James O'Brien

Justin Williams

Getting clutch? Capitals sign Justin Williams for two years, $6.5M

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Fair or not, Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals are associated with losing “the big game.” With that in mind, is there any better way to change that than by adding “Mr. Game 7?”

In one of the surprises on a free agent frenzy that’s actually amounted to a series of pretty reasonable deals, it sounds like the Capitals got Justin Williams at a very reasonable price. The two-year pact is worth just $6.5 million ($3.25 million cap hit per season), the team confirmed.

When Williams was on his way to winning the 2014 Conn Smythe Trophy, it seemed preposterous to picture him not making a big raise from his old cap rate of $3.65 million.

It turns out that was true … but unexpectedly, he’ll make even less. Wow.

The Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings were also in the running for Williams, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

A down year

There’s no denying that Williams, 33, fell short of having a strong contract year.

Most obviously, the Kings missed the playoffs and basically faced one disaster after another. Williams saw a slight decrease in regular season production (from 43 points in 2013-14 to 41 last year) and his outstanding playoff performances must have faded from some minds. One could argue that, like Antoine Vermette, Williams didn’t sign a deal at the height of his earning power.

Even so, Williams is more than just a guy who scores big goals. He’s frequently been a possession monster, even standing out on a puck-hogging team like the Kings.

With the Pittsburgh Penguins making a splashy trade to get Phil Kessel and the Caps adding Williams on the cheap, the Metropolitan Division is shaping up to be fascinating in 2015-16.

Have we already seen the best bargain of the summer?

Report: Ducks sign Horcoff for one year, $1.75M

Nashville Predators v Dallas Stars
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Getting over the salary cap floor seemed like a foregone conclusion for the Anaheim Ducks, but it looks like they’ll cement that thought before the first day of free agency ends.

The Ducks signed veteran forward Shawn Horcoff to a one-year, $1.75 million contract, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. That would put them about $100K above the floor, at least by General Fanager’s numbers.

Again, Anaheim will end up well above that mark regardless. They still need to ink recently acquired forward Carl Hagelin and breakout scorer Jakob Silfverberg (both RFAs) to what could be pricey deals.

This is the latest move in a busy week for Ducks GM Bob Murray, who allowed Matt Beleskey and Francois Beauchemin to walk via free agency and traded for Kevin Bieksa and Anton Khudobin.

Horcoff, 36, just ended a hefty deal that paid him $5.5 million per year cap-hit wise (his salary was more manageable at $3 million in 2014-15). The former Edmonton Oilers captain saw 13:01 time on ice with the Dallas Stars, generating 29 points in 76 games.

The Ducks likely have plenty of intel on the character player considering his time in the West. Anaheim likely hopes that Horcoff could provide a veteran presence (and maybe a few timely goals) to a roster hoping to take that extra step in 2015-16.

With Green gone, is it an end of an era for Washington?

Alex Ovechkin; Mike Green
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It’s been quite some time since the Washington Capitals were the free-wheeling, high-scoring machine that once stacked up goals, division titles and serious blame in huge quantities.

Still, for some, Mike Green’s inevitable departure feels like the true end of an era.

The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg explores that feeling, as he looks back on the “Young Guns” group that featured Green, Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom.

While Ovechkin was the biggest star of the four, Green embodied the spirit of that movement in some ways:

Green was the only native English speaker of the Young Guns, the tattooed, spiky-haired skateboard-loving icon who was pals with Ryan Zimmerman and Chris Cooley, and was mildly popular in certain teenage sets. His offensive peak was absurd: In Washington’s first three modern playoff seasons, he averaged an outrageous .91 points per game. And even if he became a seldom-mentioned third-pair defenseman at the end of his tenure, he remained synonymous with some of the most explosive teams Washington had ever seen.

In case you’re fuzzy on the hype they once produced, check out this video, which feels ancient even it surfaced in 2008:

With injuries and a declining role over the years, there were times that Green felt like a shell of himself, even as he quietly proved effective in the eyes of many. To some, his exit is overdue, yet plenty of Capitals fans will sigh wistfully as they watch Green skate around in Red Wings red.

Coyotes bring back Vermette with two-year deal

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six
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Antoine Vermette got his Stanley Cup. Now he’s coming back to the desert.

Mere months after a trade to the Chicago Blackhawks that netted a first-rounder, the 32-year-old returns to the Arizona Coyotes. The contract is for two years with a cap hit of $3.75 million (according to sources including TSN’s Bob McKenzie), which amounts to $7.5 million overall.

Remarkably, Vermette’s cap hit is identical to his previous contract’s mark, although the term is smaller.

Considering the hype that the pivot drew around trade deadline time, this has to be at least a bit of a disappointment money-wise. Then again, Vermette was an occasional healthy scratch for Chicago, so his value likely shrank even with some big playoff game-winning goals taken into account.

On the other hand, it’s still certainly a comfortable living, and he gets to return to a familiar place. One imagines that it’s an ideal situation for his family, which has to be relevant considering that he joined the Coyotes back in 2011-12.

This detail certainly adds to the “home sweet home” feel.

The Coyotes had some money to burn and Vermette gets some security (not to mention a heightened role vs. the bit part he played with Chicago). That seems like a positive deal for all involved.

Related: The Coyotes have been busy today. Check out all of their moves (and the rest of the league’s moves) here.

Winnik returns to Leafs via two-year deal reportedly worth $4.5M

Toronto Maple Leafs vs New Jersey Devils
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Mere months after trading him to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Toronto Maple Leafs are bringing back Daniel Winnik.

The contract spans two years, and while the Leafs didn’t reveal financial details, HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman reports that it’s worth $4.5 million ($2.25 million cap hit) overall.

Winnik, 30, nabbed Toronto quite a nice haul around the trade deadline, including second and fourth-round picks.

He’s clearly happy to be back, too, as you can see in emoticon form:

Winnik is by no means a spectacular producer – his 34 points from last season marked the best total of his career – but he’s a nice find by “fancy stats” standards. Just ask the Leafs:

With Winnik and P.A. Parenteau added to the mix, the Maple Leafs stand a chance to nudge their possession numbers in the right direction, even if that difference will be subtler than the void left behind by Phil Kessel.