As of July 3rd, this my analysis of what I see as the best and worst free agent signings.
I'd chastise the signings of Brad Richards and Andy Greene, but everyone was expecting massive contracts, so it'd be redundant.
Top Ten Signings
1. Varlamov & Giguere (Avalanche) - This cost the Avs a lot, but they have a strong starting keeper, and a solid veteran backup in Giggy who can mentor the young Russian. If they start scoring goals, they could challenge for a playoff spot as soon as next season.
2. Tomas Vokoun (Capitals) - Hard worker and gets much more shutouts than people realize, he's a starter with a fair bit of juice left in him. Add all that and nabbing him for less than $2 million, and the Caps walk away with one of the best steals of the year.
3. Ian White (Red Wings) - A lot of people think White needs work, and he does. Ever since I first saw him, I thought 'man, he'd do so well in the Red Wings system'. Now that he's in the Wings system, he'll improve dramatically. His contract will pay off soon. Great signing, perfect fit.
4. Michael Ryder (Stars) - The Stars have long needed grit and energy in the lineup, without attitude. Since Rob DiMaio left, they've been hard pressed to find it. Although it comes at a fairly large cost, they've secured it for a couple years. Time will tell how much it helps.
5. Sami Salo (Canucks) - Minus his unfortunate testicular injury, Sami is a strong ox . He doesn't have a lot of playing left in him but he has at least one or two seasons. Keeping him for $2 million is a steal for what they'll get back. Salo easily could have demanded a contract four times that size, but he didn't and the Nucks keep a key piece of their team.
6. Steve Sullivan (Penguins) - Sully has always been a Denis Savard-esque player. Really scrappy, fast and moves around the rink like a waterbug. When Crosby and Malkin are back in full swing, he'll add a jolt of energy and speed to the offense that could take it to a new level.
7. Matt D'Agostini (Blues) - After the Blues shipped out Erik Johnson and Jay McClement and other future stars in what can only be described as a self-destructive period, the Blues show they want to hold on to some talent in D'Agostini. I am still surprised they did this, pleasantly surprised for Blues fans.
8. Ed Jovanovski (Panthers) - Massive contract, but it will put bums in seats, something the Panthers can't seem to do. He's the last star of the Panthers' Stanley Cup finalist team, and with the clever marketing of the return of Jovocop, they could revive interest in the team in Miami.
9. Joel Ward (Capitals) - If his contract wasn't so large, this would be near the top of the list. The Capitals have a strong long-term future on the blueline. Ward will need a couple more seasons to fully blossom, but he'll be an elite defender soon enough.
10. Josh Harding, Jed Ortmeyer (Wild) - Nothing spectacular, but they inked two solid players at key positions for cheap. That's always a good thing.
Ten WORST Signings
1. Jaromir Jagr (Flyers) - I don't understand this. You dump your best players and your future security for cap space, and then sign Jagr for $3.3 million? Sure, he'll get 20ish goals, but he only plays for himself. I figured the Pens or Capitals would sign him for the nostalgic novelty for a few quid and a haircut. I'm still baffled.
2. Roman Hamrlik (Capitals) - $7 million for this over-rated geezer? He's never lived up to the hype and promise, and he's been a cheapshot douchebag the whole time. A big aging body makes for a big pylon and a lot of stupid penalties when guys blow right by him.
3. Jose Theodore (Panthers) - They led Vokoun slide, and he stood on his head for the Panthers. Theodore is a guy who has no gas left in the tank and hasn't put forward a 100% effort since leaving Montreal. Even if they signed him for $1, he'd still be on this list as the likelihood that he'll be their starting keeper almost guarantees their dwelling in the basement will continue.
4. Ville Leino (Sabres) - Pretty good player, massively unnecessary contract. Even if he continues to perform at the level expected, this large chunk of cash will haunt the Sabres when it comes to future signings.
5. Tim Connolly (Maple Leafs) - As a Sabres sympathizer, I love Tim. Let me rephrase, I LOOOOOVE Tim in a way that it's embarassing. But ask any Sabres fan and they can tell you, as much as they love him, they know how injury prone he is. His health been something that he's never been able to conquer. So why do I put this signing so high on the list? Honestly, over the next two years, the Leafs will not get $9.5 million worth out of him, and will be lucky if they get 130 games out of him over that time. If you have money to burn, why not put it into something where you can get a modest return?
6. Erik Cole (Canadiens) - The Habs aren't overly smart. Cole is a strong forward, and he brings a lot to the table. However, as history has shown, the Habs seldom get good production out of major millions contract players (See - Scott Gomez etc.) I can't really see him working in the Canadiens system, but I could be proven wrong.
7. Sheldon Souray (Stars) - Some people have applauded the Stars for this signing, but I say the Stars struck out. Strike 1) He's a shadow of what he's been and can't seem to find his way back to NHL quality game. Strike 2) The Stars have previously attempted the big shot-slow skating D-men before, and it has failed miserably (See - Chris Therien, John Erskine, Jeff Macmillan need I go on?) Strike 3) Even though a short-term, moderately sized contract keeps them off the hook in case Souray flops, the Stars have SO MANY needs elsewhere, that $1.6 million seems like $16 million that didn't go towards signing future stock.
8. Ponikarovsky, Tlusty, Brent (Hurricanes) - For some reason, players who leave the Leafs are never the same as when they first came in. I like to refer to former Leafs players as 'damaged goods'. The Canes signed three units of damaged goods, and although they are short-term contracts, there's still a lot of them, and I predict that will drag the team down.
9. Ben Walter (Flames) - This is Ryan Walter's son. He is barely 20% of the player his dad was, and unless you're a Habs or Caps fan, you won't even remember Ryan. What does that mean for the Flames? Ben will be a second liner in Abbotsford, at best and will be lucky to see 10 games with the big club. There is an alternate reason for putting Walter on this list, namely because this will be the only time I'll jump on a team for NOT signing players. The Flames needed depth, and got a lot. More importantly, they need scoring and defending. They need to give Iggy something to work with and relief off Kipper's shoulders. With such desperate need, they failed to get anyone of substance.
10. Randy Jones (Jets) - Normally a 1 year contract for a million isn't worth mentioning unless it's a steal. However, this is one million too much for Randy. In some instances, short term signings of depth players are made just to put a body on the ice, but Jones is not a productive body in the least. He's more of a pylon than Alexander Godynyuk and twice as slow.