In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we take a look at the best free agent signings of the offseason (so far).
While there are still a handful of top free agents still available (Nazem Kadri, John Klingberg), most of the top players have already found new homes. Some of those signings are going to work out very well. Others might not.
So let’s try to figure out which ones might be the best investments. We are limiting it this to players that signed after the opening of the free agent signing period this past Wednesday. So players that re-signed with their teams before that are excluded from the list. Also a reminder: This is not a ranking of the best players to sign. It is a ranking of the best signings, taking into account the player, production, contract term, salary cap hit, risk, and total value.
Who all makes the cut?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Johnny Gaudreau, Columbus Blue Jackets (seven years, $68.25 million). The most stunning free agent signing was also the best. Yes, most long-term free agent contracts end in a buyout or a trade. But there are always exceptions. This could very easily be an exception. Gaudreau is a top-tier offensive force and is still at an age where he should perform at an extremely level for the foreseeable future. The Blue Jackets needed a star, and they got one. Even If Gaudreau is not a 115-point player again and levels off at an 80-or 90-point level he will still be worth it.
2. Claude Giroux, Ottawa Senators (three years, $19.5 million). Giroux might be getting older, but he is still an outstanding player and the Senators are getting him on a really good deal. Not too much term, reasonable salary cap hit, not much risk, and it helps round a rapidly improving Senators’ top-six. Are they a playoff team because of it? Probably not. But they are better. And more entertaining.
3. Darcy Kuemper, Washington Capitals (five years, $26.25 million). The Capitals badly needed a goalie and completely revamped the position by dumping Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek and signing Kuemper in free agency. Kuemper drew some criticism in the playoffs this year, but his overall track record in the NHL is very strong. Among goalies with at least 100 games played over the past three years, Igor Shesterkin is the only goalie with a better all situations save percentage than Kuemper’s .920.
4. Frank Vatrano, Anaheim Ducks (three years, $10.95 million). Absolutely love this signing by the Ducks. Vatrano is not a star, but he can do two things really well: Generate shots and score goals. The Panthers never should have traded him, the Rangers are going to miss him, and the Ducks got him on a nice three-year deal for just $3.6 million per year.
[Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker]
5. David Perron, Detroit Red Wings (two years, $9.5 million). Perron is getting older, but this is a really strong deal for a Red Wings team making to take a big leap forward. He is a legit top-line winger and the Red Wings have almost no risk on a two-year contract.
6. Andrew Copp, Detroit Red Wings (five years, $28.25 million) . This deal reminds me a lot of the Philip Danault signing in Los Angeles a year ago. Similar term, player, cap hit, and team situation. I like Copp over somebody like, say, Vincent Trocheck because he is a year younger, better defensively, and has a term that is two years shorter.
7. Vincent Trocheck, New York Rangers (seven years, $39.375 million). Trocheck is a very good player and will be a nice second-line center for the Rangers. But this is also the type of free agency contract I hate and the type that should scare the heck out of you as a fan of a team. A seven-year term for a soon-to-be 30-year-old non-star is not going to end well. Also, the Rangers had to watch Copp, Ryan Strome, and Vatrano all leave to make this signing happen. Does that make them a better team?
8. Andre Burakovsky, Seattle Kraken (five years, $27.5 million). Good player on an okay contract, but I do wonder what the overall plan is here for Seattle? Just a weird approach from the very beginning. How will he produce away from the high powered Avalanche offense?
9. Ryan Strome, Anaheim Ducks (five years, $25 million). Strome averaged a 22-goal, 60-point pace per 82 games during his time with the Rangers and was a legit second-line center offensively. He has had some shortcomings defensively at times, but if he repeats what he did in New York with the Ducks he will be a fine addition.
10. Dylan Strome, Washington Capitals (one year, $3.5 million). What I love about this deal is just how cheap it is. One year and only $3.5 million? For a player that will probably a produce a similar level of offense as Copp or Trocheck down the middle? He might be a half-tier below those two as overall players, but the price is certainly right as they look to get by without Nicklas Backstrom.
11. Mason Marchment, Dallas Stars (four years, $18 million). If he is just a late-bloomer and his 2021-22 season was not a fluke this contract could be one of the best signed all summer. But he has so little NHL track record to go by it is tough to be fully convinced of that.
12. Ondrej Palat, New Jersey Devils (five years, $30 million). He is not Johnny Gaudreau or Alex DeBrincat, but Palat is a strong top-six addition to a Devils team that badly needs some complementary players for Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier. In the short-term, at least. How many more years does he have as a top-six producer?
13. Calle Jarnkrok, Toronto Maple Leafs (four years, $8.4 million). Jarnkrok is one of the steadiest players you will find in the NHL in terms of what he brings. He will score 15 goals, 30 points, play good defense, and be a really solid third-line player. The four-year term is maybe a year too long, but you can not beat the salary cap number.
14. Brett Kulak, Edmonton Oilers (four years, $11 million). Kulak is not going to carry the Oilers’ defense, but he was very good after being acquired at the trade deadline and this is a very strong re-sign by the Oilers after he went to market. In a thin defense crop, the Oilers did well.
15. Dominik Kubalik, Detroit Red Wings (two years, $5.5 million). This is a nice gamble for the Red Wings. Kubalik has his flaws, but he does have some finishing ability as a goal scorer even if it it peaked as a rookie. The price is right for this.
16. Ilya Mikheyev, Vancouver Canucks (four years, $19 million). The Canucks always have a couple of random players in the middle of their lineup making far more than you realize for too many years. This one might continue that trend. Mikheyev does a lot of things well, but I am not sure he is going to score 20 goals again.
17. Jack Campbell, Edmonton Oilers (five years, $25 million). Just not sure how much I trust Campbell to be the answer behind a weak defensive team. That contract is concerning.
18. Josh Manson, Colorado Avalanche (four years, $18 million). Manson was a good addition for Colorado at the trade deadline, but this also seems like a luxury re-signing (and maybe even an overpay) for a team that is already loaded on defense.
19. Jan Rutta, Pittsburgh Penguins (three years, $8.25 million). The Penguins really tried to overhaul their defense this offseason and it started with the Rutta addition. He is not going to be one of their top defenders, but given what players like Erik Gudbranson and Ben Chiarot signed for this is not a bad deal for what the Penguins will expect of him.
20. Justin Schultz, Seattle Kraken (two years, $6 million). Another bizarre move for Seattle, but again, given the market for other defenders it is not a terrible deal.