We’re only 48 hours into the free-agency frontier, and the terrain is daunting. Unsure of when the next season will even begin or what revenue may look like in the future, NHL teams nonetheless sallied forth, signing free agents and making plans for whatever comes next.
What are we, the fans, to think of these deals? Worry not and think not, as I have done all the thinking for you. Here are the correct grades for all the big free-agent deals*.
Note: just the ones that I care about*
Four years, $6.25 million AAV
Murray struggled in Pittsburgh since his magical Cup runs, but he landed in the best possible location. The Ottawa Senators paid him out the nose just to help them get to the salary-cap floor. Galaxy-brain signing for Murray.
One year, $1 million
After the shifting narrative for Johnson in Pittsburgh and his subsequent buyout, one might think JJ would be done in the NHL, but no. Johnson will remain in the top tax bracket for another year, snatching seven figures from the Rangers, who hate their goalies.
Three years, $3.5 million AAV
A huge miss here for Dobby, who has turned in two good seasons in a row plus a Cup final appearance. He could have gotten Markstrom money, but he settled for “at least I don’t have to move all my stuff” money.
After a disappointing outing with Washington, one might worry that Dadko‘s prospects were dim. I was in that camp, but I was happily proven wrong. Gudas inked a deal worth $7.5 million in a state that has no income tax. Now, it’s quite possible that Gudas still has a lot of value left in him, in which case this contract won’t be quite a steal for him, but right now I love it.
Three years $3.9 million
This is a mixed bag. A Stanley Cup champion, Shattenkirk had a lot of leverage in free agency. And while he managed to earn a year-over-year raise from the Ducks, you have to think he left some money on the table. Then again, the Rangers are still paying him a ton just to not play for them, so he’s coming out just fine overall.
Schultz’s impact on the game is subtle and easy to overlook. And yet, he found a match with a team missing right-side defenders in the Washington Capitals. The Caps were desperate for exactly what Schultz does well, and Schultz will be well compensated for a job with relatively low expectations.
This one really hurts. A future hall-of-fame goalie — one of the greats of all-time — brought low to ink a one-year deal with the Caps worth not even twice the league minimum. Were Lundqvist not earning another four million and change from the Rangers’ buyout, this deal would be an F.
Holtby was mighty unlucky to hit free agency now instead of 2019. He legitimately could have earned ten times the value of this deal in the Summer of Bobrovsky instead of the pandemic-stifled, goalie-flooded autumn of 2020. Still, it’s clear he picked a team he liked (and dodged a team he did not like), and that amount of control and deliberation is worth a decent grade.
Two years, $2.25 million AAV
Eakin has a spotty history. His high-stick cost the Knights a playoff run in 2019, and his dirty run of Henrik Lundqvist got him suspended four games in 2016. When he’s on the ice he uniformly harms his team’s interests. And yet he’s gonna make $4.5 million from the Sabres over the next two years. Genius signing. Good for him.
My protégé and heir escaped from an underappreciated role with Washington to get big minutes with talented players in Colorado, showed up big in the playoffs, and now he’s gonna earn just a smidge under 10 million for the next two seasons. He better be putting a big chunk of that paycheck into his retirement, but regardless: everyone should be proud of our collective child for being honest about what he wants and demanding fair treatment.
TvR is a very useful player, even in depth role. He earned $2.3 million AAV on his previous deal. This is not enough money for him. He should of got more.
Now some people might think these grades are wrong. Some people might think that the deals I called good are actually bad deals and the bad deals are actually good. Sometimes I think the same thing. But when I notice that I am automatically adopting the perspective of management rather than the players, I go, “hmm, well, that’s a curious choice I didn’t even know I made.”
Russian Machine Never Breaks is not associated with the Washington Capitals; Monumental Sports, the NHL, or its properties. Not even a little bit.
All original content on russianmachineneverbreaks.com is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)– unless otherwise stated or superseded by another license. You are free to share, copy, and remix this content so long as it is attributed, done for noncommercial purposes, and done so under a license similar to this one.