|The Caps shocked the league by signing elite goalie Tomas Vokoun to a $1.5 million, 1-year contract. (Getty Images)|
|George McPhee. (Getty Images)|
Everyone who signed with the Florida Panthers: Holy overpayment, Batman! Dale Tallon isn't even at the cap floor yet, but you wouldn't know at the rate his is giving out cash in Florida. Sean Bergenheim, playoff breakout star for the Lightning (16 GP, 9G, 2A, 11PTS) and 29 point scorer last season got $2.75 million per season for the next 4 years. Tomas Kopecky and his 15 goals in 81 games got $3 million per season for 4 seasons. Scottie Upshall, who scored a career high of 22 goals last season as well as a career high of 34 points, got $3.5 million per season over 4 seasons. Tomas Fleischmann, most recently missing about half the season with blood clot issues after being traded from the Capitals to the Avalanche (he was a spare part on the Caps) in exchange for Scott Hannan last November, will be the Panthers highest-paid forward, getting $4.5 million per season over 4 seasons. Former Blackhawks Kris Versteeg and Brian Campbell came in as well via trades, bringing their $3.083,333 and $7,142,875 cap hits along with them. 35 year old defenseman Ed Jovanovski returned to Florida as well, signing a 4 year contract with a $4.125 million cap hit. Goalie Jose Theodore also joined the party, receiving an actually quite reasonable $1.5 million per season for 2 seasons. Honestly, the players are all winners as they all cashed in pretty damn well here in sunny Florida, but I have a feeling few of these deals are going to be anything close to worth the cap hits and salaries they bring. Sure they're nice guys, but not worth nearly as much as they're getting paid.
Ville Leino: Talk about rags to riches, except in this case, it's more Helsinki Jokerit to Buffalo Sabres. Ville Leino, signed in 2008 as an undrafted free agent by the Detroit Red Wings, has gone and signed a 6-year contract paying an average of $4.5 million per season with the Buffalo Sabres. Leino has once scored more than 10 goals in a season (last season when he recorded 19 with a stacked Flyers offense) and has only once eclipsed 15 points (last season, with 53). Sure, the 27 year old Leino is probably a late bloomer, but no way in hell is he worth $4.5 million per season right now. Actually, looking back, this makes George McPhee look even smarter - he essentially locked Brooks Laich, a proven forward with two 50+ point seasons and one 48 point season, as well as three seasons of scoring 20+ goals, for the exact same contract as Ville Leino. Bravo. I do congratulate Leino for cashing in in Buffalo, though I don't know how well he will live up to expectations with a much worse supporting cast than he had in Philly last season.
Ilya Bryzgalov: Talk about winning. The Philadelphia Flyers, horribly misjudging the free agent goalie market for the second season in a row, mortgage much of their future to sign Bryzgalov to a monster 9-year, $51 million total (about $5.7 million per season) contract. Partially in order to make cap space for Bryzgalov (though there almost have to be other reasons), the Flyers sent offensive stars Jeff Carter and Mike Richards packing, trading them to Columbus and Los Angeles respectively and effectively blowing up a roster that was clearly a Stanley Cup competitor. Bryzgalov is definitely a winner here, but the Flyers are losers right now (though maybe that will be rectified later… or it won't)
Jaromir Jagr: Really Philadelphia? This is your answer to trading away your top 2 offensive stars? To bring in an aging superstar who very well might not be able to survive an entire NHL season...during the World Championships his shifts were only about 30 seconds long, a far cry from an average 50 second NHL shift. I may be proved wrong but the only beneficiary of this deal in my opinion is Jagr's bank account. P.S. Flyers... if you need to waste some more money on players who won't really help their team, I would take a 1 year deal in a heart beat.
The Winnipeg Jets: Don't get me wrong...I'm extremely pleased to have the NHL return to Winnipeg and especially excited that they will be the Jets not the Manitoba Moose. However, the immediate future does not look particularly bright due to the lack of legitimate stars. Evander Kane is a good player but he is no Brad Richards or Ilya Kovalchuk and they couldn't even bring in elite goaltending with their enormous cap space. The Jets have nice players in Byfuglien and Johnny Oduya but they are hardly enough to capture the attention of the hockey community. In the end...it's a nice story to see a team in Winnipeg again but they need to make a concerted effort to rebuild before there will be anything in the win column to cheer about.
The Philadelphia Flyers: Is there even a good place to start? NO! The Flyers started their offseason by trading away their two best forwards: Mike Richards (THEIR CAPTAIN!) and Jeff Carter, who has one of the best shots in the league. The Flyer's next move was to sign 31 y.o. goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to a 9 yr $51 mil deal only to see Tomas Vokoun sign with fellow Stanley Cup contenders, the Washington Capitals, for a fraction of the cost. Finally, the Flyers signed Jaromir Jagr, an aging superstar, to a 1 yr $3.3 mil deal but we already covered that. In the end...the Flyers went from contending for the Eastern Conference crown to a mediocre team fighting to make the playoffs. Only time will tell whether Paul Holmgren has gone completely bonkers.
Tomas Vokoun: Well that was unexpected...Tomas Vokoun decided to sign with the Stanley Cup favorite Washington Capitals for a measly $1.5 mil and only 1 year instead of the multi-year big money contracts that were offered. However, upon closer examination, his options were extremely limited and by Vokoun's own admission, not many offers came his way and to make it worse, none of them were from Stanley Cup contenders. On the bright side, the elite veteran net-minder is now in prime position to hoist his first Stanley Cup which begs the question: Did Tomas Vokoun really lose this offseason? Only time will tell.
General Managers: Overpayment much??? Their were some deals to be found in this extremely limited free agent market but in general GMs were suckered into paying too much for average players and the players were happy to accept the excessive salaries. Like many things in life, it eventually comes down to supply and demand. In this instance, there was high demand for NHL proven talent and an extremely scarce supply. For example, Joel Ward was reportedly pursued by 16 NHL team. 16!!! That's over half of the league. As a result, he went from about a $2 mil player to $3 mil. In the end, we saw some of the craziest contracts and wackiest decisions all to try to reach everyone's ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup.