There are quite a few guys who signed big-time deals this off-season; most of the contracts were welcomed by each team’s respective fans, much like the Sheldon Souray contract was widely viewed as a good one by Oilers fans.
Here are Souray’s goals and point totals for the three seasons up to his UFA year:
2006–07: 26G, 64 PTS
2005–06: 12G, 39 PTS
2003–04: 15G, 35 PTS
Looking at those numbers , which level of production seems like an aberrration? If you answered 2006–07, contact Wanye, who will give you a signed cardboard box that he stole from a homeless guy this summer (trust me, he’s got lots of them).
So which free agents got signed on career years? It’s interesting to look at some of the names signed and try to figure out the reasoning of the general managers involved.
2007–08: 27G, 56 PTS
2006–07: 14G, 41 PTS
2005–06: 15G, 39 PTS
Now, this isn’t a gross overpayment. In fact, given what unrestricted free agents coming off 27-goal seasons generally sign for, it’s a bargain. That said, will Tampa Bay get value out of Vrbata? Not likely. Maybe he doesn’t fall all the way back to the 15-goal, 40-point level, but it seems likely that he will. Then Tampa Bay will be paying him $3 million a year to get outscored by guys like Robert Nilsson; it isn’t a smart long-term decision.
2007–08: 28-21-3, 2.44 GAA, .910SV%
2006–07: 13-15-1, 3.26 GAA, .891SV%
2005–06: 18-17-6, 3.40 GAA, .882SV%
Washington needed a goaltender, but they should have spent the extra million a season and re-signed Cristobal Huet, a legitimate goaltender with a strong track record. Theodore only resurrected his career last season, and while he may be for real, I sure wouldn’t want to wager $9 million dollars on it.
2007–08: 8G, 62 PTS
2006–07: 6G, 48 PTS
2005–06: 12G, 44 PTS
I think that Chicago will eventually come to rue this contract, although they did get a good player; they just signed him for too much and too long. Campbell is unlikely to hit 60 points a season, but he is a good bet for 45-50. Is that worth $7.1M/annum?
2007–08: 27G, 41 PTS
2006–07: 17G, 29 PTS
2005–06: 8G, 21 PTS
Sometimes players have legitimate breakout years. Usually, however, those kinds of players are relatively young. Hagman has been a full-time NHLer since 2001–02, and has cracked the thirty point mark exactly once—this year when he scored 27 goals. He’s a quality player, but not offensively, and $3 million per long-term is an asinine signing.
2007–08: 13G, 62 PTS
2006–07: 10G, 36 PTS
2005–06: 2G, 11 PTS
A 31-year old veteran of the Swiss league, Streit appeared to have a breakout season last year as the triggerman on a phenomenal Canadiens powerplay. Who does that remind me of? If you said Sheldon Souray, Wanye will include the old newspapers that the homeless guys were using as lining for their cardboard boxes. Streit is a one-dimensional player who is almost exclusively a liability off the powerplay. I’d imagine that he stays around the 40-point mark for his time with the Islanders, and that is not good enough for $4 million a year longterm.
Signing guys coming off of career-best seasons isn’t the only mistake a general manager can make. A shocking number of teams decided to bet money on players coming off career-worst seasons, a strategy that might seem like a good way to pick up an under-valued asset on the cheap. Here’s the problem, though: the GM’s were generally paying these guys full price. Here are some head scratchers, along with last seasons numbers:
I identified Ryder as one of the best potential bargains available. That idea went up in smoke as Boston offered the 30-point scoring/occasional healthy scratch a truck-load of money over three years. Even if Ryder were coming off a good season, that kind of money wouldn’t be a great bargain.
Coming off his worst plus-minus since 2001–02 and a 50 per cent drop in points from 2006–07, Mike Commodore somehow managed to land a long-term, $3.75M/yr contract. Even though physical defensemen were getting signed at a premium (see Brooks Orpik), this isn’t a deal that makes much sense.
For my money, this was the worst signing out of free agency. Redden has been in a slump for the last two years, and despite being only 31 years old, he’s suffered a variety of injuries since the lockout and time may be catching up to him. In any case, Redden’s chief virtues are his offensive ability and his hockey sense, both of which looked shaky last season. He still recorded 40 points, but he isn’t a number one defenceman at this stage in the game.
It’s been an ugly decline over the last couple of seasons for the one-time Norris Trophy winner. Now 38 years old, Blake has posted consecutive seasons of less than 35 points and has a combined -45 plus-minus rating over that span. Why the Sharks felt he was worth $5 million when he a) doesn’t bring much offence anymore and b) is a defensive liability is beyond me. He was playing for an awful Los Angeles team, yes, but he still had the worst +/- of any defenceman. The only positives to this deal are that he may rebound with a lesser load, and it’s only for one year.