Capped: The highs and lows of Free Agent Frenzy
Am I the only one that feels like summer should just be starting? Usually for me, free agency signals the real beginning of summer, so it has been tough to shake that off recently. Anyway, welcome back to another Capped article where I'm going to recap most of the noteworthy signings since July 1st October 9th. I'm going to be giving my thoughts in a bit of a new format, running down the top/bottom three contracts for a bunch of different
If you want to dive in deeper, then please check out my salary projection lists, or you can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean where I have been putting out some quick thoughts on every signing as they happen.
Contracts most likely to be bought out:
Joel Edmundson (D) – Montreal Canadiens
Projected Cap Hit: $3,250,000
New Cap Hit: $6,250,000
Currently Edmundson is at best the Habs' seventh best defenceman, however he is tied for their third-highest paid. If Montreal realizes their mistake early and buys him out next summer, they will be on the hook for six years, but only one of those years would count higher than $2 million against their cap. Every year longer that they hold on to Edmundson the buyout becomes less painful on the books. It's just a matter of time until the play on the ice causes the Montreal brass to swallow their pride and buy this contract out.
Matt Murray (G) – Ottawa Senators
Projected Cap Hit: $3,
New Cap Hit: $6,250,000
With the overabundance of goaltenders around the league right now, and a large concentration of the stars still being on the younger side, overpaying for an average goalie makes little sense. For a team like the Senators that are cash strapped, they won't want to pay Murray's bigger (and heavily back-loaded) contract when instead they could just buy him out and play some of their youngsters. Their prospect cubboard is stocked with goalies, some of whom are just about ready for a chance to prove themselves full time in the NHL. Two years from now it is going to be an absolute logjam, and no team will want to take on Murray's backloaded and overpriced contract. Additionally, because the contract is so back-heavy, the buyout costs are quite reasonable.
FAs still to sign that will come at a bargain price:
Derek Brassard (C/W)
Projected Cap Hit: $1,827,824
Brassard isn't exactly a highly regarded name anymore, however the 33-year-old still has gas left in the tank, which he put on full display to begin last season. He had 13 points in his first 18 games, while seeing 15 minutes a night including some power-play time. However, as the season wore on his minutes were cut, and the numbers dried up accordingly. At this point in free-agency it seems unlikely that he will even net his projected salary above, and that would be a great discount cost for a player that can still put up two points in every three games in the right situation.
Andreas Athanasiou (RW)
Projected Cap Hit: $1,942,294
Athanasiou's projected cap hit has gone down as a result of him not receiving a QO, and the surprising revelation also seems to have closed the door on his time in Edmonton. Though he didn't seem to mesh well, the upside of playing with the unique talents in Edmonton is enticing to fantasy GMs. However, Athanasiou may actually be better served as a depth piece on a more balanced offence, and he now has the opportunity to seek out a situation that will allow him to rebuild his value. Expect a small one-year deal for a third line, second powerplay role.
Ryan Miller (G)
Projected Cap Hit: $700,000
It sounds like Ryan Miller still wants to play, and who can blame him after putting up better stats than John Gibson in Anaheim last year. As a cheap backup goalie, he makes a lot of sense for a few teams, and could be an excellent filler in leagues where goalies are scarce and/or overvalued. Don't expect a lot of volume out of him, but some decent rate stats are always nice to find for cheap.
Best cheap contracts to use as fillers in your cap league:
Bobby Ryan (RW) – Detroit Red Wings
Projected Cap Hit: $1,099,754
New Cap Hit: $1,000,000
I touched on Bobby Ryan in a recent article, outlining that he has the upside to be one of the better signings in free agency this year, as a result of his reduced cost. Well he costs almost the same as that rookie on your farm team that will see six games all season. Meanwhile, Ryan should be a staple on the Detroit powerplay, in addition to seeing some softer minutes on the second line. It's a matter when, not if, that he hits the 50-point mark again.
Henrik Lundqvist (G) – Washington Capitals
Projected Cap Hit: $7,250,000
New Cap Hit: $1,500,000
The Capitals finally said "Well if we can't beat him, he should join us" (probably). "The King" moves on to the second NHL team of his career, and it couldn't be a better fit. Incumbent Ilya Samsonov has not ever played more than 41 games in a season, so Lundqvist should see a decent workload, and may even get the larger share of the available games. He is joining a team that still has Stanley Cup aspirations, and they know time is tight. It will be a nice change from the teams that Lundqvist had to put on his back of late. If anything, he will be the one carried by a Capitals team that is loading up once again.
Vinnie Hinostroza (RW) – Florida Panthers
Projected Cap Hit: $1,981,709
New Cap Hit: $1,000,000
Hinostroza steps into an amazing situation joining a team that lost multiple top line wingers, and currently has a lack of depth on the right side. Hinostroza was misused in Arizona, causing his numbers to sag last season. He lost ice time, powerplay time, didn't start much in the offensive zone, and was a victim of bad puck luck on top of it all. Correcting for any one of those factors and he easily rebound back up to the 40 point paces he has been putting up the last few years. Correcting for all four of them and adding some more skilled line mates means Hinostroza is all lined up for a career year on an absolute steal of a contract.
My favourite signing:
Craig Smith (RW) – Boston Bruins
Projected Cap Hit: $3,501,009
New Cap Hit: $3,100,000
There are three parts to this signing that make me happy as a Craig Smith owner. First, he is out of Nashville where they underused him (he is one of the most effective forwards in the league over the last few years despite limited minutes). Second, he is joining the Bruins who are in need of scoring from their second line (with Jake DeBrusk on the other wing primed for a breakout). Third, injuries to David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand means than Smith may actually start the year on the top line, and with first powerplay minutes. His career high is 52 points, and in a full season I think he could smash that ceiling.
Worst value contracts:
Alex Pietrangelo (D) – Vegas Golden Knights
Projected Cap Hit: $8,647,661
New Cap Hit: $8,800,000
I'm sure the Vegas Golden Knights will get a lot of value out of Alex Pietrangelo, however for fantasy owners he will be a bit of a disappointment. Replacing Nate Schmidt, and competing with Shea Theodore for offensive minutes, Pietrangelo is going to find it tougher to shine offensively than he did in his last few seasons in St. Louis. It would surprise me to see a 50-point pace, as his power-play time will likely be cut, and his offensive zone starts reeled in.
Cam Talbot (G) – Minnesota Wild
Projected Cap Hit: $2,813,574
New Cap Hit: $3,666,667
Matt Murray was covered already, and the next goalie is either Cam Talbot or Mike Smith. We're going to pick on Talbot here because he will be paid more, have higher expectations on him, and doesn't play for a team with a Hart Trophy winner. Talbot put up reasonable numbers behind a solid Calgary defence last season, but unfortunately Talbot is a notoriously slow starter. In the first quarter the last two seasons, Talbot has a save percentage of .890%, and a quality start percentage below 40. In a shortened season that won't go over well. Minnesota turned to Alex Stalock down the stretch last season, and it would surprise no one to see them do the same in the 2020-2021 season.
Nikita Zadorov (D) – Chicago Blackhawks
Projected Cap Hit: $2,879,769
New Cap Hit: $3,200,000
If someone can explain what the Chicago Blackhawks are doing, please explain it to them so that they can stop doing it. They have made a number of questionable moves in the last number of months, and the Zadorov deal encapsulates it well. Zadorov will take a roster spot away from the young talent in the Blackhawks system, will struggle defensively, can't put up big offensive numbers, and is paid more than he should be (especially on a team apparently facing a cap crunch). Stay away from him in fantasy unless the primary scoring in your league is from hits.
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