The past week has been a furious one for NHL unrestricted free agent signings. Some were astute at a time when GMs are pressured to be anything but.
In Vancouver, Mike Gillis stared down the Sedins’ demands for 12-year contracts and locked the twins up for five. In Anaheim, Scott Niedermayer now has the 12th-highest salary in the league among defensemen, despite his top-five game. And in Colorado, neophyte GM Greg Sherman upgraded his goaltending with Craig Anderson for less than $2 million per season.
But, of course, there have been more than a few gun-jumpers and panicky spenders this past week – it wouldn’t be NHL free agent frenzy otherwise. The usual suspects are involved, but Glen Sather isn’t alone. It’s tough to tell what makes a bad deal in the NHL these days, but in the spirit of calling a spade (or 10) a spade, this week the THN Top 10 explores the worst 2009 UFA signings.
10. Chris Neil, RW, Ottawa – four years, $8 million
The 30-year-old enforcer plays a role and plays it well, but that role isn’t worth two large per season. Neil has 30 points in his past 128 NHL games and has never had more than 33 in a season. Over the past two years, he has essentially gone from an energy player with some pop in his blade and his fists to a pugilist, who are a dime a dozen in the NHL.
9. Mike Komisarek, D, Toronto – five years, $22.5 million
The former Canadien, 27, is a punishing bodychecker with a defense-first attitude who was looking to be developing into a premier shutdown guy. But he regressed last season, looked intimidated at times and became a whipping boy in Montreal. He’s the prototypical Brian Burke blueliner, but is no Robyn Regehr, who Komisarek now makes more money than.
8. Colton Orr, RW, Toronto – four years, $4 million
A million dollars is really just pocket change in today’s NHL. But Orr’s highest single-season point total of his past 11 seasons is 13, which he managed in the Western League in 2000-01 with Swift Current and Kamloops. Orr, 27, is nothing more than a goon, tougher than most, but less skilled than, say, Neil. And now, like Neil, he’s overpaid.
7. Nik Antropov, RW, Atlanta – four years, $16 million
Versatile, but maddening, Antropov teased Maple Leafs fans for nearly a decade with his size and ability to stickhandle in a phone booth. His ability to stay healthy, however, was another story. Entering his 10th NHL season, the big Kazakh has just once managed to stay in the lineup for a full season – last season – and has topped 20 goals and 50 points only twice. His lack of foot speed means he will have trouble keeping up with Ilya Kovalchuk, whom Antropov, 29, was presumably signed to play with.
6. Marian Hossa, RW, Chicago – 12 years, $62.8 million
Hossa’s was the blockbuster deal of the summer. The Blackhawks get a 30-year-old right winger with a penchant for 40-goal seasons, but the problem here is the cap implications such a deal has. The 12-year term means Hossa could count for $5.23 million towards Chicago’s cap until 2021, when he’s 42. The likelihood of Hossa hanging on that long is next to nil, but the Hawks now could be unable to afford the services of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith, all of whom must be re-upped next summer.
5. Mike Cammalleri, LW, Montreal – five years, $30 million
He’s versatile, but also small and has just two point-per-game seasons under his belt. Last season, his best as an NHLer, came alongside a superstar in Jarome Iginla. Asking Cammalleri, 27, to repeat such a performance in Montreal is too much. Here’s hoping he doesn’t just wilt under the pressure in the Canadiens fishbowl.
4. Nikolai Khabibulin, G, Edmonton – four years, $15 million
The cap hit - $3.75 million - isn’t a lot to pay for a starting netminder. But it is a lot to pay for one who is 36 and has had one decent season – during a contract year – since winning the Stanley Cup with Tampa Bay prior to the lockout. Khabibulin stole a few games last season and took his team to the conference final, albeit with a 2.93 goals-against average and .898 save percentage in the post-season. But what makes this deal a scary one is that, because Khabibulin is 36, his money cannot come off the Oilers’ books, retirement or not.
3. Martin Havlat, RW, Minnesota – six years, $30 million
The Wild divested itself of one oft-injured winger, only to sign another. Nobody will argue Havlat’s talent, but 2008-09 was the first season of his career he went the distance without missing an extended period due to injury. His past shoulder and head injuries are worrisome and there’s really no evidence to suggest one or both won’t pop up again and again, leaving the Wild wanting.
2. Brian Gionta, RW, Montreal – five years, $25 million
Sorry Habs fans, but are you really that surprised? Gionta, 30, is even smaller than Cammalleri and is on the downside, with his goals-scored total falling each season since he potted 48 coming out of the lockout. He’s speedy and feisty, but when he’s 34 and scoring 15 goals, will he be worth $5 million?
1. Marian Gaborik, LW, New York Rangers – five years, $37.5 million
After managing to move one onerous contract out of town (Scott Gomez), GM Glen Sather simply took on another. Gaborik will count for $7.5 million towards the cap (tied for seventh in the league), more than any other player signed this summer. Unfortunately for Rangers fans, you can expect him to not put up numbers worthy of such a cap hit. Gaborik will be a point-per-game player, but expect that to mean 60 points or so on average. He’s electric on the ice, but can’t stay healthy. Even more discouraging, Gaborik demonstrated a me-first attitude while working to get back to the battling-for-the-playoffs Wild when he admitted to not watching Minnesota games and worrying only about his return. A health risk and a seemingly selfish player; not a good mix.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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