The opening days of the NHL’s annual free-agent market are usually the busiest of the offseason as general managers jockey to sign the best available talent. This year was no different, as CapFriendly reported a single-day record in total contract value of $919 million.
Johnny Gaudreau’s seven-year, $68.25 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets was the biggest signing in this summer’s unrestricted free-agent market. Other notables included the New York Rangers inking Vincent Trocheck to a seven-year, $39.4 million deal and the Washington Capitals signing goaltender Darcy Kuemper to a five-year, $26.3 million contract.
Most of this summer’s signings were reasonable given the salary-cap constraints that many teams felt after the cap only rose by $1 million to $82.5 million. Some of those moves, such as Gaudreau’s, are expensive but worthwhile given the value they bring to their new teams as players within their prime.
Some pacts, however, could turn out regrettable. Either the contract term is too long or the player is far overpaid. Here’s our ranking of the five worst free-agency signings this offseason. We’ve excluded players who re-signed with their clubs before the free-agent market opened this July.
Do you think there is a player on this list who shouldn’t be there? Are there any you believe belong here? Let us know in the comments section.
5. Vincent Trocheck, New York Rangers
Having lost Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp to free agency, the New York Rangers had to find a suitable second-line center. They turned to Vincent Trocheck, signing the 29-year-old former Carolina Hurricane to a seven-year contract for an average annual value of $5.6 million.
The cap hit is reasonable given Trocheck was earning $4.75 million on his previous six-year contract with the Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. It’s good value for a forward who has reached or exceeded 21 goals and 51 points four times in his nine-season NHL career, including a career-best 31 goals and 75 points in 2017-18 with the Panthers.
It’s the length of the contract that’s a concern. Giving him seven years enabled the Rangers to keep the annual cap hit below $6 million. However, Trocheck will be in his 30s throughout most of it and approaching 36 when it expires in 2028-29. That’s a period when a scorer’s production slides.
The Rangers should get solid value from Trocheck through the first three or four years of this deal, especially if he plays alongside a star such as Artemi Panarin. Nevertheless, he could become a salary-cap burden by the midpoint of his contract. His full no-movement clause in the first three years and modified no-trade over the final four could also make him difficult to move.
4. Nick Leddy, St. Louis Blues
The St. Louis Blues acquired Nick Leddy at the March trade deadline from the Detroit Red Wings. On July 13, they signed the 31-year-old defenseman to a four-year, $16 million contract, which carries a full no-trade clause in the first three seasons.
A smooth-skating blueliner in his prime with seven 31-plus-point campaigns in his 12 NHL seasons, Leddy managed just 16 points in 55 games with the Wings last season. He rebounded somewhat with the Blues, collecting eight points in 20 games and five in nine playoff contests.