5 Early Losers in 2013 NHL Free Agency
5 Free Agency Losers
When it comes to free agency in sports, picking the right player for your team, at the right price, isn’t always that easy to do. Of course the NHL is no different when it comes to signing players. Picking up a free agent is a double edged sword when you really think about it. Signing a free agent player has an impact on several parties involved.
First, it impacts the team that signed him. The club picks up the player they feel best fits their needs and it gets the player a contract to where he is guaranteed to play hockey the following season. It has an impact on the player’s former team as well. It leaves a hole in the roster that the former club now has to try and go fill.
There has already been a fair amount of player movement in the first week of free agent signings, and there is still more to be done. So far, there have been some big names signed and there have been some teams that have missed the opportunity to sign players early on. The obvious choice is to say that a team that signed a big-name player is the winner and the team that could not hold that player is the loser, but it's not always that simple. What really stands out to me so far is how general managers are spending their money. Some have done so wisely, thus making their hockey teams better. Some have overpaid for free agents and were unable to make the best use of their salary cap space. Also having a team not do anything speaks volumes to me. It shows me that either they can’t find what they want on the free agent market or they just aren’t willing to do something.
So now we are going to take a look at the teams that are kind of on the losing end of things so far with free agency. For a team to fall into this category a couple of things were taken into account. First is whether or not they made any moves to try and improve their team. Second we look at the moves they have made and what impact they will have on the club, either short term or long term. With that in mind, here are the 5 early losers in NHL free agency!
To this point, the biggest signing the Jets have made was giving Grant Clitsome $6.2 million over three years. The team has also brought back Al Montoya. While the Jets still have 13 players (eight UFAs, five RFAs) with expired contracts, they were unable to reach an agreement with any of them. Top-four defenseman Zach Bogosian is the most notable free agent on the team, and he is permitted to sign an offer sheet with another club now that free agency has officially begun.
Even if Winnipeg is able to re-sign most of its own free agents, it's going to be hard for this team to improve, as most of the best UFAs on the market have already signed with new teams. Money for the Jets isn’t an issue, as they have over $19 million to work with. Right now they show no desire to make moves, and that will make it tough for them to compete in the Western Conference.
To this point, the Sabres have signed four players, three of which their own. One reason I have the Sabres listed here is that they have been mostly quiet while the rest of the division has made significant moves to improve their rosters. Special teams were a problem last year for the Sabres (they ranked 29th in power play success and 26th in penalty killing), but general manager Darcy Regier made no upgrades on Friday to address this weakness.
Unless the Sabres can sign a second-tier forward over the next few days such as Daniel Cleary, Damien Brunner, Mason Raymond or Dustin Penner, they will have failed to improve a weak offense via free agency and will likely be forced to rely on young players and prospects to win games consistently next season. Buffalo has the money to spend with over $11 million in cap space to work with. If they don’t come up with something, it could be a tough season in upstate New York.
The biggest mistake the Capitals have made, to this point, is letting center Mike Ribeiro go sign with the Coyotes. And since they were unable to make any noise in the market, most of the big name centers are already off the board. So they lose one of their best centers and haven’t considered anybody to replace him yet. General manager George McPhee also needs to add some defensive skill, experience and toughness to his blue line, which will be a difficult challenge given the lack of talent and depth among defensemen in this free-agent class.
Re-signing RFAs Karl Alzner and Marcus Johansson will also be top priorities for McPhee, but he has just a little over $8 million of cap space to work with. The Capitals will not make the playoffs next season from a tougher division if they don't add a veteran defenseman and a top-six center from outside of the organization.
Ottawa made some good moves and some bad ones so far in free agency. They were able to sign Joe Corvo, Nathan Lawson and Clarke MacArthur as well as trade for right winger Bobby Ryan. They sent a first-round pick and two good prospects to the Anaheim Ducks, because Ryan is a 26-year-old, four-time 30-goal scorer signed for two more seasons at a $5.1 million hit. Ryan replaces a 40-year-old right winger who signed a one-year deal with a $5.5 million hit elsewhere. The problem is, that 40-year-old right winger was Daniel Alfredsson, an Ottawa icon, the Senators’ longtime captain, and the plan was to acquire Ryan and keep Alfredsson, not to acquire Ryan to replace Alfredsson.
Owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Bryan Murray mishandled the Alfredsson situation, rejecting his opening offer and then offering a blank check when it was too late. So now Alfie, once the most popular figure in Ottawa, will chase the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings, the Sens’ division rivals next season. Sure the Senators have gotten a little bit better, and they still have money in cap space to work with, but still the organization is looked down on a little for letting Alfie go and not giving him a chance to win the cup with the team he spent his entire career with.
In light of some of the moves Philly has made, the deal with Vincent Lecavalier doesn’t look as bad. The $4.5 million cap hit isn’t that bad. The problem is the five-year term. Though Lecavalier still has good hands and can still be effective below the dots, he doesn’t skate like he used to at age 33 with more than 1,000 games of mileage. There is a reason the Tampa Bay Lightning gave him more than $30 million to buy out what was supposed to be a lifetime deal. Other teams didn’t want to give Lecavalier more than two years. So the Flyers made a tad bit of a mistake with that move. Lecavalier is still a good hockey player, but it seems like the team tried to make up for the fact that they dropped the ball with Danny Briere.
After buying out Briere and Ilya Bryzgalov, the Flyers might have made another long-term mistake. Philadelphia did make a great move, however, by signing goaltender Ray Emery to a one-year, $1.65 million deal. Emery is a former Flyer who has overcome a hip condition and went 17-1-0 as a backup for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He’ll challenge Steve Mason for the top job. These moves, along with trading for and signing Mark Streit to a long term deal, have put the Flyers over the salary cap by over $2 million. The Flyers have a full roster but overpaid for some players, and when it comes time to cut salary to get under the cap by the time camp starts, it’s going to make it tough for the team to compete.