There is blood in the water, a lot of blood! On the first day of NHL free agency, general managers across the league temporarily turn into kings of the deep water abyss. It is called a “free agent frenzy” every year for a reason. When the hour hand of a clock strikes 12 noon eastern standard time on Friday July 5th, the bait (unrestricted free agents) are tossed into the water and the feeding begins. Within the first hour and twenty minutes of the free agency period opening, there were 20 players signed to deals across the league. Ranging from low end 1 year deals, to 7 year 37.1 million dollar deals.
This is a time for all 30 NHL clubs to improve their rosters heading into fall training camps. The approach to free agency can vary greatly from team to team, based on how aggressive, or frugal each general manager chooses to be. It is a period of the NHL calender when some players becoming very, VERY rich men. The limited nature of free agency can tend to drive prices for a player, far above what would be considered their true market value in say January, or October. The waters of the NHL in 2013 is shark invested, and there are only have a few buckets of bait on the boat. The largest and most aggressive of the sharks will often come out on top of the feeding frenzy, claiming the large piece of bait just moments after it breaks the surface of the water. Others, will bide their time, and settle for what’s left.
Another interesting element to remember for this years free agent period is the roll compliance buyouts are playing. Compliance buyouts were added to the current CBA that was negotiated in January which allows teams 2 compliance buyouts each. A great tool for teams to buyout detrimental contracts and use that newly available salary cap space in a more effective way (at least that’s the hope). Players that are bought out were able to sign contracts with other teams prior to the July 5th free agent period beginning. A great benefit for teams who took advantage of adding a valued piece prior to the black Friday style, Best Buy door crasher that is the free agent frenzy. Lets take a look at how 5 NHL general managers and their teams are stacking up against each other in free agency thus far.
Great White Shark – Considered the most powerful and dangerous shark species! When you think shark in the water, you think Great White.
Detroit Red Wings: Signings,
1. Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators)
Contract – 1 year 5.5 million
2. Stephen Weiss (Florida Panthers)
Contract – 4 years 24.5 million
Analysis: This is a Great White style signing, no doubt about it. One of the biggest names available this year. Many, including myself are shocked to see Alfredsson leave Ottawa. At a 5.5 million dollar price tag I certainly thought that Ottawa would bring back the most iconic player in its history. Detroit on the other hand, spends 5.5 million on a 40 year old free agent who would have projected at 55 points last year if 82 games were played, a total that you would expect to slip a little lower again this year. A leader with a ton of character, but is that really what Detroit is lacking? Weiss is interesting and can be looked at two ways. 5 million a year for a player who should score between 20 and 25 goals seems rich for my blood, but he’s a centre who has some versatility to his game, it is only a raise of about $800,000 from his previous contract, so if you liked Weiss’s game in Florida, this is a reasonable price.
Mako Shark – Extremely fast shark, sometimes known for leaping out of the water and even on to boats when hooked, fished for game and is highly migratory.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Signings
1. David Clarkson (New Jersey Deveils)
Contract – 7 years 36.75 million
2. Tyler Bozak
Contract – 4 years 21 million
Analysis: The leafs had the 2nd most available cap space heading into free agency so it is no surprise to see GM Dave Nonis and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment shelling out major dollars to try and round out their forward group. Resigning Tyler Bozak at 4.2 million dollars per year is terrific value for a centre that can play in all situations and give you decent offensive upside. David Clarkson on the other hand, fetching a 7 year deal which pays him 5.25 million per year I find to be a classic example of limited supply driving up the demand for Clarkson. I find it hard to believe that he will play up to a contract this large. For these reasons I think Toronto got a little hyperactive with Clarkson, they are the Mako Sharks today. As soon as the 36 million dollar hook was in Clarkson, he was quickly hauled onto the deck of the Toronto Maple Leafs, lets hope the leafs know exactly what they are getting into. Expectations will be higher now then they have been in a decade. Throwing out the length and size of the Clarkson deal, on ice, you can’t argue with this move for Toronto. They appear to be a much deeper team heading into this season.