Top 10 underrated free agent signings

by Tom Collins on July 7, 2014

OlliJokinen

Here are the 10 most underrated free agent signings of the past week

 

With the free agent frenzy just a week behind us, many teams in cap leagues saw their teams rise above the cap by quite a bit.

Someone who owned Dave Bolland, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland, for example, probably saw their cap get destroyed in the last seven days.

But while some of these players are overpaid and overrated, there are plenty of guys who signed for less who aren’t getting the recognition they deserve, and can help you immensely.

So here are 10 underrated UFAs who signed deals in the last week.

Keep in mind, this list focuses on guys who were signed on July 1 or later. Also, these are underrated signings, not necessarily best value, so keep that in mind before you ask where Brad Richards is.

As well, some of these free agents hit the market, but stayed with their previous team.

 

10. Ray Emery

Emery is on this list more because of his opportunity. Although Steve Mason had a comeback year last season, there’s no guarantee he can keep up his success. He’s had a few bad years previously, and his career looked all but ruined. And although he goes into the season as the Flyers’ number one goalie, how long would the team keep starting him if Mason reverts back to the goalie he was a couple of years back. Enter Emery, who at $1 million cap hit, is good enough to keep on your bench. And if Mason does falter, Emery will be the guy to pick up the slack.

 

9. Martin Havlat

The ultimate Band-Aid boy is finally relevant again in cap leagues. After earning $16 million the last three years and missing 85 games, Havlat finally has a chance to shine again in New Jersey. The best thing is he will be making just $1.5 million, so he’s definitely worth the risk. Even if he can’t be the point-per-game player he was years ago, if he can stay semi-healthy and get 40 points, he’ll be a bargain.

 

8. Evgeni Nabokov

Nabokov was smart to sign with a team right away — the market is saturated with so many backup goalies looking for work — and he definitely chose the right team and a great cap hit at $1.55 million. The Lightning’s number one man, Ben Bishop, hasn’t been able to show that he can handle playing tons of games in a season. So there’s a chance that Nabokov gets more starts this season than a backup normally would. And there’s still the possibility that Bishop is injured, leaving the door wide open for Nabokov to start a lot of games.

 

7. Shawn Thornton

A new team may be just what is needed for the career fourth-liner, and for fantasy owners looking to cash in on him signing in Florida. When he was with Boston, Thornton didn’t have to do all the fighting and hitting, as they also had guys like Milan Lucic and Zdeno Chara. But Florida doesn’t have anyone else to do those types of things. So Thornton will become the go-to fight, hit and energy guy. This should lead to an increase of his 111 hits and 74 penalty minutes, and is well worth the $1.2 million risk.

 

6. Tom Gilbert

Gilbert finds himself in a good situation in Montreal after signing a deal that will pay him $2.8 million this year and next. He scored 28 points last year on a dreadful-scoring Panthers team, but those numbers should go up this year for a number of reasons. To start, he’ll be the main quarterback of the Habs second power play unit. And if Andrei Markov gets injured, Gilbert will be good insurance to play on the top PP line.

 

5. Derek MacKenzie

MacKenzie is one of those guys that are ignored by most fantasy owners, but he helps even out a roster with huge contributions in a lot of categories. Last season, he managed 241 hits, which was 11th-best in the NHL. He also got 131:52 minutes of shorthanded ice time, and contributed three shorthanded points. He also won 256 faceoffs. So while he may not score a lot of goals, his $1.3 million cap hit is worth every penny in multicat leagues.

 

4. Mike Weaver

Weaver has a lot of value in leagues that count hits and blocks. Last season with Florida and Montreal, Weaver had 121 hits and 128 blocked shots. This year, those numbers should rise. With Josh Gorges —who is one of the top shotblockers in the league — now out of Montreal, Weaver will get plenty of opportunity to replace him, especially on the top penalty killing unit. That could mean a lot more blocked shots for the man making $1.75 million.

 

3. Jay McClement

McClement is another one of those guys who played well last year in a specific role, but ended up taking a pay cut. Last season, McClement made $1.5 million with the Leafs, and was well worth the cap hit. He won 676 faceoffs, which was good for 26th in the league. And he also spent a lot of time penalty killing, finishing with 277:22 minutes shorthanded. And yet, he signed with Carolina for just $1 million this offseason.

 

2. Olli Jokinen

Jokinen is one of those guys whose previous reputation hurts the way he is perceived. While he used to be a 90-point player in Florida, those days are far behind him. But he’s still a pretty serviceable player in deeper leagues. For fun, let’s compare three players:

Player A: 25 goals, 43 points, minus-15, 81 pims, 239 shots, 133 hits, 68 blocked shots

Player B: 18 goals, 43 points, minus-eight, 62 pims, 171 shots, 120 hits, 45 blocked shots

Player C: 18 goals, 43 points, plus-13, 36 pims, 120 shots, 73 hits, 15 blocked shots

Player A is Ryan Kesler with a $5 million cap hit, Player B is Jokinen with a $2.5 million cap hit, and Player C is Mathieu Perreault with a $3 million cap hit. Yet Jokinen gives you much of the same value at such a lower cap hit.

 

1. Marcel Goc

Goc is one of those forgotten centres in Pittsburgh, but he plays a key role there and is pretty underrated for what he brings to the table. Last season, he won 658 faceoffs, which ranks him 28th in the league among centres (and ahead of guys such as Paul Stastny, Joe Thornton and David Krejci). He was also on the ice for 167:41 minutes of penalty kill (23rd most in the league among centres). Add in his 11 goals, 14 assists and 119 hits (28th among centres), and he brings a lot of value in deeper leagues. The best part is he re-signed in Pittsburgh for $1.2 million, which is less than the $1.7 million he made last season.

 

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