NHL free agency by the numbers: How much is spent on July 1?

Sportsnet’s Doug MacLean joined the Starting Lineup this morning to discuss what could happen come the first day of NHL Free Agency on July 1st for the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.

This year’s unrestricted free agent class includes such notable names as Kevin Shattenkirk, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Ryan Miller, but overall it’s regarded as a relatively weak class.

But don’t expect that to slow the spending. After all, the top 100 UFAs available as of July 1 came with a combined cap hit of $255.2 million and on July 1 of 2016, NHL teams committed $490.4 million in salary to another relatively weak class. General managers aren’t shy to offer big bucks when free agency opens, and have committed a total of just under $3.1 billion on July 1 since 2008.

For nearly a week leading up to Signing Season, teams have been able to talk to pending free agents about everything aside from money and specific terms. That feeling out process will likely lead to a number of quick signings on July 1, when money gets thrown around all over the place.

It’s a time when players get paid and team managers get aggressive — perhaps overly so as they eat up cap space for returns that often don’t pay off.

As we get ready for the opening of the floodgates on Canada’s 150th birthday, here is a look at some interesting numbers and spending habits from this day in the past.

MOST SIGNINGS BY TEAM ON FIRST DAY OF SIGNING SEASON SINCE 2006
NY Rangers: 45
Arizona: 43
Pittsburgh: 43
Colorado: 42
Florida: 38

FEWEST SIGNINGS BY TEAM ON FIRST DAY OF SIGNING SEASON SINCE 2006
Los Angeles: 12
San Jose: 13
Anaheim: 16
Buffalo: 19

SIGNINGS BY CANADIAN TEAMS ON FIRST DAY OF SIGNING SEASON SINCE 2006
Toronto: 31
Edmonton: 31
Montreal: 29
Vancouver: 29
Calgary: 27
Ottawa: 25
Winnipeg: 15

UFA & RFA SIGNINGS ON DAY 1 OF SIGNING SEASON – SINCE 2011
2011: 86 for $284 million
2012: 80 for $215 million
2013: 95 for $445 million
2014: 118 for $604 million
2015: 104 for $281 million
2016: 132 for $490 million

A LOOK AT STANLEY CUP CHAMPIONS
When it comes time to pick your 2018 Stanley Cup champion, you may want to steer clear of a team that was very active signing players on July 1.

Once in the past six years has the next year’s champ really added an impact player in the first day of free agency. In fact, you might be better off looking for a team that made its biggest acquisition via trade on Canada Day when making your Cup pick.

YEAR CHAMPS PLAYER NEXT SEASON REG. SEASON STATS NEXT SEASON PLAYOFF STATS
2016 Penguins Chad Ruhwedel 34 GP, 2G, 8A 0 PTS in 6 GP
2015 Penguins None (Acquired P. Kessel via trade) N/A N/A
2014 Blackhawks Brad Richards 76GP, 12G, 25A 14 PTS in 23 GP
2013 Kings Jeff Schultz Played in AHL N/A
2012 Blackhawks Sheldon Brookbank 28GP, 1G, 0A 0 PTS in 1 GP
2011 Kings None N/A N/A
2010 Bruins Jeremy Reich Played in AHL N/A
2009 Blackhawks Marian Hossa 57GP, 24G, 27A 15 PTS in 22 GP
2008 Penguins Eric Godard 71GP, 2G, 2A 0 GP
2007 Red Wings Brian Rafalski 73GP, 13G, 42A 14 PTS in 22 GP
2006 Ducks None N/A N/A
2005 Hurricanes Cory Stillman 72GP, 13G, 42A 26 PTS in 25 GP
2003 Lightning None N/A N/A
2002 Devils None N/A N/A
2001 Red Wings None (Acquired D. Hasek via trade) N/A N/A

WORST FREE-AGENT SIGNINGS ON FIRST DAY OF SIGNING SEASON
July 1 may actually be better known for the mistakes that are made on that day than any franchise-defining additions. It’s too early to really pick out the most terrible signings from the past two years, but looking back farther than that we remember some of the more regrettable July 1 moves.

Remember, there was no salary cap prior to 2006. These rankings of the 12 worst July 1 signings are from Sportsnet Stats:

2002: Bobby Holik signs for 5 years/$45 million with the NY Rangers
2008: Wade Redden signs for 6 years/$39 million with the NY Rangers
2007: Scott Gomez signs for 7 years/$51.5 million with the NY Rangers
2007: Chris Drury signs for 5 years/$30.25 million with the NY Rangers
2008: Jeff Finger signs for 4 years/$14 million with Toronto
2008: Cristobal Huet signs for 4 years/$22.4 million with Chicago
2011: Ville Leino signs for 6 years/$27 million with Buffalo
2009: Mattias Ohlund signs for 7 years/$26.25 million with Tampa Bay
2012: Jason Garrison signs for 6 years/$27.6 million with Vancouver
2013: Nathan Horton signs for 7 years/$37.1 million with Columbus
2013: David Clarkson signs for 7 years/$36.75 million with Toronto
2014: Thomas Vanek signs for 3 years/$19.5 million with Minnesota

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO RE-SIGN STARTING ON JULY 1?
While 2017 isn’t the year to find a franchise player on the open market, much of the intrigue may surround superstar players who become eligible to re-sign with their current teams. These players currently have contracts that will expire in July of 2018 (when they’ll become either UFA or RFA) and the longer they go unsigned, the more rumours and speculation will surround them.

Here are the top 10 eligible re-signs on July 1 who are heading into expiring contracts.

Connor McDavid, C, RFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $925,000
– Previous Contract: 3 Year/$11,325,000 (Entry Level Contract)

Carey Price, G, UFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $6,500,000
– Previous Contract: 6 Year/$39,000,000

John Tavares, C, UFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $5,500,000
– Previous Contract: 6 Year/$33,000,000

Jack Eichel, C, RFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $925,000
– Previous Contract: 3 Year/$11,325,000 (Entry Level Contract)

Max Domi, C/LW, RFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $863,333
– Previous Contract: 3 Year/$4,275,000 (Entry Level Contract)

Paul Stastny, C, UFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $7,000,000
– Previous Contract: 4 Year/$28,000,000

Cam Atkinson, RW, UFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,500,000
– Previous Contract: 3 Year/$10,500,000

Boone Jenner, C/LW, RFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $2,900,000
– Previous Contract: 2 Year/$5,800,000

Mark Stone, RW, RFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,500,000
– Previous Contract: 3 Year/$10,500,000

Martin Jones, G, UFA
– 2016-17 Cap Hit: $3,000,000
– Previous Contract: 3 Year/$9,000,000

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