Grades for NHL Free Agency Signings

NHL Free Agency is a show like no other. Unlike the NBA, player destinations are much less predictable. Some interesting deals we’ve seen in the recent past include: Saku Koivu leaving Montreal for the California sunshine of Anaheim. Ryan O’Reilly moving to Buffalo from Colorado and Daniel Alfredsson leaving Ottawa after what seemed like 20 years to join the Red Wings. Will anything this surprising happen this year, we’ll just have to wait and see.

I’m only going to go over signings that will have impacts on the NHL Clubs, I feel like writing about players like Jordan Szwarz, Derek Grant and Luke Witkowski will just be a waste of space.

D Karl Alzner Signs with Montreal Canadiens for 5 years worth a bit over $23 Million

I mean I don’t see anything wrong with this signing but if you looked at Washington Capitals fans on twitter at all in the past year you’ve seen them eviscerate Alzner time and time again. Therefore I love this signing because I’m a bruins fan and want the Habs to crash and burn. Seriously though, I think Alzner is a quality player and can make up for the Emelin loss to the Golden Knights. He was +23 last year with 13 points and his primary role will be to help Price defend the net instead of force offense from the blue line. While I like the player fit I do not like the length of term on an aging player (Grade C)


D Michael Del Zotto Signs with Vancouver Canucks for 2 years, $6 Million

Del Zotto needed to go somewhere without a big hockey market such as Tampa or Arizona just to stay away from the spotlight the big markets cause. Vancouver has a history of just hating on every defenseman they receive that isn’t homegrown (Luca Sbisa, Matt Bartkowski) I expect it to be a little easier for Del Zotto but he really did himself a disservice going to the Canucks (Also, the Vancouver Radio hosts are going to bring up his Pornstar twitter DM Fiasco every week during the season). (Grade C)

F Sam Gagner Signs with Vancouver Canucks for 3 years, $9.45 Million

Sam Gagner to Vancouver is a better signing than Del Zotto in my mind. He doesn’t have as many question marks as Del Zotto and Gagner killed it with Columbus last year. I like the signing for a team that needs offensive production and they could use some veteran leadership in the clubhouse from someone not named Sedin. (Grade A-)

G Anders Nilsson Signs with Vancouver Canucks for 2 years, $5 Million

Anders Nilsson will be able to jump into the starting goalie competition in Vancouver. He had a .923 save percentage in 26 games last year with Buffalo and with the only other goalie’s being Jacob Markstrom and the raw Thatcher Demko. I think this is a good fit for Nilsson. (Grade A)

G Steve Mason Signs with Winnipeg Jets for 2 years, $8.2 Million

Steve Mason jumps into a Winnipeg goalie competition that is a bit more convoluted than Vancouver’s. Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson are true competition for the Starting Goalie position. I see Mason making the team but the goalie position in the future is Hellebuyck’s to lose, This is alot of money to give a player who isn’t in the future plans though and even though it’s a 2 year deal it could hinder the teams ability to sign other players. (Grade C-)

D Dan Girardi Signs with Tampa Bay Lightning for 2 years, $6 Million

Girardi is going to help fill the void that Jason Garrison left when he got taken by the Vegas Golden Knights. Girardi has regressed in the past year and the buyout from the Rangers solidified the idea that he needs a change in scenery. It’s a signing that allows the Lightning to cut ties early if things go awry and allow Girardi to bring back his career. (Grade A)

D Trevor Daley Signs with Detroit Red Wings for 3 years, $11.12 Million

Daley is a strong top 4 defenseman and now has two Stanley Cups to his resume. I’m just surprised that the Wings signed a North American. I feel as if their entire team is filled with Europeans. Detroit has cap flexibility and giving him a 3 year deal was something other teams such as Boston and Calgary weren’t willing to do. (Grade C+)

G Brian Elliott Signs with Philadelphia Flyers for 2 years, $5.5 Million

Elliott will probably win the starting spot for the Flyers this year. Neuvirth had a sub .900 save percentage last year and they lost Steve Mason to Winnipeg. This is a great fit to a team in transition. Elliott has proven he can shut the door like the best of them and Philadelphia got a great upgrade at the position without paying much at all. (Grade A+)

G Chad Johnson Signs with Buffalo Sabres for 1 year, $2.5 Million

Johnson is a good goalie but his play is the definition of Hot and Cold. One minute he looks like a Vezina finalist and the next he looks like he should be in the ECHL. I think Buffalo is a good place for him though and he could help shut the door enough to get them into the playoffs. This is a signing that confuses me but ultimately the fact that this is a 1 year deal makes this signing much more bearable. (Grade B)

F Nick Bonino Signs with the Nashville Predators for 4 years, $16.4 Million

Nick Bonino will help fill the offensive void that Neal’s taking by the Golden Knights has caused. Bonino will be a center, so Nashville will need to shift around some lines. He will hopefully play behind Johansen when he gets back from his gruesome muscle syndrome because forcing him into a number one center position will not be beneficial to Nick or the team. The term and money seems pretty mutually beneficial to me. Nick has jumped around in trades these past couple years and this will provide him some stability. (Grade A)

F Patrick Sharp Signs with Chicago Blackhawks for 1 year, $800K + potential bonuses

I can’t picture this guy on any team other than the Blackhawks. Sharp spent 10 years with the Blackhawks before being traded to Dallas and can still produce points from a 3rd line scoring forward perspective. I don’t see a massive problem with this signing. Sharp knows the clubhouse and I feel that playing back in the windy city could light a fire under him. (Grade A)

G Jonathan Bernier Signs with Colorado Avalanche for 1 year, $2.75 Million

Bernier signing makes sense because they lost Calvin Pickard to Vegas and he played well in his games in Anaheim last year. He could even challenge Varlamov for the starting spot if Varlamov continues to regress. Bernier’s signing is a great one for the Av’s and I don’t see a problem creating a duel goalie system in the Mile High City. (Grade A)

G Ondrej Pavelec Signs with New York Rangers for 1 year, $1.3 Million

Pavelec’s days starting in the NHL are over after being sent down to the AHL by the mediocre Jets. In signing with the Rangers he knows that he will only be competing for the backup goalie position because King Henrik is the Manhattan Wall. It’s great that Pavelec knows his role, even if it’s just to possibly revitalize his career. (Grade B)

G Ryan Miller Signs with Anaheim Ducks for 2 years, $4 Million

Miller’s days of starting are behind him John Gibson is the goalie of the future in Anaheim and he probably signed in SoCal to be close to his actress wife. That being said, he can help progress Gibson as a player and a professional. As a player I don’t see much of an addition but as a mentor I see this as being an investment in the Ducks future. (Grade B+)

F Martin Hanzal Signs with Dallas Stars for 3 years, $14.25 Million

Dallas will be loaded up front with this addition. Spezza, Benn, Seguin, now Hanzal and many others are apart of this barrage of shooting stars. I’m interested in what the stars are going to do at goalie and defense though. This is a lofty price for Hanzal, but at least with him, you know what kind of point production to expect as he has been very consistent in his career. (Grade B-)

F Nate Thompson Signs with Ottawa Senators for 2 years, $3.4 Million

Thompson is a good role player but this signing doesn’t do anything for me. He has had injury troubles and to me this is nothing but a depth acquisition. At least this signing is good money wise for both parties. (Grade B)

D Ron Hainsey Signs with Toronto Maple Leafs for 2 years, $6 Million

This signing also does nothing for me. I’ll just say Hainsey is getting older, 3 million a year is too much and Babcock is an asshole. that is all. (Grade C)

D Dmitri Kulikov Signs with Winnipeg Jets for 3 years, $13 Million

Kulikov is a talented player but he had an awful year with the Sabres last year. A change in scenery is necessary for him and Winnipeg could really benefit from a Left Shot Defensemen. I Like Kulikov, but this is a high risk, high reward signing for a Winnipeg team in transition and I don’t like the term and money. (Grade: D)

F Brian Boyle Signs with New Jersey Devils for 2 years, $5.1 Million

The Devils always seem interested in a bunch of players who are on the verge of being great and end up overpaying for them (Mike Cammalleri, Ryane Clowe). Boyle has a specific role unlike those two and the Devils were lacking a player like him so I like the fit. This is also a Cap-Friendly signing as well so good job Shero. (Grade: A)

F Justin Williams Signs with Carolina Hurricanes 2 Years, $9 Million

The Canes need leadership which Williams can give to this young team on the rise. Williams’ fit going back to the canes is incredible, but the Hurricanes are paying him too much money even though he was scoring more goals last year than in any of his last 5 years. (Grade B-)

D Matt Hunwick Signs with Pittsburgh Penguins 3 years, $6.75 Million

I think the Penguins are paying too much for Hunwick. He was able to revitalize his career with the Leafs but who knows how well he will do with a stronger team like the Penguins. I predict his role is as a 5-6 defenseman and with the talented defensive prospects the penguins have who knows if he will continue to stay on his revitalization track when he is in danger of getting benched. (Grade C-)

F Benoit Pouliot Signs with Buffalo Sabres 1 year, $1.3 Million

This signing does nothing for me. Pouliot is there to provide leadership and that’s really it. He’s a good role player and can help out on a gritty 4th line. I like the fit, but then again I would like his fit with any young team. (Grade B)

F Tommy Wingels Signs with Blackhawks 1 year, financials have not yet been reported.

The Pride of Miami OH, Tommy Wingels!!! Wingels can step in to the lineup immediately for the Blackhawks and contribute in a 3rd line role. It’s going to be a shame when the Blackhawks lose 3 in a row in december and hastily trade him to the Hurricanes though (No seriously, watch it happen). (Grade B)

G Antti Niemi Signs with Pittsburgh Penguins 1 year, $700,000

I love this signing for the Penguins. We know Matt Murray is the goalie of the future in Pittsburgh but they recently lost Marc-Andre Fleury to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi provides the Penguins a safety blanket in case Murray gets overwhelmed in net and they did it for a cheap price. From Niemi’s point of view, he sees Pittsburgh as another chance to chase a cup. This is a great, mutually beneficial signing. (Grade A+)

D Paul Postma Signs with Boston Bruins 1 Year, $725,000

This signing does nothing for me. Postma will at most be a depth defensemen. I like that it isn’t more than 1 year and not more than 1 million so good job Sweeney I guess? (Grade B)

F Kenny Agostino Signs with Boston Bruins 1 year, $875,000

I like this one for the bruins a lot. The AHL MVP has shown flashes of brilliance and there could be chances for him to produce in the NHL by going to the Bruins. (Grade A)

F Mike Cammalleri Signs with Los Angeles Kings 1 Year, $1 Million + Possible Bonuses

This is a good low risk, high reward signing. Cammalleri just got bought out by the Devils. He didn’t play badly for them but injuries and not enough point production led to his exit from Newark. Heading back to Los Angeles could be great for him if he can possibly play with Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik or Anze Kopitar. Great signing by Robitaille. (Grade A+)

D Patrick Wiercioch Signs with Vancouver Canucks 1 Year, $650,000

Wiercioch has had a tough two years with Ottawa and Colorado. It wasn’t long before that that we thought he could be a true 3-4 defensemen for 10+ years in the NHL. That isn’t the case any longer and this could be his last chance to revitalize his career. Vancouver doesn’t give up much in salary to give him a shot. (Grade A-)

D Ryan Murphy Signs with Minnesota Wild 1 year, $700,000 (2-way)

Murphy is entering bust territory. He was drafted 12th overall in 2011 and hasn’t been able to stay up in the show. This move is probably his last chance to make a difference in the NHL. Minnesota traded away Marco Scandella and Christian Folin signed with LA so there is space to bring in another defensemen. The fact that this is a 2-way deal also shows that they don’t have much faith in Murphy so I don’t really see the reason in even signing him. (Grade C-)

F Scott Hartnell Signs with Nashville Predators 1 year, $1 Million

I love this signing. Hartnell wasn’t making a difference on the Blue Jackets and this gives him a chance to go back to the team who drafted him From the Preds perspective, Hartnell gives the young clubhouse a experienced winger who isn’t afraid to chuck some knuck’s. (Grade A)

D Matt Tennyson Signs with Buffalo Sabres

Tennyson hasn’t really been given a fair shot to stay in the NHL in his time in Carolina and in San Jose. Buffalo should be able to give him that chance. The first year of the deal is two way which shows they are willing to give him another year to get his skates under him in professional hockey and it shows Tennyson that they see the potential in him by having the second year of the deal be one-way. (Grade B+)

D Christian Folin Signs with Los Angeles Kings 1 Year, $850,000

Folin should be able to make up for the void that left when Brayden McNabb was selected by the Golden Knights. Folin (Former UMASS Lowell Riverhawk BTW) is a cheap option that can jump into a 5-6 defense position easily. (Grade B+)

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