NHL general managers just can’t seem to help themselves in free agency.
Like when a new iPhone drops, they’re generally willing to line up for the chance to pay a premium for a shiny new toy when they might be able to get better value by waiting and assessing their options.
Savvy GMs are those who opt for more reasonable free agent signings, ones that won’t break the bank and could provide great value down the line.
Here are the seven best value deals signed by NHL UFAs so far this summer.
1. Robin Lehner (Chicago Blackhawks)
2019-20 contract: 1-year deal, $5 million AAV
2018-19 stats: 46 GP, 25-13-5, .930 SV%, 6 SO
The 2019 Bill Masterton Trophy winner, Robin Lehner was also a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as one the NHL’s top three goalies last season. I
t seemed like a return to the New York Islanders was a given, considering the success he had in tandem with Thomas Greiss and the fact the club helped him through mental health issues that led to substance abuse and suicidal thoughts. For whatever reason, a deal was unable to be reached, allowing the Chicago Blackhawks to sign a budding star to help offset any lingering concerns surrounding Corey Crawford.
2. Marcus Johansson (Buffalo Sabres)
Position: Left wing
2019-20 contract: 2-year deal, $4.5 million AAV
2018-19 stats: 58 GP, 13 G, 17 A, 30 PTS
Signed on July 6, the Buffalo Sabres snagged Marcus Johansson from their Northeast Division foes from Boston. The winger fit in quite well with the Bruins after being acquired prior to the trade deadline, and was a key reason why the team advanced all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
With 11 points in 22 playoff games, Johansson had appeared to price himself out of Boston, but his cap hit is pretty reasonable.
3. Jason Spezza (Toronto Maple Leafs)
2019-20 contract: 1-year deal, $700,000 AAV
2018-19 stats: 76 GP, 8 G, 19 A, 27 PTS
Yes, Jason Spezza’s career is in its waning stages, but the league minimum for a player of his ilk remains a steal.
This is far from Patrick Marleau 2.0. Sure, he’s not the star centre he once was he’s still lethal on the power play, can win the all important offensive zone faceoff, and will provide leadership and experience to a still young Leafs squad looking to get over the hump. And he’s hungry for that elusive Stanley Cup.
“Priority No. 1 and 2 for me is give yourself a chance to win. I feel I still have some good years left in me,” he told the Toronto Sun’s Lance Hornby.
4. Cam Talbot (Calgary Flames)
2019-20 contract: 1-year deal, $2.75 million AAV
2018-19 stats: 35 GP, 11-17-3, .892 SV%, 1 SO
It was a down year for Cam Talbot, but we’ll chalk that up to playing most of the season for the Edmonton Oilers, with whom the life of any goaltender is a nightmare (godspeed, Mike Smith).
In moving back to Alberta after a brief tenure with the Philadelphia Flyers, Talbot finds himself backstopping a much better roster, and with an opportunity to resurrect his career on a one-year deal with the Flames. Getting to play the Oilers multiple times won’t likely hurt his numbers.
5. Corey Perry (Dallas Stars)
Position: Right wing
2019-20 contract: 1-year deal, $1.5 million AAV
2018-19 stats: 31 GP, 6 G, 4 A, 10 PTS
It must be a humbling thing to have your contract bought out by the only team you’ve ever played for. That’s the circumstance former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry found himself in earlier this offseason as the Anaheim Ducks decided to fly in a different direction.
In Dallas, Perry will be able to play more of a supporting role for a team with Cup aspirations, and if all goes well, the Stars will be more than happy to pay an addition $1.75 million in potential bonuses.
6. Micheal Ferland (Vancouver Canucks)
Position: Left wing
2019-20 contract: 4-year deal, $3.5 million AAV
2018-19 stats: 71 GP, 17 G, 23 A, 40 PTS
After watching the St. Louis Blues win the Cup, you knew a player like Micheal Ferland would be in demand – big, bruising, and capable of amassing some points along the way.
The former Calgary Flames winger helped the Carolina Hurricanes reach the Eastern Conference Final this past spring, and the Canucks were able to land him at a reasonable cap hit thanks to their willingness to add a fourth year to the contract.
7. Jordan Eberle (New York Islanders)
Position: Right wing
2019-20 contract 5-year deal, $5.5 million AAV
2018-19 stats: 78 GP, 19 G, 18 A, 37 PTS
Jordan Eberle’s new cap hit reflected against last year’s production may not seem great, but when you consider he’s averaging around 25 goals per every 82 games since entering the NHL in 2010, that’s pretty good value indeed.
Consider his closest comparable via CapFriendly: James Neal of the Calgary Flames. Neal is two years older, has a cap hit of $5.75 million and scored only seven goals in 63 games in 2018-19. Based on Eberle’s track record and the fact he’s still on the south side of 30, the Islanders got great value in this contract.