Ramblings: NHL RTP; play-ins; prior free agent signings – July 1

Michael Clifford


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Yesterday's Ramblings finished up my preview of each play-in series. Contained in those Ramblings is the link to each series. It might be a good idea to bookmark just in case you need a refresher again. We're all assuming the NHL starts by the end of the month but as we've seen these last dozen weeks or so, there's not much point in holding on to your plans.


Eric Engels from Sportsnet talked with a lot of NHL players and it seemed like players are not really excited about returning to play during a pandemic, though it is expected they'll still vote to return.


In a normal year, this would be one of Dobber Hockey's busiest days of the season. Today being Canada Day, it's also usually free agency day. In my previous five Free Agent Frenzy periods, it's been more or less the same: editors on standby/working all day, dozens of article written, thousands of readers on the pages, and then when things die down after supper, the beer flows like a keg without a stopper. Things aren't going to exactly play out like that.

I'll admit a couple things here. For one, it's nice to have a full Canada Day off (or most of it anyway) for the first time in years. Now, it's at a time when I won't really be able to do anything anyway, but I guess just being able to sit out on my deck (fingers crossed for nice weather) with a boozy marg in the early afternoon is one of those little life delights I'm looking forward to.

At the same time, I do miss the typical hustle of today. This has, quite obviously, been a very slow four months for NHL and hockey in general. I was getting nostalgic for NHL DFS a couple days ago when I was deleting alarms out of my phone, and found one labeled "RANGERS GOALIE," set for 9:40 PM. That was from their last game of the season, in Colorado, hence the late time. The Rangers lost 3-2 in overtime thanks to a J.T. Compher winner. I miss setting one or two alarms every night to make sure my DFS goalies are starting. (And even then, I'm very bad for leaving non-starting goalies in lineups.)

Beyond that, it's just the conversations with readers and writers that is sparked on a day like today. "They signed WHO?" "Did you say a SIX-YEAR contract?" "Wait, sixty as in 6-0 and not sixteen as in 1-6?" I definitely miss watching hockey, but I think I miss talking about hockey almost as much. It's part of the reason why we watch pro sports, right? It's not to just get our heart torn out every 20 years when the bad teams we follow luck their way into a deep playoff run, it's the conversations with friends, family, and co-workers about these sports. The trades, the signings, the highlight goals. All those are things that continually happen in normal times, and so it continually replenishes our well of sports conversation. That well ran dry months ago.

All we can do now is hope that things stabilize to the point where the playoffs can go on safely.


While I'm here taking a trip down memory lane, let's go through some of my favourite Free Agent Frenzy signings since I came aboard here at Dobber back in 2015. (It's not like we have actual signings to parse.) I'm going to leave them to signings that worked out; let's be positive today. Stats from Natural Stat Trick and cap info from CapFriendly. I'll exclude the monster MVP-calibre signings like Tavares and Panarin.


Thomas Greiss (2015) – two years, $1.5M per season

At the time he was signed, he did not have much of a track record, but he had been average or better for basically his entire career as a back up (69 starts spread over six seasons). He had seemingly earned a bigger role and he's been largely great in his five seasons with the Islanders, really only faltering in 2017-18.


P.A. Parenteau (2015) – one year, $1.5M

Montreal bought out Parenteau in 2015 and the Leafs signed him to a one-year contract for the 2015-16 season. That following year for Toronto, he scored 20 goals in a tank season. He was also a much better two-way player than he got credit for. He's out of the NHL now, but I'll always be upset, as a Habs fan, that they gave up on him. It's been a long time since they've had meaningful forward depth.


David Perron (2016) – two years, $3.5M per season

The 2016 NHL free agency period was a bloodbath for a lot of teams. We had monster contracts for guys like Loui Eriksson, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Troy Brouwer, and on the list goes. That's what makes David Perron's two-year deal at $3.5M per so incredible in retrospect. Perron would eventually land in Vegas before heading back to St. Louis and winning the Stanley Cup. He's also averaged 64 points/82 games in the last four years. Some of the other guys who signed for way more aren't even in the NHL anymore.


Eric Staal (2016) – three years, $3.5M per season

I never thought the Staal contract would work out as well as it did, but one of my longest-held beliefs about the NHL, and sports in general, is that good players on bad teams will always look considerably worse than they really are (see: Toffoli, Tyler). Staal was coming off some bad Carolina teams but exploded for 70 goals in his first two years with the Wild. I wrote about his future HOF candidacy not long ago.


Jonathan Marchessault (2016) – two years, $750K per season

We don't need to get into what happened here, do we?


Thomas Vanek (2016) – one year, $2.6M

Nobody will ever mistake Thomas Vanek for a defensive stalwart. I do think, however, that we can forget just how good he was offensively. For his career, from 2007-2019, he managed 2.21 points/60 minutes. That was tied for 19th among 341 forwards in that span who had 5000+ minutes at 5-on-5. It's higher than names like Taylor Hall, Nathan MacKinnon, Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Getzlaf, John Tavares, and Tyler Seguin. He was a supreme offensive talent, once upon a time.


Alex Radulov (2017) – five years, $6.25M per season

Another guy the Habs gave up on because they didn't want to sign him/are too cheap. Again, we should mention how much the Habs have struggled for good winger depth over the years. They had a true top-line winger in their franchise (aside from Brendan Gallagher) and let him walk. He put up back-to-back 72-point seasons before faltering in 2019-20 (as the rest of the team did). This signing will work out just fine.


James van Riemsdyk (2018) – five years, $7M per season

It may not seem like a banger of a deal, but I do like what it represents: signing players to less term for more money. As a GM, I would rather have a guy for his 29-33 seasons for an extra million per season or whatever than 29-35 for a million less. It signalled to me that general managers across the league were going to give less term to UFAs and more to RFAs, which is how things should be done.


David Perron (2018) – four years, $4M per season

Just wanted to mention Perron twice. That's all.


Jaroslav Halak (2018) – two years, $2.75M per

It's my opinion that Halak, Tomas Vokoun, and the next goalie I will discuss are among the three most underrated goalies of the century. Halak, for example, has a similar career GSAA in similar minutes to Sergei Bobrovsky. Halak is a back-up (or a 1B), while Bob has a $70M contract and two Vezinas.


Robin Lehner (2019) – one year, $5M

Speaking of good players on bad teams, Robin Lehner. He was the back-up in Ottawa when they were at least playoff-calibre, and then got to Buffalo for the Dark Years. He had a great year with the Islanders, and another one sharing time between Chicago and Vegas.


Tyler Ennis (2019) – one year, $800k

Ennis was one of the lone bright spots in those brutal Buffalo seasons years ago, but he had some tough injury luck later on and found himself bouncing around the league. He eventually landed in Ottawa, posting 33 points in 61 games for the lottery team before being shipped to Edmonton. I was just really happy to see Ennis back at his best and creating offence again.


Those are some of my favourite signings from the last five years. What are yours? Let us know in the Facebook comments.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians.


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