Rating Top Free Agent Acquisitions
Let’s be honest. Big-name signings tend to only be one of two things: A steal or an overpay, because in the world of NHL fans, they either love you or they don’t. With that in mind, we grade the top NHL free Agency deals as either a “boom” (great) or “bust” (terrible) while considering their implications on the NHL odds.
Johnny Gaudreau | LW, Columbus Blue Jackets
- The Terms: Seven years, $68.25 million ($9.75 million AAV)
Nobody thought Johnny Gaudreau would end up in Columbus. Not only is this the most confounding deal of NHL free agency, but it’s probably the best. He isn’t called “Johnny Hockey” for no reason. Gaudreau will score anywhere from 75 to 105 points and will be muchos entertaining. Columbus will win games and sell more tickets. How can this not be a win?
Claude Giroux | C, Ottawa Senators
- The Terms: Three years, $19.5 million ($6.5 million AAV)
Had it not been for Gaudreau signing for “cheap” in Columbus, the Giroux-to-Senators deal would have rocked the headlines harder. Here you have a fringe Hall of Famer who will likely hit the 1,000-point mark in the next two years. Giroux can score, is a veteran and a leader, and could be that missing piece that pushes Ottawa back to contention.
Darcy Kuemper | G, Washington Capitals
- The Terms: Five years, $26.25 million ($5.25 million AAV)
Darcy Kuemper is a solid goaltender, the Capitals are a contender and the price is decent. So what is not to love? The fit. Kuemper was insulated in Colorado as the Stanley Cup champs dominated the puck every night. But with Washington, Kuemper will be tasked at doing more and he may not meet those expectations. Bet online against him and Washington.
Andrew Copp | C, Detroit Red Wings
- The Terms: Five years, $28.1 million ($5.625 million AAV)
If you’re playing NHL fantasy, circle Copp’s name as he could be one of the breakout stars of 2023. The 28-year-old started breaking out last season as he put up 18 points in 16 games with the New York Rangers. His improving offense is just the tip of the iceberg as he can do a lot of other things: play special teams and grind.
Vincent Trocheck | C, New York Rangers
- The Terms: Seven years, $39.4 million ($5.625 million AAV)
Now this is a tough deal to rate. If you hang us over a cliff, we’d say Trocheck is a better player than Copp. And yet we’re saying this deal busts even if Trocheck is getting the same amount of money as Copp. The extra two years is a big “oof” and Trocheck will face a different kind of pressure playing in New York City.
Jack Campbell | G, Edmonton Oilers
- The Terms Five years, $25 million ($5 million AAV)
Edmonton is a goalie graveyard and Campbell will be the next decent netminder to get hung out to dry. The Oilers are not a good defensive team. Even with Jay Woodcroft running the show, Edmonton has struggled here. Campbell is also not the most consistent goalie. It could be Mike Smith v2.0 for the franchise — and for more than twice what they paid him.
Ondrej Palat | LW, New Jersey Devils
- The Terms: Five years, $30 million ($6 million AAV)
If we loved the Copp deal, it only makes sense for us to love the Palat signing. The two-time Stanley Cup champion brings plenty to New Jersey. He can play on either wing and brings plenty of big-game experience to an up-and-coming team.
Erik Gudbranson | D, Columbus Blue Jackets
- The Terms: Four years, $16 million ($4 million AAV)
While Gaudreau was signing for less money in Columbus, Gudbranson was raking in a payday from the same franchise. The Blue Jackets have plenty of skilled snipers on the team so they paid a premium to add muscle with Gudbranson. A lot of his value is in intangibles, because he may just end up being the worst dollar-per-productivity signing so far.
Ben Chiarot | D, Detroit Red Wings
- The Terms: Four years, $19 million ($4.75 million AAV)
The only worse signing other than Gudbranson is Chiarot. General managers love him despite analytics saying otherwise. We won’t poo-poo on a blue-collared guy like Chiarot getting himself paid. Just don’t expect him to move the needle for Detroit at the online sportsbook or on the ice.