Two sentences on every free agent signing of significance in the NHL

The Hockey Central panel go over all the moves made by Canadian teams in the opening hours of NHL free agency.

When I agreed to write two sentences on every signing from UFA day in the NHL – something I’ve done numerous times in the past – I hadn’t banked on there being 63,000 signings. We got our work cut out for us here folks, so let’s dive in.

We’ll start with the first registered deal, and work our way up to most recent.

Brandon Montour, D, Florida
Contract: Three years, $3.5 million AAV

Florida made a similar bet to the one they made with Sam Bennett here. That’s that the player who excelled for them over a small post-deadline sample is indeed that player, and not the guy he had more commonly been in the years prior.

Blake Coleman, RW, Calgary
Contract: Six years, $4.9 million AAV

When you hire Darryl Sutter to coach your team, you’re not putting him in a position to succeed if you don’t get him some players who play the brand of hockey he wants to play. This is too much money, but Coleman’s exactly what they’re looking for, so in a way it’s like smart clothes shopping – you’re better off spending more for something you’ll actually use than less for something you won’t wanna put out there.

Frederik Andersen, G, Carolina
Contract: Two years, $4.5 million AAV

Andersen became polarizing to Leafs fans, but I’ve long been Team Freddy. He’s a big, solid, quiet, bonafide NHL starter, and while there are real signs of decline there, he’s as good a bet as any UFA goalie out there to have a good season in 2021-22.

Jordan Martinook, LW, Carolina
Contract: Three years, $1.8 million AAV

This likely spelled the end of Brock McGinn, but Martinook’s become an integral part of what the Canes are these days. He’s a high energy worker who brings it every shift, and the type of guy you can see Rod Brind’Amour loving having in the room, on the bench, and on the ice.

Sam Gagner, RW, Detroit
Contract: One year, $850,000 AAV

Smart player here, and you need guys with NHL experience around as you try to turn the metaphorical container ship around in the canal. No harm done on a one-year agreement.

Alec Martinez, D, Vegas
Contract: Three years, $5.25 million AAV

The type of guy who both totally deserves a payday, in that he’s an excellent player who’s been between fairly and underpaid his whole career, and the type that scares you to sign as a free agent. He’d have been devastating to lose, but over $5 million per is a big cap hit for the 34-year-old, and that raises expectations as you expect the player to decline some.

Eric Comrie, G, Winnipeg Jets
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

Put up or shut up time for Comrie and the Jets. Laurent Broissoit is gone, Comrie’s been in the Jets system forever, and so it’s time to show he can be a quality NHL backup or that’ll be the end of that.

Sean Kuraly, LW, Columbus
Contract: Four years, $2.5 million

A workhorse of a player that every team wants, it’s just a matter of who wants to be the team to step up and give him dollar and term, which he got here. This is kind of how it has to go for places like Columbus that aren’t exactly free agent destinations, that they’ve gotta push themselves a little farther to get players.

Mikael Granlund, C, Nashville Predators
Contract: Four years, $5 million AAV

This is a “No sir, I don’t like it” from me. I’ve liked the player fine enough, too, but his underlying numbers have lead to some bleak projections from the analytics community, and it’s just a big number to expect value from in the years ahead.

Boone Jenner, C, Columbus Blue Jackets
Contract: Four years, $3.75 million AAV

Similar to what I said about Kuraly here -- this guy is a worker, and I do think CBJ has to pay a little bit of a tax to get UFAs right now. They’re not in a position to win tomorrow, it’s not like it’s Chicago or Boston or one of the sexier markets, so it’s a little spendy, but they locked up a good player.

Jaroslav Halak, G, Vancouver
Contract: One year, $1.5 million AAV

Excellent gamble from the UFA goalie market. I’m surprised this was all Halak could drum up out there, because goaltending is tough to predict but he’s a great bet at that cost.

Travis Hamonic, D, Vancouver
Contract: Two years, $3 million AAV

I like Hamonic the person, but his shot attempt numbers last year show he was a drain on offence and a detriment to the team’s defence. I don’t know how to sugar-coat that except to say he’s a big rugged guy that’s hopefully able to find more of what he’s shown he can be in the past.

David Savard, D, Montreal
Contract: Four years, $3.5 million AAV

David Savard is such a fit for Bergevin’s Habs I’m surprised he wasn’t already on the team. Costly and he doesn’t do a lick offensively, but nobody is asking him to, they’re asking him to help keep the puck out of his team’s net, and he does that well.

Ryan Suter, D, Dallas
Contract: Four years, $3.65 million

It’s wild to see a player have four years of their contract bought out, then turn around and sign a four-year deal. But Suter still has some game left in the tank, and used to be elite, so when held up against the Savard deal above it doesn’t actually look all that bad.

Michael Del Zotto, D, Ottawa
Contract: Two years, $1.75 million AAV

Credit where credit it's due, Del Zotto has been one of those players who’s proven to be adaptable and open-minded. He used to be coveted for an offensive skill set, but has slowly reinvented himself as a quality depth guy teams can trust, which is worth a couple years at under
$2 million per.

Zach Bogosian, D, Tampa Bay
Contract: Three years, $850,000 AAV

This feels like a steal for TB, to the point I’m surprised Bogosian would take it. After seeing how well he played with Tampa en route to winning the Cup, then how solid he was in Toronto, there’s a few deals above that make me believe he’s worth well more than this.

Laurent Brossoit, G, Vegas
Contract: Two years, $2.325 million AAV

A tremendous signing for Vegas, who took Marc-Andre Fleury’s money and turned it into Laurent Brossoit – a guy I think can be a capable 1B – and Evgenii Dadonov. Whatever you think of how Vegas handled Fleury, their cap reality was that they were spending too much money in the crease, and I think they managed to fix that problem without creating a major one on the ice.

Braden Holtby, G, Dallas
Contract: One year, $2 million AAV

He’s got some pedigree and he’s only 31, so you can understand a team giving him a year and
$2 million. What happens next, with Khudobin and Bishop and Oettinger all looking for NHL starts, remains to be seen.

Michael Amadio, C, Toronto
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

He’s a guy who put up a 98-point junior season, point-per-game AHL seasons, has played 173 NHL games, is a good size and is just 25 years old. What he’s created at the offensive end has ticked up the past couple seasons and he’s been on a bad Kings team, so maybe with some opportunity there’s something more here.

Seth Jones, D, Chicago
Contract: Eight years, $9.5 million

It’s just so many dollars and so many years for a guy the underlying numbers are a little skeptical of. But he’s young and big, skates like a dream and is a legit top-pair guy, a type that doesn't grow on trees.

Jonathan Bernier, G, New Jersey
Contract: Two years, $4.125 million

He’s been good in a tough situation the past couple years, and some “goals saved above expected” numbers back that up. But it feels like at least a small overpay, which isn’t much of a criticism on UFA day.

Brian Elliott, G, Tampa Bay
Contract: One year, $900,000 AAV

If you’re the Lightning in salary cap hell, knowing what you’re paying your starter (and that you’re likely not winning the Cup if he gets hurt), the question you’re asking yourself is “Who’s the best goalie of the guys who cost less than a million bucks?” And lo, you have their answer.

Alexander Edler, D, Los Angeles
Contract: One year, $3.5 million

In the Kings' quest (hey, remember that game?) to move from “rebuilding” to “competitive,” they were always gonna need to add some reliable NHL vets. I don’t know how much Edler has left in the tank, and $3.5 million doesn’t seem like a bargain, but he should be able to competently eat middle pair minutes for them.

Nic Petan, LW, Vancouver
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

I think it’s somewhat telling that Petan’s contract sees him earn nearly half a million if he plays in the AHL, for where both he and team can see this going. But he can play in the NHL, and if the Canucks have injuries, he can create and certainly won’t hurt them.

Brock McGinn, LW, Pittsburgh
Contract: Four years, $2.75 million AAV

I like this a lot for Pittsburgh, another team trying to fill capably around their well-paid big dogs. McGinn plays a style that should be popular with their new front office, and at just 27 should give them some good years.

Luke Schenn, D, Vancouver
Contract: Two years, $850,000 AAV

Very little downside here for the Canucks, who get a big solid NHL defenceman for near league minimum. There’s a whole lotta guys you could pay more who you’d trust less.

Jaden Schwartz, LW, Seattle
Contract: Five years, $5.5 million AAV

As much as the Golden Knights' story has clouded the truth, the reality is that the Vegas/Seattle rosters weren’t handed top-end offensive players and both had to plan to score by committee. Schwartz can help the Kraken do that, and given their available cap space, it’s hard to be overly critical here, even if it’s a year or two more than perfect.

Tyson Barrie, D, Edmonton
Contract: Three years, $4.5 million AAV

Tyson Barrie had the most points in the NHL last season among D-men, so it’s a little tiresome to read fans (namely Toronto fans) act like he can’t play in the league or something. He doesn’t defend well, but as specialists go he’s good at his job, so that contract for that player isn’t bad in a vacuum.

Phillip Danault, C, Los Angeles
Contract: Six years, $5.5 million AAV

You don’t have to score a lot if your opponent never does, and Danault’s as good as it gets at preventing opposition goals. I think offence is harder to produce than good defence, so this is capitalized a lot for ages 28-34 of Phil Danault, but he’ll help make them better than they’ve been.

Philipp Grubauer, G, Seattle
Contract: Six years, $5.9 million AAV

If you’re sure a guy is going to be better than league average for all those years, 6x6 is OK. I don’t know that I’m sure of any goalie, but the best few can stay league average or better for that long starting at age 29, so I’m guessing there are some years this doesn’t look awesome.

Kurtis Gabriel, RW, Toronto
Contract: One year, $750,000 AAV

I really like this addition at the roster fringes, as he brings energy and toughness and personality and seems like a great cultural fit for Toronto. He’s a bit of what they lack on the ice, so it's nice to have an option like Gabriel to plug into the lineup.

Michael Bunting, LW, Toronto
Contract: Two years, $950,000 AAV

The Leafs lost a lot of quality attributes in Hyman, and tried to reclaim them all back, just spread out over a few different names. Bunting is a good net-front player who’ll get after the puck and the opposition and has the upside to give value on a cheap deal.

Brayden Point, C, Tampa Bay
Contract: Eight years, $9.5 million AAV

How good is Brayden Point that he signed a deal for $76 million and it feels like absolute robbery? He’s one of the best players in the NHL, full stop, and would probably still be a value deal at $11 or 12 million.

Zach Hyman, LW, Edmonton
Contract: Seven years, $5.5 million AAV

Zach Hyman works and gets the puck back and stands in the paint and is “heavy” and consistent. If he’s the player he’s been the past few years for the Oilers he’s worth well over $5.5 million per, it’s just that nobody has any clue how long he’s going to be able to give those things to a team, given the wear on his body.

Brandon Sutter, C, Vancouver
Contract: One year, $1.125 million AAV

At his old cap hit, he was damn-near vilified. At this one, I’m not sure there’s a team in the league who wouldn’t love to have him.

Tony DeAngelo, D, Carolina
Contract: One year, $1 million AAV

On paper, and even on the ice, DeAngelo gives the Canes a bit of what Dougie Hamilton did at a fraction of the price. In person, though, he’s burned through chance after chance, doesn’t treat people well, puts himself first, and I’m genuinely surprised a beloved organization like the Canes (they’re a hipster-fave of many on Twitter) would give him yet another chance, placing value ahead of values.

Cody Ceci, D, Edmonton
Contract: Four years, $3.25 million AAV

I know the noise out of Ontario is a little loud at times, but Ceci was pretty decent in Pittsburgh last year. But it’s still too much money and term for yet another Oilers defender who doesn’t exactly excel at defending.

Jujhar Khaira, C, Chicago
Contract: Two years, $975,000 AAV

Good deal for the Blackhawks. A bonafide NHLer in a depth role who’s not a big financial risk.

Martin Jones, G, Philadelphia
Contract: One year, $2 million AAV

I don’t fully understand this, given how much Martin Jones has struggled. Philly has made major changes, but if Carter Hart doesn’t rebound and the plan is turn the big push over to Martin Jones, the foundation of what’s been built there feels a little shaky.

Mike Hoffman, LW, Montreal
Contract: Three years, $4.5 million AAV

The Canadiens can defend but need help scoring, and Mike Hoffman scores. St. Louis wanted him back, he can shoot it in the net, this just makes a lot of sense.

Carter Verhaeghe, LW, Florida
Contract: Three years, $4.166 million AAV

This might end up being the best UFA deal of the day for a guy you’ve barely watched play. He can do it all, and at just 25, is a good bet to have three seasons that well out-perform that cap hit.

Tucker Poolman, D, Vancouver
Contract: Four years, $2.5 million AAV

This was the year of depth D-men getting way more term than they should’ve. Poolman is a big boy and fine D-man, but I’m not sure you need to lock up a guy who plays at the bottom of your D-corps for four years at that cap hit.

Vinnie Hinostroza, RW, Buffalo
Contract: One year, $1.05 million AAV

He’s an NHLer, and the Buffalo Sabres need those. It’s going to be a tough place to put up the type of numbers that’ll get you a big next deal though, so Hinostroza’s got his work cut out for himself.

Ryan Dzingel, LW, Arizona
Contract: One year, $1.1 million AAV

Arizona is like Buffalo – next year matters not, but they need NHL players. Dzingel is a legitimate one of those.

Cedric Paquette, LW, Montreal
Contract: One year, $950,000 AAV

I like this deal! He fits the mold of how Montreal is trying to play (playoff hockey, baby), and he’s prime-aged and cheap.

Alex Wennberg, C, Seattle
Contract: Three years, $4.5 million AAV

I get lost when considering Seattle’s signings, because they aren’t in cap stress like so many other teams, but that shouldn’t excuse overpays. If Wennberg gets that deal to play for Toronto or Tampa or anywhere else, I imagine there’d be a few critics of the dollar amount.

Alex Goligoski, D, Minnesota
Contract: One year, $5 million AAV

I’m generally in favour of paying more dollars to get the shorter term, which Minnesota has done here. It mitigates any potential larger damages, meaning Goligoski feels overpaid here, but he’s still a good player and Minnesota remains flexible.

Linus Ullmark, G, Boston
Contract: Four years, $5 million AAV

Hindsight is 20/20, so I’m seeing pretty clear here, but it’s inexcusable that Ullmark wasn’t moved at the deadline last year. Maybe the Eichel/Reinhart situations were tough to read then, but this had to be a situation where they say “You gotta extend or we gotta move you, we just can’t afford to risk losing an asset like you for nothing in a rebuild.”

Pius Suter, C, Detroit
Contract: Two years, $3.25 million AAV

This is a good bet on potential upside for a rebuilding team on the cheap. You need a few things to break your way to get back to great, and it’s not impossible Suter becomes a real contributor.

Dougie Hamilton, D, New Jersey
Contract: Seven years, $9 million AAV

The analytics love him, the Hockey Men are far more skeptical, but for a rebuilding team that needs genuine needle-movers, there’s no doubt this is a great signing for the Devils. Hamilton is big and young enough and right-handed and scores and all that fun stuff.

Trevor Lewis, RW, Calgary
Contract: One year, $800,000 AAV

A player that suits Sutter’s preferred style. A player that suits Sutter’s preferred style (I didn’t say the sentences woudn’t be the same).

Nate Thompson, C, Philadelphia
Contract: One year, $800,000 AAV

Quality depth guy. The Flyers shouldn’t be an easy team to play.

David Rittich, G, Nashville
Contract: One year, $1.25 million AAV

A good value bet here. An NHL back-up at NHL back-up cost.

Petr Mrazek, G, Toronto
Contract: Three years, $3.8 million AAV

Of the list of available UFA goalies, Mrazek was in the tier of “best bets to perform above league average” next season. He’s been a 1B and played in a system identical to Toronto’s, he should be fine sharing the crease for under $4 million per.

Erik Haula, LW, Boston
Contract: Two years, $2.375 million AAV

A useful forward who should provide the Bruins with some depth scoring. A useful depth player and reasonably small risk.

Nick Foligno, LW, Boston
Contract: Two years, $3.8 million AAV

Foligno’s one of those guys where you love the player he’s been and what he’s done, and if he can still provide some of that, you’re absolutely gonna love having him. If he doesn’t, well, you’re paying for nostalgia, and that’s not awesome.

Ian Cole, D, Carolina
Contract: One year, $2.9 million AAV

Quality depth D-man here on a short deal which keeps the risk feeling pretty light. I’d bet he’s got another decent year left in the tank.

Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anaheim
Contract: One year, $4.5 million AAV

I’m always torn on how I feel about guys who are a legend somewhere choosing to stay in the same city when it’s pretty clear their team isn’t going to be competitive. It almost feels anti-competitive, if I’m being honest, and I feel like Getzlaf could’ve helped someone somewhere else and played in more meaningful games (but I have a family myself and understand not all decisions are hockey decisions).

Antti Raanta, G, Carolina
Contract: Two years, $2 million AAV

A tandem of Andersen/Raanta should be stable, and at a really affordable price. Raanta has injury issues, but when he’s healthy he is an excellent goaltender.

Derek Forbort, D, Boston
Contract: Three years, $3 million AAV

Depth defenders, come on down, you’re the next contestants on The Price Seems High. Forbort is solid and fits what the Bruins want to be just fine, but he’s the type of guy you’d like to keep the dollars/term/expectations down on.

Derek Ryan, C, Edmonton
Contract: Two years, $1.25 million AAV

Ryan’s a smart player who sees the ice well, and the Oilers have been starving for depth scoring. Since he’s not particularly big or fast (he’s not a “raw talent” guy), I do worry about how his skill-set will age in the seasons ahead.

Mike Reilly, D, Boston
Contract: Three years, $3 million AAV

I like this one. Of the many defencemen who just got 3-4 years around this cap hit, Reilly seems the best bet to out-perform his deal.

Tomas Nosek, C, Boston
Contract: Two years, $1.75 million AAV

Analysts and fans all have different preferences in players and playing styles, and Nosek isn’t exactly to mine. But he’s cheap, and provides some depth punch for a Bruins team that’s seen the talent on its roster fall off precipitously after the top-six in years past.

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