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

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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.

Rangers punch playoff ticket to wrap up night of clinched spots

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The New York Rangers weren’t ecstatic that Chris Tierney‘s 4-4 goal sent their game to overtime against the San Jose Sharks, but either way, getting beyond regulation punched their ticket to the playoffs on Tuesday night.

For the seventh season in a row, the Rangers are in the NHL’s postseason. They fell to the Sharks 5-4 in overtime, so they haven’t locked down the first wild-card spot in the East … yet. It seems like a matter of time, however.

The Rangers have now made the playoffs in 11 of their last 12 tries, a far cry from the barren stretch where the Rangers failed to make the playoffs from 1997-98 through 2003-04 (with the lockout season punctuating the end of that incompetent era).

New York has pivoted from the John Tortorella days to the Vigneault era, and this season has been especially interesting as they reacted to a 2016 first-round loss to the Penguins by instituting a more attacking style. The Metropolitan Division’s greatness has overshadowed, to some extent, how dramatic the improvement has been.

This result seems like a tidy way to discuss Tuesday’s other events.

The drama ends up being low for the Rangers going forward, and while there might be a shortage of life-or-death playoff struggles, the battles for seeding look to be fierce.

Oilers end NHL’s longest playoff drought; Sharks, Ducks also clinch

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There’s something beautiful about the symmetry on Tuesday … unless you’re a Detroit Red Wings fans, maybe.

On the same night that the longest active NHL playoff streak ended at 25 for Detroit, the longest playoff drought concluded when the Edmonton Oilers clinched a postseason spot by beating the Los Angeles Kings 2-1.

The Oilers haven’t reached the playoffs since 2005-06, when Chris Pronger lifted them to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.

In doing so, other dominoes fell. Both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks also punched their tickets to the postseason.

The Sharks, of course, hope to exceed last season’s surprising run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Meanwhile, the Anaheim Ducks continue their run of strong postseasons, even as their Cup win fades to the background ever so slightly. All three teams are currently vying for the Pacific Division title.

The Western Conference’s eight teams are dangerously close to being locked into place, as the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and St. Louis Blues are all close to looking down their spots as well.

Want the East perspective? Check out this summary of Tuesday’s events from the perspective of the other conference.

Craig Anderson took his blunder hard – probably too hard – in Sens loss

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Members of the Ottawa Senators were quick to come to Craig Anderson‘s blunder (see above) in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, and it’s easy to see why.

It’s not just about his personal struggles, either. When Anderson’s managed to play, he’s been flat-out phenomenal, generating a .927 save percentage that ranks near a Vezina-type level (if he managed to play more than 35 games).

Goaltending has been a huge reason why Ottawa has at least a shot of winning the Atlantic or at least grabbing a round of home-ice advantage, so unlike certain instances where teams shield a goalie’s failures, the defenses are absolutely justified.

Anderson, on the other hand, was very hard on himself.

You have to admire Anderson for taking the blame, even if in very much “hockey player” fashion, he’s not exactly demanding the same sort of credit for his great work this season.

Just about every relevant team in the East playoff races won tonight

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After Eastern Conference teams deserved a “C” on Monday, they generally passed Tuesday’s tests with flying colors. Sometimes they carved out three-point games when relevant teams faced off, too.

It’s almost bewildering trying to figure out where to start … so how about the top of the East?

Metro’s rich get richer

The Minnesota Wild deserve credit for fighting back from a considerable deficit, including overcoming an Alex Ovechkin hat trick (all on the power play). Ultimately, T.J. Oshie‘s overtime-winner gave Washington the 5-4 (OT) win.

Elsewhere in the Metro’s top ranks, Sergei Bobrovsky grabbed his 41st win of the season (3-1 win against the Sabres) to put Columbus three points behind the Capitals and two ahead of the idle Penguins.

Metro top three (all with 75 games played)

1. Capitals – 108 points
2. Blue Jackets – 105 points
3. Penguins – 103 points

Canadiens gain ground

The Montreal Canadiens handled the Dallas Stars 4-1 in The Epic Battle of the Benns. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the second-place Senators 3-2 via a shootout

Both the Maple Leafs and Bruins won their games, leaving Toronto one point ahead of Boston for third in the Atlantic.

Atlantic top five

1. Canadiens – 95 points in 76 games played
2. Senators – 91 points in 75 GP
3. Maple Leafs – 87 points in 75 GP

Bruins – 86 points in 76 GP
Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP

Finally, let’s look at the final spot in the East

OK, so there’s some overlap here. Why don’t we check on the most wild-card-relevant teams?

Third Atlantic spot: Leafs – 87 points in 75 GP

Final spot: Bruins – 86 points in 76 GP

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 82 points in 75 GP
Flyers – 80 points in 76 GP
Panthers – 77 points in 76 GP

Again, the Bruins won, as did the Flyers. The Lightning were idle. The Panthers fell to the Maple Leafs. Buffalo lost while Detroit and New Jersey are out of the running.

You know who deserves special mention outside of the top eight? The Carolina Hurricanes deserve such a distinction, as they are enjoying one of their hottest runs in franchise history after beating Detroit 4-1.

The overall message: just about any truly relevant team at least grabbed a standings point, with most winning games outright on Tuesday.

It doesn’t exactly thin the herd, but it keeps the door open for a fun race to the finish.