Saturday, November 5, 2011
But most NHL GMs don't share my miser ways. In fact, every summer they take a great, big wad of cash burning a hole in their pocket, which is undoubtedly there because some horrible contract just came off the books, and they proceed to spend it on a new contractual anchor, which might as well be tied around their neck (unless we're talking about Glen Sather, then we're talking about the contractual anchors that will eventually be around some other GM's neck).
This summer, most GMs spent as wildly as ever, but some actually spent their money wisely. It's early in the season, but it's about time we start looking at what the 2011 UFA class is doing.
Some players such as Brad Richards and Christian Ehrhoff have provided a level of production that is fairly consistent with their salary. You won't find them on this list. Other players like Simon Gagne are just 'meh'. They aren't paid too much and they are playing half-decently. They're no fun.
This list is the best, the worst, and the 'OMG how is this player not on the bust list', based on the early returns of the 2011-2012 season. Of course, this list can change at any time, but in some cases, you know it won't.
Jaromir Jagr - 1 year, $3.3 million per
If more teams realized Jagr would be so good that he would bring back the salute I'm sure his list of suitors would have been much longer. Instead, most teams shied away from the 39-year-old and left the Penguins, Canadiens, and Flyers as the primary teams battling for his services. The Flyers offered the most and now they've got vintage Jagr, a player who has developed instant chemistry with Claude Giroux and is on pace for 35 goals and 87 points.
Mike Smith - 2 years, $2 million per
This is more a win for the Phoenix Coyotes' system than anything else. Mike Smith, who has only once posted a league average save percentage, has amazingly transformed into an all-world goalie with the help of Phoenix's defensive system. Smith has started the season on fire; he has a .926 SV%. For $2 million, I guess it's clear why the Coyotes weren't too concerned about letting Bryzgalov walk.
Vaclav Prospal - 1 year, $1.75 million per
Prospal scored 23 points in only 29 games last season, giving the Blue Jackets reason to believe there was still something left in the 36-year-old. Well, for a mere $1.75 million, Prospal is leading the Blue Jackets in scoring with 11 points in 14 games. Sure, that probably says more about how bad the Jackets are, but let Vinny have this one, he needs it.
Sheldon Souray - 1 year, $1.65 million per
The last time Sheldon Souray played a full season in the NHL was 2008-2009. He spent all last season in the AHL and turned 35 this past summer. There was no reason to expect anything from Souray this year, yet the stars have aligned (see what I did there), and Souray is off to a fantastic start. He was four goals and nine points in 12 games, and most surprising of all, he's +8.
Tomas Vokoun - 1 year, $1.5 million per
Vokoun has quite possibly the worst agent in the world. While Ilya Bryzgalov was able to score a monster contract, Vokoun settled for a back-up's salary, despite posting a better save percentage on a worse team for the last three seasons. Now Bryz has imploded and Vokoun is maintaining a .915 SV%, cutting his GAA, and giving the Capitals a stable presence in net.
Ilya Bryzgalov - 9 years, $5.66 million per
The Bryz is starting to turn his game around, as he is 3-0 with a 1.67 GAA and .945 SV% in his last two games, but his overall stats on the year are brutal: 2.94 GAA, .893 SV%. Is the weight of the contract getting to him? Or is it just the Philadelphia goalie curse that has taken hold?
Ville Leino - 6 years, $4.5 million per
If you've seen Ville Leino, can you please report his whereabouts to Lindy Ruff. Seriously, where is he? He sure isn't showing up on the score sheet. A measly three points in 13 games is all the Sabres are getting for Leino. Makes you kind of wish Terry Pegula did a little more of a background check before making in rain in Buffalo.
Tomas Kaberle - 3 years, $4.25 million per
A disastrous end of the year in Boston didn't really hurt Kaberle too much in free agency, as the Maple Leafs South essentially re-upped his deal for three more seasons. Kabs has picked up right where he left off in Boston, managing only two assists in 13 games.
Scottie Upshall - 4 years, $3.5 million per
Gee, who would have thought a career third/fourth liner wouldn't respond well to a contract that pays him to play in the top-6? Anyone? Not surprisingly, Upshall has two points on the season and has spent time on the fourth line. But remember, he helped Flordia reach the cap floor, and that was like a mini Stanley Cup for them.
Jan Hejda - 4 years, $3.25 million per
Three points and a -11 rating. The advanced stats aren't particularly favourable either (although the quality of competition Hejda faces is somewhat mitigating). It looks like the Avalanche are trying to use Hejda as a shut-down defenceman and the results are pretty much what you would expect. I mean, seriously, it's Jan 'Freaking' Hejda we're talking about here.
Roman Hamrlik - 2 years, $3.5 million per
The former first-overall pick has one point on the season. Granted, he has provided the Capitals will some stable defence. According to Behind the Net, he faces the toughest competition and does a fairly good job doing so. Still, you'd like to see a little more than one point on the season for $3.5 million.
Ed Jovanovski - 4 years, $4.125 million per
Jovocop has four points, a -2 rating, and has terrible advanced stats. The Panthers are using him against some weaker competition and Jovo isn't doing much of anything to stop them. Plus, the Panthers are starting him in the offensive zone more than any of their other defencemen on the team, yet he's still a liability on the ice. Fun fact: the Panthers once traded Jovanovski for Pavel Bure. I think pulling that same deal now would give the Panthers a better return.
Surprisingly Not Horrible Deals
James Wisniewski - 6 years, $5.5 million per
The Wiz found himself an early guest star on Shanaban TV, earning an 8-game suspension for a head shot on Cal Clutterbuck, but after returning he's produced - he has four assists in five games, although he is still looking for his first goal of the season. The Blue Jackets are terrible, and the Wiz is -7 in the last two games, so he still needs to give something defensively to justify this major deal.
Tim Connolly - 2 years, $4.75 million per
The over/under on the amount of games Connolly will play this year is 65. He missed the first eight games of the season but has produced immediately after recovering. Connolly has four points in six games as the centre on the Maple Leafs' top-line, which basically means he's put the puck somewhere in the vicinity of Kessel or Lupul and got a free point. It's a lot of money, but when he's played, it's about right.
Tomas Fleischmann - 4 years, $4.5 million per
The one Florida signing that has actually worked out so far. Fleischmann has 11 points in 12 games and is +7. After a mid-season trade to Colorado last season, Fleischmann scored 21 points in 22 games before sitting out the remainder of the season with a pulmonary emboli. Well, he's clearly over that and this might just be a late bloomer finally getting the chance he really needs to succeed.