Skip to content

Poll: What were the best/worst free agent signings?

Jul 7, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

Pittsburgh Penguins' Brooks Orpik (44) plays in the NHL preseason hockey game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013 , in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) AP

There are still some noteworthy unrestricted free agents left on the market, but the vast majority of the money that will be spent on UFAs this summer has already been allocated. As is always the case, analysts have debated over what the best and worst signings were, so here’s your chance to have your say.

There are always plenty of contenders when it comes to the worst signings of the summer, but here are five to consider:

Brooks Orpik — Washington signed the defenseman to a five-year, $27.5 million contract. He logged big minutes with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the stay-at-home defenseman will turn 34 in September, so what is currently a questionable cap hit could look very bad in a couple years.

Dave Bolland — The Florida Panthers inked him to a five-year, $27.5 million deal. He’s never recorded more than 47 points and even that was back in 2008-09. On top of that, he has a lengthy injury history, which makes the term questionable. On the other hand, he’s won the Stanley Cup twice and played a meaningful role in both of those championships.

Benoit Pouliot — Seemingly desperate to get bigger, the Edmonton Oilers handed bottom-six forward Pouliot a five-year, $20 million contract. That’s an awful lot of money for a guy that’s probably going to average less than 14 minutes per game.

Nikolai Kulemin — The former 30-goal scorer has only found the back of the net 23 times over the past three seasons, but the New York Islanders still decided he was worthy of a four-year, $16.75 million deal.

Kyle Quincey — The Detroit Red Wings went into the free agent market with ambitions of improving their defense. The big-name defensemen on the market ended up turning them down though and instead they inked Quincey to a two-year, $8.5 million deal.

Have someone else in mind? All the biggest signings were included in the poll and are listed in order of their total contract value:

On a more positive note, here are some names to keep in mind when talking about the best signings of the summer:

Thomas Vanek — He came under fire for his performance in the 2014 playoffs, but Vanek has been a solid first-line winger for most of his career. His new deal with the Wild comes with a $6.5 million cap hit, which isn’t much of a bargain, but the fact that Minnesota got the 30-year-old to agree to just a three-year deal should help them.

Brad Richards — He was a point-per-game player in Dallas, but saw his stock fall considerably with the New York Rangers. Even still, the Chicago Blackhawks might have gotten the steal of the summer when Richards agreed to join them on a one-year, $2 million contract. The Blackhawks were up against the cap, but this move allowed them to address their second-line center vacancy without making significant sacrifices.

Marian Gaborik — He revitalized the Los Angeles Kings’ offense and was played a big role in them winning the Stanley Cup. Despite his lengthy injury history, Gaborik was in a position to cash in big this summer, but he choose to take a smaller annual salary for a longer deal and the luxury of playing with Los Angeles. His seven-year, $34.125 million contract is certainly lucrative and not without it’s risks, but he likely did leave money on the table to help the Kings’ cap situation.

Paul Stastny — The fact that he now has an annual cap hit of $7 million means that he’s obviously not a steal. At the same time, the Blues managed to limit him to a four-year deal that will cover the prime of the 28-year-old’s career. That’s a win for St. Louis considering he was one of the most highly sought after free agents on the market.

Christian Ehrhoff — Like the Chicago Blackhawks, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in a difficult cap situation. In Ehrhoff though, they have a potential short-term replacement for Matt Niskanen at the cost of $4 million for the 2014-15 campaign.

  1. rsl22 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:10 AM

    How is Orpik signing worse than Boland?

    • hockey412 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:25 AM

      Personally I’d think b/c Orpik is 5 or 6 years older and may not be playing until 39. Neither are worth the money they are getting.

      • phillyphanatic77 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:42 AM

        Plus the Panthers are a cap floor team… they can afford to potentially take a hit (especially with Campbell off the books in a few years). Washington is way more of a cap ceiling team that is now locked into two major contracts that could seriously handcuff them in the future. And it’s a team built around Ovechkin and his 9.5 cap hit til 2021… that’s scary… for Caps fans.

      • rsl22 - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:39 AM

        OV will be the ripe old age of 35 when his contract expires. Not exactly doomsday. He’ll be about the age of Lecavalier when your Flyers signed him.

        As far as making the team better, Orpik provides a lot of what the Caps needed. Boland is supposed to be their new playmaking center, but he has 15 goals and 26 points in his last two years? Despite this, he got a $5.5MM contract, or over $2MM per season raise? His last two seasons are an average month for Ovechkin, and you’re comparing the two?

      • phillyphanatic77 - Jul 7, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        I’m not talking about Ovechkin’s age, I’m talking about the fact that your entire franchise is built around a flawed player. One of the greatest talents we’ve seen in this league, hands down, but one-dimensional. You’d think a season in which he scored the most hollow 50 goals in history would’ve tipped you off.

        As for Lecavalier, it was a mistake and the Flyers are paying for it… the Capitals will soon understand the feeling, although atleast Lecavalier can still chip in 20 goals in a down year. What’s Orpik gonna give besides leadership (which could’ve come from a much cheaper player) and hits? on the few players he can actually catch.

    • scout202sport - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:20 AM

      Couldn’t agree with you more! Bolland is not even close to being worth what he’s being paid. You are 100% CORRECT!!

    • btlpper68 - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:31 AM

      Boland is way worse

    • pj608 - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:35 AM

      Honestly they are probably equally bad…. but at least Boland is younger

      • lordfletcher - Jul 7, 2014 at 12:02 PM

        a huge factor that needs to be addressed is that Florida needs to hit the cap floor. Signing Bolland to any amount of money is almost irrelevant. Doesn’t make his contract the worst, not event close.

        Brooks is a bad deal all around and so is Pouliots in EDM. Stoner got overpaid but is what it is. Niskanen for anything over 5 years is too much but thats free agency for you.

    • imleftcoast - Jul 7, 2014 at 2:36 PM

      Richards and Errorhoff, best signings? We should record those b/c half the people on here will be lying in December on how they voted.

  2. jacketsfan7 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    It’s not in order, they’re just saying it’s a bad signing due to his age and he’s definitely going to lose his step within the next few years

    • lightning79 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:30 AM

      He Already lost his step if you are referring to Brooks Orpiks.

  3. rbbbaron - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    The best signings were actually non-signings– thank you Niskanen and Boyle for deciding to not go to Detroit. Unfortunately one of the other players that Ken Holland approached did accept his tender, Kyle Quincey– the worst signing.

  4. patshal - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    Brooks Orpik is by far the most overrated defenseman in the NHL.

    • jaybaileys - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:59 AM

      And he still makes less than Mike Green.

  5. greej1938l - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:37 AM

    Gaboriks 7 years isn’t all that great…maybe a 3-4 yr contract would entice me more…just my opinion of course

    • phillyphanatic77 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:46 AM

      In the short-term it’s pretty great; in the long-term, Lombardi will have some albatross contracts to deal with. But they’re in Cup position for atleast 2-4 years.

      • sirclinksalot - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:51 AM

        Exactly. Lombardi had to keep the per-year price down because Kopitar is going to be a UFA in 2 years. Lombardi will of course sign him next Summer. But no way #11 is going anywhere.

  6. illogic87 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    Worst is Benoit Pouliot and it isnt even close. Drafted 4th overall in 2005 by Wild and was a complete bust. Cant believe they paid him that kind of money!

    • guitarhunterdude - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:11 AM

      He’s one of the best third-liners in the league. Takes a lot of annoying o-zone penalties, but his per-60 scoring rates are consistently top-50 league-wide.

      It’s still an overpayment, but not as massive as some are making it out to be. If he can get those scoring rates to hold up while playing more minutes, I think he’ll actually be a serviceable second-liner in Edmonton.

      • oldirtyoiler - Jul 7, 2014 at 5:36 PM

        Serviceable THIRD liner with size, and maybe even a third line that can put up points:

        Hall – RNH – Eberle
        David Perron – Leon Draisaitl* – Nail Yakupov
        Pouliot – Mark Arcobello* – Teddy Purcell
        Matt Hendricks – Boyd Gordon – Jesse Joensuu

        Swap Draisaitl for Arcobello for first few games, and expect Gordon to take a ton of face-offs and penalty kills to pick up minutes. Could also see Purcell/Yakupov floating up and down the line combo depending on play. If Arcobello or Draisaitl start to fail, they bring in Anton Lander.

        If EDM picks up a serviceable Center, Arcobello/Lander watch a lot of games from the rafters.

    • malinpaul - Jul 7, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      You know what would have been worse? – if Edmonton had not addressed its need for size in the top 9.

      Take a look at Edmonton right now – with their young guns getting a year older, the recent Pouliot/Purcell etc. additions, the changes to their coaching staff, they’re a much better team.

      maybe even playoff bound, if they can add a #2C.

      • ray2013 - Jul 7, 2014 at 3:01 PM

        I think they got better, but realisically, with these signings who are they going to leapfrog in the standings? They still lack a #1C and an elite top pairing d-man. Yes I know on this team RNH is the nominal #1C, but trade him to any team in the division and is he still a #1C? I don’t think so.

      • oldirtyoiler - Jul 7, 2014 at 5:45 PM

        Size only counts if they use it… A bit worried about that with Pouliot. Additions of Fayne, Nikitin, Purcell, Draisaitl (who’s still growing!),+ Hendricks should meet size needs.

  7. phillyphanatic77 - Jul 7, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    These may not be best of the off-season but IMO they could be the biggest bargains: Jonas Hiller and Martin Havlat. Hiller is only locked in for two years with Calgary and gives them a solid duo with Ramo. Havlat has been an injured mess recently but he only costs 1.5 and he gets to play with his fellow Czechs… he could bounce back.

    • alexbaymac - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      In our economy, a bounced Czech is almost expected… :-)

    • pj608 - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      Havlat 1 year for 1.5…. remember the bounce back year Mason Raymond had? TOR signed him for 1 mil. SJ really miss used havlat and i think part of him being injured so much was he was just not happy playing there anymore.

      Either way its low risk. Can’t say its worse when Orpik is signed til hes 40

  8. jason9696 - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    Dave Bolland is making more per year than Marian Gaborik is. That’s just crazy.

    I’m glad the Leafs didn’t resign Bolland they already have that ridiculous David Clarkson contract to look after.

  9. ibieiniid - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM

    note to pollster: Ryan Miller is in the second poll twice, maybe the first too.

    • beermeone - Jul 7, 2014 at 10:06 PM

      Because he’s just that good!

  10. stakex - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    Orpik’s signing will probably look terrible in a couple years, and even if he does play well now its still too much money.

    I’m going to go with Pouliot though, as having the worst contract handed to him. At least Orpik has, at times, shown elite skills on defense. Pouliot on the other hand had a career year this last season in which he scored a whopping 36 points, while playing with two very good setup guys…. and the Oilers threw $20 million over 5 years at him? That’s every bit as bad as the Orpik signing IMO.

  11. salmon90 - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    The Orpik contract gets a lot of play for worst signing but don’t forget about Clayton Stoner! 4 years at 3.25mill for a 6-7 dman. Keith Ballard was given more ice time than this guy in the playoffs. What on earth did he do to deserve a 4 year deal other than being a 6’3.

  12. phtjoey - Jul 7, 2014 at 11:50 AM

    i really like the Pouliot signing for different reasons than what he’s worth. take into consideration the team he signed with, the type of players they have, and look at what he can contribute. if he would have signed that contract with a more veteran team like say wings, blues, pens for ex, then it would have possibly been the worst signing. he’ll fit just fine into the dynamics of the team in edm. oilers needed that type of player.

  13. numba1wiscosportsfan - Jul 7, 2014 at 12:57 PM

    Nice to see Gaborik staying in LA, so he can go to fashion shows.

  14. therealjr - Jul 7, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    The lazy vote goes to Orpik, and it’s not a great deal because of the term. Overpayment is standard on UFA day 1.

    But there is worse. Kulemin may not even be considered an NHL caliber player at this point. Hope the NHLPA realizes these overpayment deals to reach salary floor takes escrow money from all players because so many teams are already spending above midpoint.

  15. 13datsyuk13 - Jul 7, 2014 at 1:01 PM

    Are you kidding? The wings didn’t want Quincey back. So when all else failed they gave him a raise?!!!! There’s the worst one right there. Forced to settle for something you didn’t want.

    • rbbbaron - Jul 7, 2014 at 2:17 PM

      Dude, you just don’t understand Ken Holland’s superior logic. He’s got it all figured out, lol

  16. skr213 - Jul 7, 2014 at 1:20 PM

    HA!! Including Errorhoff in the “best” category. That’s funny. Pens fans beware!!

  17. tmoore4075 - Jul 7, 2014 at 1:48 PM

    Orpik makes more money than Duncan Keith. I think that says it all.

  18. deisel19 - Jul 7, 2014 at 3:51 PM

    Derek Engelland. Who’s that, you say? He’s only making $3 mil a year for the next 3 years. I loved engo on the pens but $3 mil a year is pretty outrageous. On most teams, he wouldn’t even be an every day player.

    • killerpgh - Jul 7, 2014 at 4:05 PM

      I was surprised I read almost 40 comments and this was the first I saw Engelland’s name.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1850)
  2. P. Kane (1375)
  3. P. Datsyuk (1209)
  4. S. Matthias (1162)
  5. M. Giordano (1064)