July 1st. It’s a day where teams either begin the journey to salary cap hell by luring players from other organizations with ludicrous contracts or it’s the day when GM’s find a missing piece that they grab without giving up any assets.
Every year, we see players that never quite look comfortable in their new homes and some that fit right in.
I took a look back at this year’s free agent class and found the three free agent signing I liked the most, and three that aren’t working out at the halfway point of their first season.
PATRICK MARLEAU – 3 years x $6.25m per
I’ll be honest, I ripped this deal pretty hard when it was first signed. I felt like the Leafs paid too much term for a player who was over the hill. I was dead wrong.
The veteran Marleau has fit right in with a young Leafs core (just check their Instagrams) and he’s producing well on the ice. He’s not just riding shotgun in a skilled top six either, Marleau is keeping up and the proof is in the numbers. His 1.63 primary points/60 is second only to Auston Matthews.
Could he slow down in the next few years? Sure. But based on what I’ve seen from Marleau this year, I’m confident he can continue to make Leafs management look good for bringing him in.
ALEX RADULOV – 5 years x $5.2m per
Although it’s been a little up and down through the first half of the year, when Radulov has been on, he’s been a great addition to the Stars high-powered top six.
He already has nine multi-point games and sits fourth on the team in both goals and assists. Jim Nill paid a hefty price for the Russian forward, but I think he’s getting his money’s worth as of right now.
When Radulov has been on the ice, the Stars have been generating a ton of offense, just take a peek at some stuff at hockeyviz.com for proof. He’s been doing his job and then some so far for Dallas.
JUSTIN WILLIAMS – 2 years x $4.5m per
The Hurricanes needed were on the hunt for offense and a good veteran presence this offseason, and they got it when they inked Justin Williams.
Is he shooting the lights out? No. But he has been contributing at a decent rate, sitting sixth on the team in 5v5 points. He’s also helped on the special teams with the most primary power play points among any Canes forward with six.
He won’t do anything special, unless it’s a game seven, but Williams has provided solid value to a mainly young Carolina forward group.
It’s important to remember that I’m basing this on the first half of this season and the players I list could always bounce back at some point during the duration of their contract.
KARL ALZNER – 5 years x $4.6m per
Alzner is being paid like a high-end second pairing d-man, and I just don’t think that’s what he is. He isn’t necessarily having an awful start to his season in Montreal, but I didn’t think he was worth almost $5 million when they signed him, and he’s done nothing to change my opinion on that.
He does face the second toughest competition amongst Habs d-men, but his goals for is close to 40% at even strength, and that’s not good. There have been a lot of factors going against Alzner, but the bottom line is he lacks foot speed and simply isn’t a good enough shut down d-man to make that kind of money.
At that cap hit, I expected more from Alzner, and I’m sure the Habs are as well given that they have him locked up for another four years.
NICK BONINO – 4 years x $4.1m
Bonino was a third line center on a Penguins team that won the Stanley Cup, so naturally, he was a little over-hyped, but I think the Preds really jumped the gun giving him that much term and money.
His 1.2 points/60 is 9th among Predators forwards, he bleeds chances at 5v5 and his 33 GF% shows that he is far from a strong defensive forward at even strength. The team also barely uses him on either side of the special team’s coin, and for a player making over $4m, he should be able to contribute when it comes to that.
With the likes of Turris and Johansen ahead of him and Calle Jarnkrok behind him, I’m sure the Preds are wishing they would have found a more cost-effective option at 3C.
MARTIN HANZAL – 3 years x $4.6m
The Stars made a good signing with Radulov as I pointed out above, and I know they were trying to load up for this season, but Hanzal was an unnecessary signing. They had a solid duo of top-six centers with Seguin and Spezza plus a good group of bottom six forwards including another centerman in Radek Faksa.
He’s been banged up a little to start the year, which is no doubt a factor, but even when he’s in the lineup, he hasn’t been doing much. He’s one of their worst forwards when it comes to producing 5v5 offense, defensively he’s nothing special and as of right now. They use him a little on the powerplay, but he’s not really a regular and he doesn’t produce enough to deserve any more time.
It’s only a three-year deal and the cap hit isn’t horrendous because I do think he can bounce back to some extent. But it hasn’t been a pretty start for Hanzal.
(cover photo via Toronto Sun)