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


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.

The Buzzer: Shutouts for three, Dubnyk gets win No. 200

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Players of the Night:

Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins, Keith Kinkaid, New Jersey Devils and Curtis McElhinney, Toronto Maple Leafs: Where do we begin on the night of the shutout? Rask didn’t have a particularly busy night making 23 saves, but when you’re facing names like Kucherov and Stamkos, it’s always dangerous. Still, Rask kept rolling along. He is 27-3-2 in his past 32 starts. That’s just silly. … Kinkaid, meanwhile stopped 38 — including 19 in the first period — in a 3-0 win against the Kings for his fourth career shutout. … No Frederik Andersen for Toronto? No problem. McElhinney stepped in and pitched a 33-save performance as the Leafs down the Montreal Canadiens 4-0.

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues: The Blues defenseman scored twice in regulation and then assisted on Brayden Schenn‘s overtime winner to cap off a three-point night.

Devan Dubnyk, Minnesota Wild: While he didn’t get a shutout, Dubnyk did stop 30 of 31 en route to his 200th career NHL win. The win was also important for the Wild, who moved to within five points of the Winnipeg Jets for second place in the Central Division, and moved five points ahead of the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche for third place.

Highlights of the Night:

Filthy pass:

First-goal celebrations are always the best:

Voracek with a slick move in front:

Save of the year candidate:

Factoids of the Night:

Home is where the wins are:

A legend passes a legend:

Believe in McJesus:

Scary Scenes of the Night:


Sabres 5, Blackhawks 3

Oilers 4, Panthers 2

Devils 3, Kings 0

Maple Leafs 4, Canadiens 0

Bruins 3, Lightning 0

Flyers 4, Hurricanes 2

Blue Jackets 2, Senators 1

Blue 4, Rangers 3 (OT)

Wild 3, Coyotes 1

Sharks 5, Canucks 3

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Senators’ Ryan Dzingel drilled in the head with a puck (video)

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We already saw one lacerated leg, and now we have a one-timer drilling a player in the back of the helmet.

Saturday night hasn’t been so kind.

Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel was forced to leave the game after some friendly fire against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 2-1 loss.

Dzingel was drilled in the back of the head from teammate Mike Hoffman‘s one-timer of the back of his helmet around the mid-way point of the third period.

Dzingel remained down for a time but was able to skate off the ice with some assistance from Ottawa’s trainers.

He did not return to the game.

If you watch this closely, you will see Dzingel’s No. 8 on the back of his helmet fly off after contact with the puck.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Bruins’ David Backes suffers leg laceration in collision (video)


A scary scene unfolded in the first period between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the visiting Boston Bruins on Saturday night.

David Backes and Yanni Gourde came together in the Lightning crease, with Gourde’s skate appearing to cut Backes on the outside of his right leg.

Backes was able to make his way to the Bruins bench on his own, but he was clutching the back of his leg before getting some help down the tunnel.

Backes did not return to the game.

The Bruins said that Backes suffered a laceration above his right knee, which required several stitches to close.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Dundon, Hurricanes suspend search for new GM: report


The Carolina Hurricanes’ search for a general manager is on hiatus.

Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported Saturday that the process of replacing former GM Ron Francis is being put on hold for the time being, citing that owner Tom Dundon needs more time.

“Tom hasn’t had the time he needs to do face to face interviews and feels that waiting will pay off,” Shannon wrote in a tweet.

Francis was removed from his post as GM on March 7 and “promoted” to a new role as president of hockey operations. There was only one catch: whoever replaced Francis would bypass the Hurricanes’ legend and report directly to Dundon.

The search, thus far, hasn’t been going that well, with three potential targets already withdrawing any interest they were thought to have had.

Part of that problem could be how hands-on Dundon appears to want to be. Part of it could just be timing. Fenton, for instance, could be on his way to a Stanley Cup ring this year in Nashville.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman touched on the situation in a recent 31 Thoughts column.

“I think what I’m looking for, is we have to be comfortable with each other. That’s the most important thing,” Dundon told Friedman when asked what he wants in a new GM. “I actually like to disagree and argue. I don’t want someone to come in and just do what I say, and I don’t want to make decisions. Someone to create a structure of how something is a good idea, and now we are going to get it done.”

You can add Pittsburgh Penguins assistant GM Bill Guerin to the list:

I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest that Dundon wanting his hands all over the team — including whatever the GM is doing — isn’t the best selling point.

There’s some good, young talent on the Hurricanes for a new GM to come in and build around, but there’s also some dead weight, including what’s turned into a bad contract with goalie Scott Darling.

No GM wants to play puppet for an owner.

TSN’s Pierre LeBrun said the Hurricanes will suspend their search until the summer when a larger crop of candidates reveals itself.

Still, you have to wonder who’ll be willing to take that plunge. Someone will, of course, but people haven’t exactly been lining up to fill the role.

UPDATE: On Headlines on Saturday, Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos reported that the salary being offered to a prospective GM in Carolina is $400,000, to which he said he doesn’t see any GM taking as it’s too low. Friedman, meanwhile, believes the search for a new GM is not on a complete hiatus.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck