Usually, when it comes to the first day of free agency, the patterns tend to revolve around deals teams will eventually regret. On July 1, 2017, there was instead the best kind of nostalgia: reuniting successful players and the cities they once called “home.”
Remarkably, in just about every case, the contracts were solid-to-huge steals for those old teams. Let’s look at some of the biggest examples.
Come back … for $1 million
Even if skills diminished, it’s remarkable that Patrick Sharp returned to the Chicago Blackhawks, Scott Hartnell made his long-waited comeback for the Nashville Predators, and Michael Cammalleri reacquainted with the Los Angeles Kings, all on the same day.
And all three of those deals were low-risk with potentially significant rewards: they all signed for one year and $1 million.
The Blackhawks seemed to “bring the band back together” in the most obvious ways this summer, as they also regained Brandon Saad in that surprising trade that sent Artemi Panarin away. Maybe Panarin will be back in the Windy City in the future, too, then?
Finally getting paid, kind of
If you want to chart the history of a – relatively – underpaid forward, look no further than Justin Williams.
Even at his advanced age, a two-year, $9 million deal to return to the first team he won a Stanley Cup with (the Carolina Hurricanes) is a pretty sweet bargain.
It’s remarkable that a renowned two-way player who earned the nickname “Mr. Game 7” took until 2017 to pass the $4 million per season mark, as this new deal carries a cap hit of $4.5M per season. Previously, the highest cap hit he carried was $3.825M; he actually took a discount to join the Washington Capitals.
That comfort level and familiarity definitely factored into Williams’ decision.
There were other signings that might not be the purest reunions, yet they still fit with the growing theme of the day.
Kevin Shattenkirk never played for the New York Rangers, but it’s believed that he left money (and possibly years) on the table to live the dream. He’s a “New Yorker at heart,” after all.
Beyond Shattenkirk, Nate Thompson reunites with former Lightning head coach Guy Boucher. There’s an anecdote that Thompson adhered to Boucher’s advice so well that other Bolts teammates ribbed him by calling him “Nate Boucher.” One figures that played a big role in bringing Thompson to the Ottawa Senators.
Chad Johnson didn’t have a hallowed run with the Sabres, yet he’ll be a welcome backup in Buffalo once more. Anders Lindback is back in the Predators’ fold after netting the franchise some nice picks from the Lightning a few years back, though he’d likely need some luck to get reps with Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros ahead of him.
In just about every case, these reunions represented rare mutual benefits: teams get a familiar player back at a reasonable price. Said players may have already made big money elsewhere (or by getting bought out), and now they get to return to places they might not have ever wanted to leave.
Everyone wins, at least until teams start accruing W’s and L’s.
Now, without further adieu, the official song of this free agency.