Jiri Hudler found out that if you're going to have the best goal-scoring season of your career, it's best to do it when you're about to become an unrestricted free agent with few other top scorers available.
Somebody will be waiting to give you a big, fat pay check.
As it turns out, that somebody was Calgary Flames general manager Jay Feaster.
Coming off a career-high 25 goals with the Detroit Red Wings this past season, Hudler agreed to terms on a four-year, $16 million contract with the Flames on Monday.
“Jiri Hudler is a highly skilled and dynamic offensive player,” Feaster said. “He is one of the very best goal scorers in the NHL at even strength, and he puts a very high percentage of his shots on net, generating scoring chances for himself and rebound opportunities for his teammates. He fits our need to upgrade and improve our skill and we are very pleased to have him on board.”
The issue now becomes whether Hudler will be able to come close to duplicating what he did this past season. Given that his shooting percentage climbed close to 20 percent (an unsustainable level for just about every player in the league) and was well above his career average, there's every reason to believe that number takes a drop this season. You also have to consider that he's going to be playing with weaker linemates.
Keep in mind that during his time with Detroit this past season Hudler spent most of his 5-on-5 ice-time playing on a line with Valtteri Filppula and Henrik Zetterberg. He's probably not going to see that sort of talent around him in Calgary. He doesn't create much on his own offensively, doesn't kill penalties and saw some time on Detroit's second power play unit, making the $4 million per year cap hit seem a bit on the steep side.
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And regarding Feaster's comment on being one of the very best goal-scorers in the NHL at even strength: during his NHL career he's ranked 24th (this past season), 261st, 61st, 158th, and 143rd in terms of even-strength goals in each season. He finished well this past season, but again the issue comes down to how capable he is of duplicating that success.
Calgary hasn't been afraid to spend money over the past week, re-signing Cory Sarich, Blair Jones and Lee Stempniak, while also acquiring defenseman Dennis Wideman and locking him up to a five-year contract worth $5.25 million per season.
Hudler was drafted by Detroit in the second round (No. 58 overall) of the 2002 draft. In 409 career regular games, he has scored 87 goals to go with 127 assists, all of which have come as a member of the Red Wings.
He spent the 2009-10 season playing in the KHL for Dynamo Moscow, recording 54 points in 54 games, before returning to the Red Wings two years ago.
The Flames now have over $65 million in cap space committed to 22 players for the 2012-13 season, via CapGeek.
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