Capped: Money Well Spent

by Chris Pudsey on May 7, 2015 | (0 Comments)
  • Capped
  • Capped: Money Well Spent

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Free Agency can bring good value to the general managers that look for it, including names like Stralman and Vrbata. 

Every year, July 1st is the opening day of Christmas shopping for NHL GM’s. This is the day free agency opens, and so does the wallets of team owners everywhere. Some buys are bargains and some turn out to be busts. Some even turn out to be a good purchase for both the players and the teams. 

In last weeks Capped, we took a look at last year’s free agent busts. This week, we are going to review the free agent deals that actually worked out for the teams involved.  In no particular order:

Devan Dubnyk – MIN - One year, $800K

player

GP

Win

L

OTL

SO

GA

SHA

GAA

SV%

DUBNYK, DEVAN

58

36

14

4

6

115

1625

2.07

0.9292

I will bet you three Connor McDavids when Arizona Coyotes GM, Don Maloney, signed Dubnyk to a one year deal last year, he had no idea he was signing a Vezina Trophy finalist. I am fairly sure no one saw that one coming at the time.

After stealing the starting job in Arizona from the incumbent, Mike Smith, Dubnyk was shipped off to Minnesota for a third round pick in the upcoming 2015 NHL draft.  Minnesota was struggling to keep their playoff heads above water and Dubnyk came in and calmed the ship. He was easily the team’s MVP this year even though he only appeared in 39 of the Wild’s games, and you can bet he won’t be a bargain this off-season when he becomes an UFA again.

Not that this should be a surprise but the numbers above are all career highs for Dubnyk.  Looking at all goalies with at least 30 starts, his 36 wins were sixth-best in the league (even though he started fewer games than the five in front of him), his GAA was second only to Carey Price and his SV% was second in the league to once again, you guessed it, Carey Price

That’s one heck of a return in the $800K investment. 

Radim Vrbata – VAN – Two years, $10M 

player

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

VRBATA, RADIM

79

31

32

63

0.80

6

20

267

44

12

23

0

25

02:55

60.0

1.5

16:37

27.4

Vrbata was probably Vancouver best off-season move last summer. He led their team in goals and had career high 63 points this year. He was also voted the Canucks MVP. He was key in returning the Canucks stagnant power play back to relevance, and helping Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin bounce back after a few years of decline.

This past season, the NHL only had 15 skaters score 30 or more goals. Of those 30, only four of those skaters, Vladimir Tarasenko, Max Pacioretty, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler made less money than Vrbata and two of them were on ELC’s (Tarasenko and Monahan). That’s excellent value for the Canucks and a very smart signing.

One has to wonder why there are rumours about Vrbata being dealt this off-season. Stay tuned to that one.

Anton Stralman – TB – Five years, $22.5M

player

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

STRALMAN, ANTON

82

9

30

39

0.48

22

26

138

104

2

14

0

77

02:29

43.7

48.8

21:57

36.2

I won’t lie, when the Bolts signed Stralman to the five-year deal at an annual rate of $4.5M, I raised my eyebrows and thought, “Really?  How much??” To say Stralman has been worth that much and more is an understatement. 

When defensemen Victor Hedman and Matt Carle went down early in the season with injuries, it was Stralman who stepped up and calmed the storm. It was the opportunity he had been waiting for; to be a top pairing NHL defenseman and boy, did he come through in spades. He hasn’t looked back since, sticking on that top pair with Hedman for the remainder of the season.

He has quietly put up career high numbers this year in goals, assists and total points. 

Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper had this to say recently about Stralman:

"He's just an outstanding defenseman and he's got the skill set that can really complement any style of play," Cooper said. "He's shown the ability to be a penalty-killer, but he's also a very smart offensive player and very valuable on the power play. And he just plays, 20 minutes every night (21:56), and plays every shift hard."

Sounds to me like the Lightning are quite happy with their free agent signing.  

It should be noted, in my salary cap fantasy league that I regularly refer to here in my Capped column, the UHL, Stralman was dropped last year after he signed his new contract. He was on the waiver wire all season long waiting to be signed. Stralman is no longer a free agent. I picked him up myself, hoping for more of the above next year and beyond from him. At only 28 years old, I don’t think I will be disappointed either.

Benoit Pouliot – EDM – Five years, $20M

player

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

POULIOT, BENOIT

58

19

15

34

0.59

-1

28

105

71

4

7

1

31

02:02

41.5

26.5

16:37

27.3

Another eyebrow raiser in July of last year was the contract that former Oilers GM, Craig MacTavish dished out to Pouliot. The cap hit of $4M wasn’t a big surprise but the five-year term was a surprise. After signing five consecutive one-year deals, he goes and signs one, five-year deal.  

At the time, he was exactly what the Oilers needed; a big, skilled winger who plays with an edge. He also brought something the Oilers lacked up front; experience. 

At the start of the year, Pouliot played up and down the line up for the Oilers but with a serious injury to star winger, Taylor Hall, a door opened on the top line. Pouliot was placed on the left side with young stars, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle, and things started clicking for all three players. Pouliot had a career year as far as goals go, and was only two points off his career high for total points in a season, even though he only played in 58 games this year due to various injuries. Add that Nugent-Hopkins took a big step forward this past year as well. 

Nugent-Hopkins had this to say about playing with Pouliot:

“Benny is a pretty easy guy to play with.  He creates a lot of energy out there and he’s a guy you can trust to get in first on the forecheck every time.  He wins a ton of battles out there, but at the same time, if you get him the puck in the right spot he’s going to put it in.”

After years of playing in the post-season with other teams, I am sure this past year was difficult for Pouliot, knowing the post-season was not going to happen.  That being said, Pouliot knows he’s in Edmonton for four more years and things are starting to look up in Oil Country. With new management and a future generation talent on the way, one has to think it won’t be long before Pouliot gets to taste the post season again. He’s going to grow with these young kids and be a key leader for this team going forward.

A few who deserve an honourable mention; Michael Del Zotto, Jonas Hiller, Derick Brassard, and David Savard. All were solid value after signing new contracts last summer.

****

Thanks again for reading.  Feel free to leave a comment and you can follow me on twitter @chrispudsey.

More Capped:

Last Year's Disappointments

Proactive Roster Management

Derek Dorsett Cashes In

 

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