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Free Agency Winners and Losers

Jul 8, 2013, 12:07 PM EDT

Daniel Alfredsson Getty Images

Feel free to check back in a few years to see if these verdicts still hold, but for now…

Winner: Detroit Red Wings

Yes, there are questions about Daniel Alfredsson (isn’t he kind of old?) and Stephen Weiss (didn’t he have, like, one goal last year?), but the fact these two guys picked Detroit showed the Red Wings are still a destination franchise.

In explaining his tough decision to leave Ottawa, Alfredsson said he liked the style Mike Babcock coaches, how stars Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg perform “extremely well” when the games count, and the way the organization is committed to winning.

“Everyone knows Detroit’s goals are always to be at the top of the game and to win championships,” he said. “I’m really excited to get this opportunity at this stage of my career to go for a Stanley Cup and fulfill a longtime dream.”

Loser: St. Louis Blues

General manager Doug Armstrong targeted centers Weiss and Valtteri Filppula on Friday; he ended up with Derek Roy on Saturday. No disrespect to Roy, but when you don’t get the guys you want, it’s hard to call you a winner in free agency. As much regular-season success as the Blues have had the past two years, and as much young talent as they continue to boast, they’re still a budget-beholden team with a coach in Ken Hitchcock that offensive-minded players don’t line up to play for.

Winner: power forwards

Nathan Horton, David Clarkson, and Ryane Clowe all signed huge deals on Friday. The money they got (combined around $100 million) was one thing, but the term (combined 19 years) was the real eye-opener. Horton and Clowe each have detailed injury histories (including concussions), which makes perfect sense given the way they play. The risk the Blue Jackets, Maple Leafs and Devils assumed, respectively, shows how important this type of player is considered when it comes to having success in the postseason.

Loser: goalies

Mike Smith being the exception after signing a $34 million deal with the Coyotes. The non-exceptions include Ray Emery, Anton Khudobin, Jason LaBarbera, and Nikolai Khabibulin, all of whom put up good to great numbers in 2013 (albeit in backup roles) and signed for peanuts. Of the four, Emery is the most likely starter next season; compete for the number-one job in Philadelphia with Steve Mason, all the while making just $1.65 million. Emery hasn’t been a full-time starter in the NHL since undergoing surgery for avascular necrosis in 2010 — a factor that no doubt went against him in negotiations.

Winner: Phoenix Coyotes

We already mentioned Smith’s deal; the Coyotes, with a new owner (finally), also got center Mike Ribeiro for four years and $22 million. It’s worth noting that the one big thing Ribeiro wanted was term, and it was Phoenix — a team that’s been known for anything but stability in recent years — that was able to give it to him. “I’m trying to be stable somewhere for a while, that’s important,” Ribeiro said. “The fact that they confirmed they’d stay there for a few years, that’s a good thing. Obviously that was a big part.”

Loser: Washington Capitals

All of a sudden, the Caps are looking a bit thin down the middle. No more Ribeiro. Also, no more Matt Hendricks, who went to Nashville. Washington GM George McPhee wasn’t in the best position cap-wise to give those two big deals, but he still has to address the departures. Could Mikhail Grabovski, bought out by the Maple Leafs, be an option?

  1. micklethepickle - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Caps just got to hold on for Kuznetsov, and fix the D in the meantime. Was hoping they’d pick up Bozak, but no such luck.

    • miketoasty - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:18 PM

      They are looking thin down the middle so they need to wait for a RW to develop? Makes sense, wait, no it doesn’t.

      And “Fix” the D in the meantime, didn’t realize it was that easy. Maybe you should be the next GM for the Caps?

      • micklethepickle - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:26 PM

        Hey, I never said it would be easy! But can’t deny that the defense, led by Mike “The Sieve” Green, needs some major upgrades.

      • kantnockdahustle89 - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:24 PM

        Kuznetsov is a center and can play also play wing. They’ve continually talked about him coming over after the KHL season. Its a terrible idea but thats what GMGM banks on…terrible ideas that never work.

    • jpelle82 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      holding on for kuznetsov is a pretty shoddy strategy. they should have had a contingency plan in place after drafting him because it was never clear when or if he would come over and play. until they sign him to a contract, i’ll keep watching and waiting…holding my breath.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Caps just need someone good to center between the Ovechkin twins on LW and RW and that will be a great line!

  2. lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    I’ll admit I haven’t watched much of Clarkson, but I’m still trying to figure out what made him worth that contract to Toronto. He’ll be getting paid the same as Hossa, Bergeron, Tavares, Neal, E. Kane, and a host of other players I have a hard time equating him with. Not hard to see him get buried with Connolly if for no other reason than to save cap space when it becomes clear he’s not worth $5.25mil/year.

    • tdrusher225 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      He’s pretty good, but paying him that kind of dollar may convince him that he’s a player that he’s not. If he goes out thinking that he’s a 30-goal scorer and tries to play up to that contract, he’ll bust. He is a fantastic role player, but I’m not a fan of paying players like that “top-scorer” type money.

    • drewsylvania - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Yep. All three of Horton, Clarkson, and Clowe are way overpaid.

      • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 9, 2013 at 9:09 AM

        The Horton contract is debatable IMO. He pulls out all the stops come playoff time. In any case, he’s the only one who comes close to being worth his contract.

    • pastabelly - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:47 PM

      Bergeron’s new deal that he is about to sign will pay him more than Clarkson, but Clarkson shouldn’t be in the same discussion with any player you listed (closest is E Kane).

      I don’t think Detroit is a winner here. They won out on Alfredsonn, who was artificially bid up by Chiarelli who didn’t even realize that Iginla was in play for him. Chiarelli, at times, is more lucky than smart.

      • drewsylvania - Jul 8, 2013 at 5:15 PM

        You need both to win Cups. And the Bruins have won one and been to another final in four years. I’ll take it.

  3. cspsrbums - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    GMGM is a bum he had done nothing this year to make this team better. Caps will be lucky to break 500 now and in the next few years. All the teams around them are getting players to make them better not GM

    • nhloon - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:58 PM

      He’s pretty much the grittiest version of all mentioned above.

    • dirt2013 - Jul 9, 2013 at 12:09 PM

      The Caps join a real division this year so no more beating up on Fla and Tampa twice a month from now on.

  4. LampyB - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:51 PM

    Yeah theres no way Clarkson is worth what he got. Great player, adds a lot of depth and skill but he’s already peaked and they paid through the roof to get him. Leafs are going to perform same as they did last season, i dont see them going past first round playoffs.

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Jul 8, 2013 at 12:59 PM

      It’s not even a matter of whether he peaked or not. He’s a great guy to park in front of the net and get garbage goals, he seems reasonably tough, and he’s somewhat of a leader. Still not worth $5.25mil though, IMHO.

  5. alexnewca - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:19 PM

    The worst part about Hendricks and Ribeiro is that they both wanted to stay here in DC to play, and yet GMGM did nothing to work with them. Hendricks said they never even talked to him. GMGM has got to go ASAP.

  6. rushledger - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:34 PM

    The caps will miss the playoffs next years. They can’t suck for half the year then beat the easy teams in their division and get a easy 3 seed.

    That’s one of the few good things about the realignment; the death of the southeast division, the biggest joke in hockey.

    • micklethepickle - Jul 8, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      I agree that realignment is good (how many years will the Wings dominate the weakass Eastern Conference??), but to be fair to the Caps, there were two Stanley Cup champs from the SE division in what… the last 15 years? That’s not terrible.

      • bardown66 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        id curb the enthusiasm, the wings are going to be good. I dont think they are better than boston, or pittsburgh as currently constructed. Id also watch for Nj to start to bounce back this year. I dont get why wings fans assume its going to be a cakewalk…..

      • micklethepickle - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:54 PM

        I’m not a Wings fan (actually root for an Eastern conference team), but I’ve seen the way that WC teams slice through EC teams like a buzzsaw through styrofoam. Don’t know why, but the West is way stronger. Boston’s good, for sure, but I think that has more to do with their ability to come up clutch in the post-season than with any roster-busting talent.

    • bardown66 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:52 PM

      This and the northwest division have been ridiculous. i dont get how entire divisions can be incompetent while the pacific, atlantic, and central divison always post highest season win totals.

  7. hockeyflow33 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    I always hate these knee-jerk reaction pieces. There’s no way to declare a winner or loser right now.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      It’s kind of like the articles declaring draft winners and losers right after the draft takes place. Teams with lots of high picks, or in this case signings, are more likely to be declared winners but the writers just because they signed players but the truth is no one with know for at least a year, and in the case of draft picks 3-5 years.

      It also depends on what teams are trying to accomplish, teams like Detroit and Toronto spent big on big names in hopes of winning a cup, yeah they got these players but if they don’t win the cup in the next year or two won’t that mean these signings ultimately failed and these teams were losers?

      Meanwhile a team like Edmonton (who I despise!) made 3 under the radar signings in the hopes that those players can fill roles and help push the young nucleus along into the playoffs and ultimately enable that nucleus to get the experience necessary to win a cup in 2 or 3 years. So if those 3 players are able to help Edmonton make the playoffs this year those players have done exactly what the Oilers brass had hoped and shouldn’t Edmonton be considered a team that “won” free agency this year?

  8. brockohol - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    not sure blues are losers because they didn’t drastically overpay for borderline top 6 forwards in weiss and filpulla. no need to even get into the idiotic lecavalier deal.
    roy is an upgrade to what they had lost from last year (mcdonald) and they have as good or better a d group in the entire nhl playing together for a full season.

    if you want to call them losers because some fa’s signed elsewhere for more money so be it but I don’t think think they will regret not over paying valleri freaking filpulla.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Jul 8, 2013 at 3:11 PM

      Of all the ridiculous contracts handed out over the past few days, the Lecavalier signing is somehow idiotic? You’re completely wrong. Signing a guy who’s gonna give you 25+ goals and 60+pts for 4.5, in this marketplace, is, frankly, a bargain. The Flyers needed size in their top-6 and a 2nd line C to replace Briere, and they got it. At a relatively low price. Horton, a guy who’s one concussion away from LTIR, got a 7yr deal at over 5mil. Clarkson, who’s never reached the 50pt plateau, gets a 7yr deal at 5.25. Filppula, a borderline top-6 forward, gets 5mil. Alfredsson gets 5.5 after posting 26 pts in 46 games (Vinny had 32 in 39). Tyler Bozak, a 3rd line C on most teams, got almost as much as Vinny, 4.2. Lecavalier brings leadership, another PP weapon, and is good in the faceoff circle (an area the Flyers desperately needed to improve). You can argue against the 5-year term, but the Cap is going to rise, rapidly, over the next few years and 4.5 will look like nothing compared to some of these albatross deals given out in the feeding frenzy. And players like Alfredsson, Selanne, and Jagr have shown that NHL players can be productive into their late 30s and beyond.

      Once Mez is cleared medically (over the next few weeks), Holmgren will look to flip him for peanuts. Then they will re-sign Gagne, for 3rd line duties, and their forward group will be set (and stacked). A deep center group of Giroux-Lecavalier-Couturier is a problem most teams would love to have.

  9. bardown66 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    If it werent for the fact ive disliked the capitals since the dale hunter era id fell bad. oh well, im shocked they didnt really push for filppula.

    • bardown66 - Jul 8, 2013 at 2:49 PM

      Feel*

  10. phillyphanatic77 - Jul 8, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    The reason I think the Emery signing was an excellent one (besides the cost), is that it allows Mason to continue his development. Emery is not averse to sharing starts. And I know Mason is a bust in most ppl’s mind, but, to me, his career path is somewhat similar to Mike Smith’s (albeit in a shorter time). Mike Smith was solid in his first two seasons in Dallas then he fell apart in Tampa, only to an enjoy a renaissance in Phoenix. Take a look at how their numbers compare:

    Smith- 1st two seasons: 24-14, 2.35GAA, .909sv%
    next 3 1/2 seasons: 43-52, 2.85GAA, .902sv%

    Mason- rookie season: 33-20, 2.29GAA, .916sv%
    next 3 1/2 seasons: 63-79, 3.11GAA, .899sv%

    Then Smith had a breakout year, while Mason put up excellent numbers in Philly (very small sample size, I know). But overall, those numbers are very comparable. And their games are also similar. Both are 6’4″, positionally sound, and excellent stick handlers. The one upside I see with Mason is that he just turned 25, while Smith did not breakout until he was 30. IMO, the Mason-Emery combo has a chance to be very solid this season.

  11. atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    This is simple, the winners are the borderline players (the majority of Friday’s “big” signings) who cashed in because GMs lose their minds on free agent day. The losers are the teams who gave out these bad contracts and will come to regret it 12-18 months from now.

    As far as Detroit goes they paid $10.4 million this year for a 41 year old who had a good playoffs but has been average for the past 3 regular seasons, and a good but not great center who was injured for most of this year. I don’t think these are bad moves but in dedicating 1/6 of their cap room to these two players you’d think that they will need to have a major impact on the Wings, and I’m not sure if these two have that capacity left in them. Then again Detroit has been the most consistent team in the NHL for the last 20 years, so it’s tough to second guess them.

  12. brockohol - Jul 8, 2013 at 4:51 PM

    don’t get me wrong…have always been a vinny fan but I don’t believe philly fans will be praising this deal in yr 4-5. I hope I’m wrong because I like flyers and vinny.

    my point was that a team that almost won the pres trophy 2 yrs ago and then came in 4th in the tough western conference last year didn’t lose because they didn’t add/overpay for someone. this team added a lot at deadline last year and have a lot of young players that have not hit peak yet…

    • tcclark - Jul 9, 2013 at 1:31 PM

      in 4-5 years 4.5 million will be about what people will pay for a declining 37-38 year old center. He’ll be at about market value. I mean Alfredsson just got over 5 million today. You have to account for inflation and a steadily rising salary cap.

      That’s why long term contracts work so well in some cases. Mike Richards singed a long term deal in 2008 that pays him 5.75 million annually. This was a great deal for him in 2008, but now he is being paid like 37 year old Patrick Elias, 41 year old Daniel Alfredsson, and 33 year old Mike Ribeiro.

  13. cfos00 - Jul 8, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    I’d toss the Blackhawks in the Winners column for being a Stanley Cup winner that didn’t get raided/dismantled, getting Bickell and Leddy signed to multi-year deals, and keeping the core intact. Coming off the Cup win, Bickell seemed like for-sure a goner for a big pay day, but Stan managed to get him signed to what seems like an entirely reasonable contract, and managed to not have to buy out Hossa. All things considered, seems like a pretty big win.

    • phillyphanatic77 - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:14 PM

      I agree, especially when compared to the breakup they had after their last Cup. That team was stacked, but the Hawks draft very well. Despite keeping the core together this time you can’t discount the losses of Frolik and Bolland. Neither was very productive during the regular season, but both came up huge in the playoffs. Luckily for Hawks they have plenty of young guys to step, although they aren’t really ideal bottom-6 guys. We’ll see how Bowman and Quenneville fill out the 3rd and 4th lines.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Jul 8, 2013 at 8:47 PM

      Agreed and they have one other bug thing going for them, normally a cup winner has grinded through 105+ games in their runs to the cup, the Blackhawks played 72 games this year, yeah the schedule was compressed and they went about a week longer than normal but overall the Hawks shouldn’t be as drained as most championship teams normally are which should set them up well (from a freshness perspective) for winning the first back to back cups since the Wings did it in 97-98.

  14. cspsrbums - Jul 8, 2013 at 10:44 PM

    I get sick of hearing how the caps get into the playoffs because they are in the easy SE. Like the earlier comment stated that in the last 10-15 years 2 Stanley Cup Champs came out of this division. The Caps had better records head to head against Pitt Boston And the rest of that division over the last 5 years. But they can’t finish in the playoffs.So with that said they won’t make the playoffs due to GMGM. Not the division they are in the can hold there own in that division NY Rangers were the worst team in the playoffs they faired well in that division

  15. jimw81 - Jul 9, 2013 at 3:11 AM

    when was the last time capitals actually made an impact move? it seems like the owner is content with the status quo.

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