Ain’t no free about it


Well men and women of Balls…now that we’ve had 24 hours to digest the action, it’s time to name the best, worst, most shocking and most depressing signings of the free agent period so far.

May I just say, by way of introduction, that I really enjoy the now-annual rite of media folks tut-tutting and tsk-tsking at all the “crazy money” being thrown around by NHL GMs. Is the money crazy? Well yeah, some of it is ridiculous. But that is the nature of the market for talent in the NHL. If you’re lucky enough to be among the annual crop of 10 to 20 free agents who garner the most attention every year, then you are going to get overpaid. If not, not. The whole thing makes the owners’ cries of poverty around collective bargaining time seem absolutely ridiculous…but hey, that’s par for the course too.

So, my nominees for the best and the worst:

Best signing: Brian Campbell, Chicago Blackhawks, $56 million over 8 seasons.   Generally I don’t like long-term contracts like this. Right about year three they start to look really sketchy. But there is one kind of player that warrants it: a high-skill defenceman who eats up minutes. Campbell reminds me of
Scott niedermayer, with a little less offense and a little more grit. Campbell will be 37 when this contract expires, and it works out to a little over $7 million a season, which puts him on the second tier of superstars. A reasonable price for a guy who will be a key piece of Chicago’s resurgence with Kane, Toews, Seabrook, Sharp, Keith…and Martin Havlat, if he ever gets healthy again.

Worst signing: No, not Jeff Finger. The Leafs may have overpaid for an unheralded defensive defenceman. But when the New York Rangers gave $39 million over 6 years to Wade Redden, they took the express train straight to crazy town. Redden’s off-ice issues in Ottawa were such that they didn’t even want him back. They tried desperately to trade him at the deadline, but nobody bit because they knew the Sens would let him walk in July and that’s exactly what happened. The Rangers lost out on Campbell and flat-out panicked. Redden is a step backwards, and an expensive one.

Most shocking: I found it surprising, if not exactly shocking that Michael Ryder got $4 million a year out of the Bruins. Ryder is coming off a bad year, nut now he is re-united with Claude Julien, a coach he has lit it up for in the past. Ryder and Carbo never got along. He may be a one trick pony, but Ryder gives Marc Savard somebody to feed the puck to in Beantown, and could come back to haunt the Habs. Clearly though, he has to get back to 30 goals next year, or this signing is a bust.

Random question: Why did the Leafs give Jeff Finger, more than $3 million a year, when Kurt Sauer (also a stay-at-home D-man, who was +17 last year on the same team as Finger) got about half that much (1.75 million) from Phoenix?  Exactly what marketplace are the Leafs looking at when Finger, who is a year older, 3 inches shorter, and has played 94 games to Sauer’s 288, is worth twice as much money? I know Sauer doesn’t score, but 8 goals from Finger is no great achievement either.  The Leafs must be thinking that they can double Finger’s offensive production from the point, but if they can’t they massively overpaid. Next year’s top four d-men: McCabe, Kaberle, Kubina and Finger will be making a combined $18.9 million. By my  rough estimates, that’s about $6 million or 31% more than they’re worth on the open market. If you believe Kaberle is worth Brian Campbell money (and he arguably is) then even at that, the group is $4 million overpaid.


Ain’t no free about it

  1. To the Avalanche for signing Andrew Raycroft and Darcy Tucker… Congratulations on picking up the unwanted leftovers of the worst hockey club on the planet. Oh. how far you’ve fallen, Colorado.

  2. Although not a headline stealer, I think a little praise should be given to the Leafs for signing Niklas Hagman. The guy can score (27 last year) and has a lot of hustle.

  3. I’m waiting on Mats before weighing in; could be Messier all over again for the Canucks.

    Sudin says he needs “more time,” according to a statement he sent out via agent J.P. Barry earlier today:
    “I spent a great deal of time yesterday reflecting upon the teams who stepped forward and the opportunities that each provided. Unfortunately, I am simply not close to being ready to make a decision about resuming my career at this time.”

  4. Marian Hossa’s market value just went up. If Mats STILL isn’t sure he wants to play then no way is he worth the money Vancouver is dangling. Look at Niedermayer last year. When he finally decided to get off his arse and start playing again, did anybody notice? Neither did I.

  5. Pheniox signed Sauer before the Leafs signed Finger. I’m sure Saur was their first choice but was unable to sign him. Finger was the next best defencemen available and the Leafs probably had to shell out that dough to get him. Simple as that.

  6. Since we’re going to be Waiting For Sedin for a while yet, I’m calling Alex Auld the worst signing so far. The Sens, looking for a goalie, chose a journeyman who spent the bulk of his career in the AHL and backing-up starters in Phoenix, Boston, Florida and Vancouver.
    If we’re opening up the discussion to include trades, I like Erik Cole in Edmonton, injuries ‘N all.
    Random question: If Sedin gets off his arse and plays another couple seasons, will that make the Canucks the most Swedish team in the NHL?

  7. I know it’s hard to keep all those Swedes straight out there…but the Hamlet in question is Sundin. Not to be confused with his possibly soon-to-be linemates the Sedin sisters.
    All I know is, if they all play on the same line it’ll be the most confusing thing ever for play-by-play announcers.

    You’re right about Auld. Ottawa’s tandem of Gerber and Auld is weak if you ask me. They’re both good backups and weak starters.

  8. (snort…snort…mmm…) Huh? Wha? … oh yeah, the NHL. Sundin, Sundin, Sedin, Sedin. Something about Hossa. Sorry, I was out all night chasing deer—long story.

    Whatever. I’m not letting this go by without my two cents. I’m with Nancy on the Sundin thing. I have this weird feeling he’s going to fall down and break his hip next year, if he plays at all. So whoever takes him might be in the glue, big time. Specially if they guarantee to pay him $15-mill the way the ‘Nucks did, even if he didn’t play that second season (how would that work under the cap, anyway??).

    I also think the Ryder thing sucks. Yeah, maybe Uncle Claude can get him going, but Ryder’s 30 goals—if he gets them—might well cost the Bruins 40. The Habs went to arbitration with him twice, and they were right to do so. Poor lad can’t skate. Looks like a helicopter going sideways down the ice. Great shot, but he only gets it away cleanly about two per cent of the time.

    My favourite is Finger. It’s just so Leafs. He’ll make more than Niklas Kronwall next year. He’ll make what Kostitsyn’s making. It’ll be even better if he blossoms and makes a genius out of Cliff. All the same guys who phoned up open-mouth radio in T.O. to bitch will phone in saying how much they love the Finger.

    So to speak. Really, Toronto’s the team to watch next year.

  9. The worst signing was not Wade Redden! He is an extremely gifted defenseman that Murray in Ottawa did not get along with, therefore, he wanted to get rid of Redden. Murray did not treat Redden with any respect what so ever and am glad he will have a new start!

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