The dust hasn’t settled on the 2012 UFA market yet, but it’s certainly cooling down, so now might be a good time to take a look back at some of the most valuable signings from last summer’s market.
The guys on this list might not have been the best performers out of those that signed in 2011, but they certainly gave their respective clubs a lot of bang for their buck.
So without further ado…
Mike Smith — The Phoenix Coyotes parted ways with Ilya Bryzgalov last summer, who signed a nine-year/$51 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. With a considerable hole to fill, they ended up taking a chance on Mike Smith, who had a lot of promise, but was coming off of a very rocky stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Smith inked a two-year/$4 million deal and, under the guidance of then goaltending coach Sean Burke, went about the task of making people in the desert forget about Bryzgalov. He succeeded spectacularly by not only excelling in the regular season, but carrying the Coyotes in the playoffs.
Smith had a 1.99 GAA and .944 save percentage in 16 postseason contests and even held his own against the Los Angeles Kings despite the fact that the Coyotes lost the Western Conference finals in five games.
Brian Elliott — Elliott couldn’t have done much worse in 2010-11 and it was no surprise when he was forced to settle for a one-year, two-way deal. He wasn’t even guaranteed a roster spot, he had to battle Ben Bishop first for the right to backup Jaroslav Halak.
In the past, Elliott has enjoyed some incredible hot streaks only to fizzle out. In 2011-12, he got hot and never looked back. Elliott only allowed four or more goals twice in 38 games and ended up sharing the William M. Jennings Trophy with Jaroslav Halak.
Elliott set a modern day record with his 1.56 GAA and had an unheard of .940 save percentage.
Michael Ryder – Compared to Elliott and Smith, Ryder was paid a King’s ransom when he inked a two-year/$7 million deal with the Dallas Stars.
Ryder was coming off two less than stellar campaigns with the Boston Bruins, although his stock did go up after scoring eight goals and 17 points in 25 games during the 2010 playoffs to help them win the Stanley Cup.
He was able to build off of that strong playoff run and benefit from the opportunities that the Dallas Stars were willing to afford him. They weren’t as deep a team as the defending champions and were willing to give Ryder a career-high 17:23 minutes per game. He rewarded them by scoring a team-leading 35 goals.