Free Agents to Watch – Part I

Jeff Angus


Dan Hamhuis

There are big fish in the NHL free agent pond every summer. In 2008, the Chicago Blackhawks made Brian Campbell a $7 million man. That same year, the Rangers shelled out $39 million for Wade Redden. The Bruins gave the one-dimensional Michael Ryder $4 million per for three years. In 2009, Chicago gave Marian Hossa a career contract worth over $5 million per season. The Rangers took a major risk when they gave Marian Gaborik $7.5 million per season.


What is the point I am trying to make? With the top end free agents, it is almost impossible to get a bargain of a contract. Hossa's friendly cap hit exists only because of some fancy manoeuvring. Gaborik performed about as well as anyone could've expected in 2009-10, and I'd wager 99% of Ranger fans would give him the deal all over again if given the choice. However, $7.5 million is at best fair value for the Slovakian sniper. Additionally, the first three players I mentioned have all become incredible salary cap burdens. Campbell's cap hit is one of the reasons Chicago is going to lose a few great players this summer. Wade Redden is barely an NHL defenseman at this point, and Michael Ryder will continue to burn a hole in the wallet of Jeremy Jacobs for another year.


The real value with free agents comes from the unsung players. Mikael Samuelsson was nothing more than a depth forward on Detroit, but the Canucks believed he had more to give when they gave him $2.5 million per season last summer. He proved them correct by scoring 30 goals. Colorado decided to take a chance on the unproven Craig Anderson, and he was one of the best (and at under $2 million per season most efficient) goalies in the entire league this past season. Read on to find out about three lesser known free agents, and what may be in store for them in 2010-11.


Dan Hamhuis – Defence


Hamhuis is a great skater, he moves the puck effectively, and he has a solid shot from the point. So why have his offensive totals declined since peaking in 2005-06? Looking at the numbers below, the culprit is obvious – power play time. In Nashville, he has been stuck behind Shea Weber and Ryan Suter for the past few seasons. This past season, the emergence of Cody Franson on the power play cut his man advantage ice time to less than 30 seconds per game. Hamhuis is a terrific two-way defenseman, but he is particularly strong in the defensive zone. Because of this relative strength, he has been placed in almost a purely defensive/shutdown role by Nashville coach Barry Trotz.