By Todd Singer @breakingbadfish on July 10, 2014
With a good deal of NHL free agents off the board only a week after free agency began, people are beginning to assess who handed out the best deals. While some teams are not as cautious with the deals they hand out (cough, Washington, cough), there are many franchises that were able to land players at contracts that could make those deals look like steals. Without further ado, here is the list of the 10 deals that will prove to be huge steals.
Brad Richards was an integral part of the New York Rangers' run to the Stanley Cup Final, but because of his massive deal, he was amnestied shortly after the season ended. Richards, who could afford to sign a cheaper deal because he's still getting paid in full by the Rangers, chose to ink a one-year deal with the Blackhawks, who could use his veteran presence down the middle. For the pittance Chicago is paying, this deal could be a steal.
Ales Hemsky doesn't have much notoriety among casual hockey fans having played his entire career in Edmonton before being dealt to Ottawa last season. Hemsky is a quality two-way forward, who won't wow you offensively but has playmaking abilities. What makes this deal even more favorable is Hemsky seemed to click with Jason Spezza upon his arrival in Ottawa and, with Spezza being traded to Dallas this offseason, the two can play together again.
The Calgary Flames have been searching for reliable netminder since Miikka Kiprusoff retired and, as a result, they signed one of the best goalies on the free-agent market to a very reasonable deal. Jonas Hiller was the top gun in Anaheim for years before being rotated with Anaheim's two young goalies, Frederik Andersen and John Gibson. Hiller isn't as stout as he used to be, but he'll still be a huge upgrade for a team trying to right the ship.
Dan Boyle is nearing 40 years old and his production has slowed in recent seasons, but he's still a nice get for the Rangers at the price they signed him for. Boyle reportedly took less money to join the Blueshirts and will be a big help on the power play after the Rangers let point man Brad Richards go. Although Boyle's days as a top pairing D-man are over, the Rangers have the defensive depth to slide him down a pairing.
Another former Ranger lands on this list as Brian Boyle, who also played a vital role in leading the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final, got a deal from Tampa Bay that surprised many pundits around the league. Boyle was expected to cash in after his incredible playoff run, especially given some of the more ludicrous deals given out to role players, but he settled for a very reasonable three-year deal which will look very good for Tampa.
Mikhail Grabovski is one of the more underrated players in the NHL, and he will ply his trade for the next few seasons with the New York Islanders after inking a four-year deal. While Grabovski just turned 30, he's one of the fastest players in the league and is a playmaking center man who can slide Frans Nielsen down to New York's third line, greatly improving the team's depth. If he's healthy, this deal could be a steal for the Isles.
Anton Stralman is yet another Ranger who capitalized on last year's playoff run by landing himself a nice deal in free agency. While Stralman isn't much of an offensive threat, he's a very sound stay-at-home defenseman who is proficient in his own zone. For a team on the rise like the Lightning, the deal seems a small price to pay for some stability on the back line, especially when compared to the deals given out to lesser defensemen.
Christian Ehrhoff was a victim of the Buffalo Sabres' amnesty provision, but it didn't take long before he found a new home for next season. While other teams were busy spending tons of money on their former defensemen, the Penguins orchestrated one of the shrewdest moves of the offseason by signing Ehrhoff to a reasonable one-year deal. Ehrhoff is likely looking to rebuild his value and should serve as a very capable replacement for the Pens.
Midway through last season, the New York Islanders offered Vanek a massive seven-year contract to re-sign with them, but he decided to take his chances on the open market. Fast forward a few months and Vanek's value went through the floor due to his poor playoff performance when he looked disinterested at times despite being in the Eastern Conference final. To land a forward of his talent at that money is a coup for the Wild.
The fact that Dave Bolland, who had amassed 26 points combined in the last two seasons, got almost as much guaranteed money as Paul Stastny, one of the best centers in the game, is simply astounding. A perennial 20-goal scorer and a solid back-checking forward, Stastny was arguably the best player on the market this offseason and, for the Blues, the rich just got richer. This deal was far and away the steal of the offseason.
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