NHL Power Rankings: Best bargain contracts in free agency

NHL Power Rankings
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In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are going to take a look at the best value signings of the free agent signing period so far.

What are we considering a value signing? Signings that have little term and a smaller salary cap hit. We are setting the limit at contracts that are only one or two years in length and have a salary cap hit of lower than $5 million per season. Signings that carry relatively little risk, but have the potential for a reward.

Which signings and players make this week’s list?

To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!

1. Tomas Tatar, New Jersey Devils (2 years, $9 million). Forget value signing, Tatar might be one of the best signings of the offseason. Period. He has played at a top-line level for several years and brings elite possession driving and 25-goal ability to a Devils team that needs as much talent as it can get around its young core of Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier.

2. Pius Suter, Detroit Red Wings (2 years, $6.25 million). It is surprising that the Blackhawks, a team that is lacking forward depth, could not find a use for Suter. Instead they opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent. The Red Wings got him on a two-year deal to add some much needed skill to their forward lineup. Is he a star? Probably not. But he could be this year’s Anthony Duclair — a talented, young forward that did not get tendered as a restricted free agent and found a new home somewhere else.

3. Keith Yandle, Philadelphia Flyers (1-year, $900,000). Just because he is no longer a top-pairing, 25-minute per night player does not mean he is without value. Put him into a situation where he can focus on offense and you are going to get some production. The Flyers signed him for less than a million dollars and if they are smart are going to get a heckuva third-pairing/power play specialist.

4. Antti Raanta, Carolina Hurricanes (2 years, $4 million). The Hurricanes’ revolving door of goalies keeps rolling this offseason with Raanta and Frederik Andersen joining the roster. Technically both goalies could have made the list given their contracts, but we are going to go with Raanta because he has the cheaper deal and might be more intriguing. If he is healthy — big if — he could be a significant addition.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

5. Ryan Dzingel, Arizona Coyotes (1-year, $1.1 million). Probably a signing that you overlooked, but Arizona getting Dzingel for one year and $1.1 million is a smart move. He has had strong underlying numbers the past couple of years and still scores at 10-15 goal pace over 82 games. He is also the type of player that Arizona can flip at the deadline for another pick or prospect to continue its rebuild.

6. Nick Foligno, Boston Bruins (2 years, $3.8 million). This did not work out for him in Toronto after the trade deadline and is now moving on to Boston. He probably will not score like a top-six forward anymore, but the Bruins do not really need him to be one of those. As a third-line option he should still be able to add something.

7. Mathieu Perreault, Montreal Canadiens (1-year, $950,000). The Canadiens have lost a lot from their Stanley Cup Final team this offseason, but Perreault is a nice cheap addition to help replace at least some of it. Strong possession driver that can chip in some offense and he only costs $950,000 against the salary cap.

8. Corey Perry, Tampa Bay Lightning (2 years, $2 million). If you can not beat them, join them. After losing to the Lightning in back-to-back Cup Finals with two different teams, Perry joins Tampa Bay on a two-year, $2 million contract to help them go for a three-peat. The Lightning lost four significant forwards from those teams and needed to replenish the depth, and while Perry may not be on the level of Yanni Gourde or Blake Coleman any longer, he should still be a solid addition.

9. Nick Bonino, San Jose Sharks (2 years, $4.1 million). Good defensive center that can score 15 goals. Will he make the Sharks a contender again? No. But he is still a good pickup.

10. Braden Holtby, Dallas Stars (1-year, $2 million). His career has rapidly declined, and things did not work out in Vancouver, but I like his chances for a rebound playing behind that defense in Dallas.

[Related: The riskiest (and safest) contracts signed this summer]

11. Derek Stepan, Carolina Hurricanes (1-year, $1.35 million). He was limited to just 20 games in Ottawa and has been in a bit of a decline before that, but the Hurricanes are not counting on him to carry the offense. As a bottom-six option for $1.3 million this season there is some potential for a small impact here.

12. Ryan Murray, Colorado Avalanche (1-year $2 million). Murray never panned out as expected as a No. 2 overall pick for a number of reasons (injuries are high on the list) but he is still a solid defensive player that should be a nice depth addition in Colorado for cheap. They do not need him to be more than a third-pairing player.

13. Ian Cole, Carolina Hurricanes (1-year, $2.9 million). He will not do much to drive the offense, but a very good defensive presence with Stanley Cup experience.

14. Ondrej Kase, Toronto Maple Leafs (1-year, $1.25 million). Total long shot here, but there is potential. He has appeared in just 88 games since the start of the 2018-19 season, and only three games this past season, but he does have talent and he is going to a team where he should have an opportunity to produce. The Maple Leafs paid next to nothing for him against the cap. No risk. Potential reward. 

15. Erik Haula, Boston Bruins (2 years, $4.75 million). He is probably never going to repeat that 29-goal, 55-point season from the Golden Knights expansion season, but when healthy he should be a good 15-goal, 35-point depth scorer. That is something the Bruins need.

Hurricanes top Stars in OT to win matchup of 1st-place teams

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DALLAS – Martin Necas scored 1:34 into overtime to give the Carolina Hurricanes a 3-2 win over the Dallas Stars in a matchup of division leaders Wednesday night.

Sebastian Aho had a short-handed goal and Brent Burns also scored for the Hurricanes, who lead the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. The game-winner was Necas’ 19th goal this season.

Dallas is still atop the Western Conference, and the Central Division, after its second consecutive 3-2 overtime loss at home. Jason Robertson scored his 33rd goal for the Stars, and 19-year-old rookie Wyatt Johnston got his 13th.

Carolina goalie Frederik Andersen didn’t return after the first intermission because of an upper-body injury, soon after a strange sequence that ended with Robertson scoring on a shot from what seemed to be an impossible angle.

The puck was bouncing on the ice behind Andersen and settled against the post after Tyler Seguin‘s shot before the goalie was able to swipe it away to his right. Robertson then shot from behind Andersen, and the puck apparently ricocheted off him and into the net for a 2-1 Dallas lead. Robertson’s 33rd goal matched his assists total.

Antti Raanta replaced Andersen and stopped all 15 shots he faced – none in overtime – after the starter had four saves. Raanta had to shake off getting struck in the head by Mason Marchment‘s stick when the Stars forward was behind the net fighting for the puck midway through the third period.

Stars goalie Jake Oettinger stopped 22 shots, including a glove save of Andrei Svechnikov‘s wrister with just more than five minutes left in regulation.

Aho’s 200th career goal put Carolina up 1-0 midway through the first period. The Stars got even just more than two minutes later when Johnston scored unassisted after a faceoff.

Johnston also had a shot ricochet off the post with just under six minutes left.

In between the first two goals, Oettinger went into a fully extended split, with his right skate against the post, to deny Paul Stastny‘s attempt to knock in a loose puck.

Burns tied the game at 2 in the second period, getting the puck after a faceoff, then skating over the top of the circle and scoring top shelf over Oettinger’s left shoulder.

NOTES: Marchment was coming out of the penalty box at the same time Carolina made an errant pass in the second period. He had a breakaway attempt, but couldn’t get enough control of the puck to get off a quality shot. … Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce and Stars center Luke Glendening both got five-minute penalties for fighting in the second period.

UP NEXT

Hurricanes: Will play San Jose on Friday night in the first of three consecutive home games.

Stars: Host the New Jersey Devils on Friday night in their last game before the All-Star break.

Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry out until after the All-Star break

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PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry‘s on-again, off-again season is now off again.

Coach Mike Sullivan said that the two-time All-Star will miss at least two games with an upper-body injury.

Jarry was scheduled to start against Florida but reported an upper-body issue when he arrived at PPG Paints Arena. Casey DeSmith got the last-second start as the Penguins pulled out a wild 7-6 victory over the Panthers.

Jarry is out through at least the All-Star break. Pittsburgh plays at Washington and then hosts San Jose before getting a full week off.

The 27-year-old Jarry has played well when he’s been in the lineup, posting a 16-5-5 record with a 2.65 goals-against average in 27 games. His availability, however, has been an issue of late. He missed more than two weeks earlier this month after being injured against Boston in the Winter Classic on Jan. 2.

The Penguins are not as sharp when Jarry is out. Pittsburgh is 8-10-3 with DeSmith or Dustin Tokarski in goal this season. The Penguins recalled Tokarski from their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to back up DeSmith during Jarry’s absence.

Letang scores twice in return, Penguins beat Panthers 7-6 in OT

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PITTSBURGH – Amid a nightmarish season off the ice, Kris Letang has been searching for joy. A sense of normalcy.

He found a little of both.

The veteran Pittsburgh defenseman scored twice in his return from a lower-body injury, the second with 54 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins a 7-6 victory over Florida.

“I was just happy to be out there,” Letang said. “Be in the atmosphere of the team.”

Letang’s 17th season with Pittsburgh has been pockmarked by health issues and a profound sense of loss. He missed two weeks after suffering the second stroke of his career shortly after Thanksgiving. He then tweaked something in a loss to Detroit on Dec. 28.

His father died unexpectedly a few days later, and Letang spent an extended amount of time with his family in his native Montreal, with his teammates making an unexpected stop to join Letang for his father’s wake at the end of a West Coast swing earlier this month.

The Penguins activated him off injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon. Letang responded with four points in a rollicking game that featured 13 goals, the last Letang’s one-timer from just above the left circle on the power play that gave Pittsburgh just its fourth win in 12 overtime games this season.

“It was kind of surreal, you know?” Letang said. “I didn’t know what to think or how it was going to go. These guys supported me for the last month… it’s just great to be back.”

The Penguins, currently in the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, opened up a small bit of breathing room over the ninth-place Panthers by beating Florida for the 18th time in its last 21 trips to Pittsburgh.

Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Danton Heinen each had a goal and two assists for The Penguins. Rickard Rakell and Drew O'Connor also scored for the Penguins.

Casey DeSmith struggled in place of Tristan Jarry, a late scratch with an upper-body injury. DeSmith stopped 33 shots, including both he faced in overtime, to win for the third time in his last 10 starts.

“That was a huge two points for us,” DeSmith said. “Obviously we’re battling with them in the standings. Character win at home.”

Carter Verhaeghe scored twice for Florida, including a tying goal with 2:32 left in regulation. Aaron Ekblad had a goal and two assists. Matthew Tkachuk and Sam Reinhart each had a goal and an assist. Colin White‘s sixth goal of the season 4:10 into the third gave the Panthers the lead but Florida couldn’t hold it.

Alex Lyon made 42 saves after getting the start when Spencer Knight was unavailable for reasons head coach Paul Maurice would not disclose. The Panthers are 7-3-2 since January 1 to surge back into the fringe of contention.

“We’re so much more of a different hockey team than we were a month ago at this time,” Maurice said. “Rallied around each other, battled as hard as they could to get a point on the road in the circumstances that we’re in. I couldn’t be more proud.”

Neither Lyon or DeSmith – who got the heads up he was playing less than an hour before the opening faceoff – appeared quite ready to play on short notice. They gave up a six goals – three by each team – during a frantic first period that included Letang’s first goal since Dec. 15 and Tkachuk’s 25th of the season.

Things settled down in the second. Ekblad’s short-handed goal put the Panthers in front but Crosby knotted the game at 4-4 with a pretty backhand through Lyon’s legs with 40 seconds to go in the period to set up a hectic third in which both teams squandered one-goal leads.

“It wasn’t pretty but you need to find ways to win sometimes,” Crosby said. “We did a good job of that here today.”

UP NEXT

Panthers: Host Angeles on Friday night.

Penguins: At Washington on Thursday night.

Avalanche spoil Kuemper’s return, top Capitals 3-2 as Bednar sets mark

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DENVER – Artturi Lehkonen, Andrew Cogliano and Alex Newhook scored against former teammate Darcy Kuemper and the surging Colorado Avalanche held off the Washington Capitals 3-2 to give coach Jared Bednar his franchise-record 266th victory.

Logan O'Connor added two assists, Nathan MacKinnon had an assist for his 700th point and Alexandar Georgiev made 37 saves in the Avs’ season-best sixth straight victory. They moved into third place in the Central Division, one point ahead of Minnesota.

Bednar, coaching his 500th game for Colorado, improved to 266-185-49 and passed former Quebec Nordiques boss Michel Bergeron for the most coaching victories in franchise history.

Alex Ovechkin returned from an injury to score his 31st goal for Washington. Conor Sheary also scored and Kuemper stopped 23 shots in his first game in Denver since helping the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup in June.

The crowd stood and applauded after a first-period video tribute for Kuemper, who won 37 games in the regular season and 10 more in the playoffs.

The Avs chose not to re-sign Kuemper, who then inked a five-year deal with the Capitals in July.

He had his moments against his former team, including nifty glove saves against Jacob MacDonald and Lehkonen in the second period to keep it a one-goal game. But Newhook’s goal with 4:21 left in the second made it 3-1.

The depleted Capitals dominated the third period but still lost for the fifth time in seven games.

Ovechkin’s one-timer at 9:44 of the third was his 811th goal after he missed his first game of the season Saturday with a lower-body injury. But Washington was without T.J. Oshie, who left to be with his wife for the birth of their fourth child. And Nicklas Backstrom was a late scratch with a non-COVID illness.

Then Tom Wilson exited in the second period after blocking a shot and underwent an X-ray between periods.

The Avalanche, who haven’t trailed during their win streak, solved Kuemper at 8:57 of the first when MacKinnon absorbed a big hit from Dmitry Orlov and fed Lehkonen for his 15th goal and sixth in six games.

Cogliano redirected Kurtis MacDermid‘s shot 2:04 into the second to make it 2-0. Sheary cut the. lead in half when he tipped in Martin Fehervary‘s shot for his 12th goal just over two minutes later.

HE BROKE THE CUP

It also marked the return of Washington’s Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who had 22 points in 67 games for the Avs in 2021-22, He’s remembered for dropping and denting the Cup during the on-ice celebration.

“It’s part of my journey here,” a smiling Aube-Kubel said of his fumble, adding the season was “the best time of my life.”

NOTES: Avs D Cale Makar (upper body) practiced Monday and took part in the morning skate, but missed his fourth straight game. … Avs W Anton Blidh cleared waivers and skated on the fourth line. … Aliaksei Protas centered Washington’s third line in his first NHL action since Jan. 5 and was robbed by Georgiev in the first period. … The Capitals have only four games left outside the Eastern time zone.

UP NEXT

Capitals: Host Pittsburgh.

Avalanche: Host Anaheim.