Stastny had some difficulty adjusting to his new teammates, exacerbated by an early-season shoulder injury. In recent weeks, however, he seems to be adjusting well. Stastny’s currently on pace for 50 points, though more production should be expected from a $7 million per season player.
Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild: Three years, $19 million. Vanek struggled through a difficult first-half adjusting to his new club. Since mid-January, however, his offensive production has picked up. He’s on pace to score over 20 goals and 55 points. Not quite the offensive output the Wild were expecting for a player earning over $6 million annually.
Jarome Iginla, Colorado Avalanche: Three years, $16 million. The Avalanche might not make the playoffs this season, but Iginla cannot be faulted for that. The 37-year-old winger reached the 20-goal mark for the 16th time in his career and it’s possible he could reach 30 goals and 60 points.
Brad Richards, Chicago Blackhawks: One year, $2 million. Richards came cheap because he was bought out last summer by the NY Rangers and he was willing to join a cap-strapped Cup contender for far less than market value. As it turns out, it’s a good thing the ‘Hawks didn’t overpay. Richards is on pace for 40 points as his offensive decline continues.
Ryan Miller, Vancouver Canucks: Three years, $18 million. Though sidelined since late-Feb with a lower-body injury, the 34-year-old netminder won 28 of 44 games for the Canucks this season. Miller’s performance helped put them into playoff contention, silencing doubters about his capability as a starting goaltender.
Matt Niskanen, Washington Capitals: Seven years, $40.25 million. He’s been a reliable top-four blueliner for the Capitals, on pace for perhaps 30 points this season. That’s well below last season’s career-best with Pittsburgh but about par for his usual level of production. He’s not a $5.75 million per season defenseman, but he can’t be faulted for the Capitals overpaying to get him.
Brooks Orpik, Washington Capitals: Five years, $27.5 million contract. Like Niskanen, the Capitals overpaid for Orpik, but he’s provided the same level of defensive play as he did during his years with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He and Niskanen provided veteran experience and depth to the Capitals defense. Given the club’s improvement this season, it’s probably considered worthwhile.
Mike Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils: Five years, $25 million. It’s been pretty much a normal season for the 32-year-old Cammalleri. Despite missing several games to injury and illness, he’s on pace for almost 30 goals and 45 points.
Radim Vrbata, Vancouver Canucks: Two years, $10 million. Thus far, he’s been worth every penny. The 33-year-old winger, who’s spent most of this season on the Canucks top line with the Sedin twins, is poised to crack the 30-goal mark for the second time in his career and is on pace for a 65-point performance.
Dan Boyle, New York Rangers. Two years, $9 million. The Rangers were hoping the 38-year-old was still capable of fulfilling the role of a top-two puckmoving defenseman. Sadly, it hasn’t worked out as hoped. A hand injury affected his performance, but age also seems to be catching up with Boyle. He’s on pace for his lowest offensive numbers in years.
Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars. Three years, $12 million. The Stars were hoping he’d rekindle the offensive chemistry with Jason Spezza the pair enjoyed late last season with the Ottawa Senators. While Spezza’s played well for the Stars, the same cannot be said of Hemsky, who has only 30 points in 67 games this season.
Jussi Jokinen, Florida Panthers. Four years, $16 million. Unlike the Bolland signing, this deal seems to be working out. Though his numbers are down from the 57 points he put up last season with Pittsburgh, the 31-year-old winger is on pace for a respectable 45 points for the offensively-challenged Panthers.
Christian Ehrhoff, Pittsburgh Penguins: One year, $4 million deal. He enjoyed a productive first half, but a series of injuries sidelined him for 24 games and hampered his performance through the second half.
Brian Gionta, Buffalo Sabres: Three years, $12.75 million. It’s been a disappointing season for the 36-year-old Gionta, adjusting to a rebuilding team and missing 13 games to an upper-body injury. He’s on pace for only 27 points this season.
Jonas Hiller, Calgary Flames: Two years, $9 million. He was slotted as their starting goalie, but at times he’s taken a seat to backups Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio. The inconsistency which cost him his job in Anaheim seems to have carried over into this season.
Matt Moulson, Buffalo Sabres: Five years, $25 million. His years of netting 30-goals per season are well behind him. Still, the 31-year-old winger is on pace to reach a respectable 42 points this season. On the offensively-anemic Sabres, that makes him one of their leading scorer.
Dave Bolland, Florida Panthers: Five years, $27.5 million. His first season in Florida has been disappointing. He missed 29 games to injuries, and hasn’t played particularly well upon his return. He’s on pace for a 23-point season. Not really what one expects from a player earning over $5 million annually.
Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning: Five years, $22.5 million. Prior to last season few fans knew who Stralman was, but a solid performance with the New York Rangers earned him a significant deal with the Lightning. The 28-year-old has rewarded the Bolts with the best season (8 goals, 36 points, plus-23) of his NHL career.
Mikhail Grabovski, New York Islanders: Four years, $20 million contract. Unfortunately, it’s been an injury-ravaged first season for the 31-year-old with the Isles. He’s been sidelined since late-Feb with what’s been called an upper-body injury, though it’s feared he may have suffered another concussion.