It's lower-bucket season in the NHL's free-agent market, the traditional time of year when GMs ask the question: "How much will I have to overpay Anson Carter/Jeff Friesen/Janne Niinimaa to make the salary cap floor?"
At this point, though, it isn't likely too many teams will be foolish enough to throw a ton of money or term at the guys who still are desirous -- remember that old "Three's Company" joke? No? God, I'm aging -- of officially contracted employment. So it's a good time to look back over the last month and rate, in reverse order, the top five worst silly-season signings.
5. Sheldon Souray to the Edmonton Oilers for five years and $27 million
After everything Oilers fans have had to deal with the last year or so, I'm not entirely comfortable piling on when they finally do land an upper-tier free agent. As well, anything Kevin Lowe would've done by the time he signed Souray would've been referred to as a panic move regardless of whether it actually was such a thing.
Still, the veteran blue-liner's reputation as a defensive-end disaster zone is not unearned. His leadership abilities will help stabilize a franchise in freefall since Ryan Smyth was traded, but Souray's on-ice value has nowhere to go but down. Five years may seem like a long time by the time he's finished.
4. Todd Bertuzzi to the Anaheim Ducks for two years and $8 million
An admirable act of charity on GM Brian Burke's behalf? A savvy bet that a once-elite-level talent can be rejuvenated in relative anonymity? Evidence that even the best GMs in the business occasionally lose their minds long enough to work the fax machine?
All I know is, bringing in one of the most notoriously dour, baggage-burdened players into the dressing room, and potentially losing good-guy leaders Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, is exactly what I'd want to see if I worked for the Ducks … and was a spy for another NHL team.
3. Roman Hamrlik to the Montreal Canadiens for four years and $22 million
Five-and-a-half million a season for a guy who hasn't put up more than 12 goals and 42 points in a single season since 2000-01 isn't my idea of bang for your buck.
And when you consider the 33-year-old has missed an average of 12 games a season due to injury since 2001-02, you can see why some believe Hamrlik will be cashing more and more of his checks on crutches in the days to come.
2. Lubomir Visnovsky to the Kings for five years and $28.25 million
I liked many of the signings GM Dean Lombardi made this summer; Brad Stuart (one year, $3.5 million) was a smaller gamble with larger upside, while Michal Handzus (four years, $16 million) and Tom Preissing (4 years, $11 million) should be valuable contributors as the Kings grow into Stanley Cup contenders.
But that's a major part of the problem I have with Visnovsky's signing. If the nearly 31-year-old blue-liner, who has missed even more games than Hamrlik (74 games) in the last five seasons, is regarded as their power-play quarterback, why sign Preissing, who excelled in the same role with Ottawa last season? And since a fair number of hockey types believe the Flyers overpaid for Kimmo Timonen, how come they aren't looking at this deal with an equal amount of disdain?
1. Ruslan Fedotenko to the New York Islanders for one year and $2.9 million
Congratulations to GM Garth Snow for capturing my Gem (Truly, Truly, Truly Outrageous) Signing of the Summer award. It's not often a guy who scored 12 goals last season -- and has only broken the 20-goal barrier once in his six-year NHL career -- gets nearly $3 million for his efforts, but that's the gift Fedotenko has received from the Isles.
Ted Nolan is famous for squeezing out as much as possible from his players, but what do the Isles honestly believe the high-water mark for Fedotenko can be at this point? More to the point -- why on earth doesn't an incentive-laden deal make more sense for this guy than guaranteeing him a payday regardless of his efforts?
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