First Day of NHL Free Agency Recap: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

By Shane Darrow
Getty Images
Getty Images

I’m not a big fan of Rob Drydek, but there is truly only one word to describe all the action that went down on July 1, 2014 – ridiculousness.

It isn’t unusual for NHL general managers to splurge a little bit in order to try and get their team ready for the beginning of the season, far from it; however, the Stanley Cup isn’t won in July, and some of the money that was given to subpar talent on the first day of free agency went into the hundreds of millions.

The best general managers usually improve their team around the trade deadline in order to better assess what their team needs are, but many GMs couldn’t wait and made some moves that can be described as questionable at best.

The Good:

The Colorado Avalanche adding Jarome Iginla might give them the scariest first line in the league. Iginla turned 37 on Tuesday and signed a three-year, $16 million contract with the Avs. There’s no doubt he can still play, either. Last season with the Boston Bruins he contributed 61 points, which included 30 goals, and might make the Avs completely forget about losing Paul Stastny to the St. Louis Blues.

The Pittsburgh Penguins signing Christian Ehrhoff to a one-year deal for a discounted $4 million will also help them replace a blue line that lost both Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to the Washington Capitals.

Another underrated move was the Vancouver Canucks bringing in Ryan Miller to mentor Eddie Lack, which will definitely help his progression.

The Bad:

A lot of the biggest paydays went to former members of the Penguins. For example, Tanner Glass, who has 15 points in his last 115 regular season games and was scratched for five of the Pens’ 13 playoff games last year, got paid $4.35  million over three years by the New York Rangers.

To continue the hilarity, Deryk Engelland, who made $575,000 with the Penguins last year, was paid $8.75 million over three years by the Calgary Flames. Oh, and add in a $500,000 signing bonus. Engelland was another player who didn’t even crack the lineup in Pittsburgh when they were healthy on the blue line.

Add in that the Capitals spent a total of $67.5 million on Niskanen and the almost 34-year-old Orpik, and the jack has finally jumped out of the box.

Heck, if the Penguins want to keep Paul Martin around in the future they might have to offer him some of Primanti Brothers’ stock.

But it wasn’t just former Penguins who cashed in on the first day of free agency. The Florida Panthers somehow decided that former Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs forward Dave Bolland was worth paying $27.5 million over five years in one of the biggest head scratchers of the day. Bolland, who made just over $3 million per year on his last contract, has an excruciating list of past injuries and hasn’t recorded over 40 points in a season since 2009.

The Ugly:

The Tampa Bay Lightning made a handful of moves, one of which sent Sam Gagner and B.J. Crombeen to the Arizona Coyotes for basically a bag of pucks, in order to free up some cap space. The Lightning need a big time defenseman, and many people speculated that they would land Niskanen, Ehrhoff or Dan Boyle; instead they ended up committing $22.5 million to Anton Stralman. Stralman is a good talent, but after all the moves that Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman made before the free agency period, Stralman’s signing was a bit of a disappointment.

The Lightning did, however, sign a Boyle – Brian Boyle.

The other team that is in need of a big time defenseman is the Detroit Red Wings, but they ended up not even making a splash on the first day of free agency. Instead, they stood on the diving board and signed Kevin Porter, the winner of the 2008 Hober Baker Award. According to the Red Wings’ website, Porter was signed to “add depth at forward for the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins.” Not exactly what Red Wings fans had in mind.

The first day of free agency felt like an episode of Let’s Make a Deal, but on this particular episode every contestant won the largest prize available. The amount of money given out on July 1 made an Oprah giveaway look like she was handing out free coupons to a soup kitchen.

Shane Darrow is an NHL writer for Rant Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @ShaneDarrow

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