Worst NHL Free Agent Signings This Season

The NHL had somewhat of a weak free agent class this summer which resulted in a lot of players being overpaid because of a shallow market. Overpaying worked for some teams as they’re getting exactly what they wanted and more from their players like the Penguins did with Paul Martin while others haven’t been so lucky. This season, it seems that it’s easier to point out the awfully bad signings than the good ones because of how much teams overpaid some players. Then there were some contracts which looked bad from the moment they were signed and some which looked like a good gamble at the time but didn’t work out. Let’s take a look at some of the signings that didn’t work out too well.

Michael Leighton 2-year contract $1.55 mil cap hit


Leighton was rewarded his contract for going 16-5 down the stretch for the Flyers at the end of last season and for his “heroics” in the playoffs. The problem with this contract was that it’s a pretty big overpayment for a goalie who was a back-up his entire career playing behind a strong Flyers defense. The Flyers retaining Leighton wasn’t a bad move but giving him $1.55 mil and two years instead of a smaller raise from the $850k he got last season is what makes it bad. To add salt to the wound was Leighton being injured to start the season and rookie goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stealing his starting job in Philly. Leighton was waived after one start and this signing was a big waste of money for the Flyers. The Flyers could still probably win with a healthy Leighton in goal but had they gave him a contract of say $1 mil then this signing wouldn’t have been so bad.

Sergei Gonchar 3-year contract with $5.5 mil cap hit


Gonchar probably got this kind of contract based on his reputation/career. He has always been known as one of the best powerplay quarterbacks in the league and the Senators really needed help with theirs. Was he really worth this much, though? Even in his last couple of seasons in Pittsburgh, he looked very slow and not as effective as he used to be. This year he’s gotten even worse it seems. He’s a -20, only has 18 points and has looked really slow when trying to chase down forwards. However, he has sort of done his job with helping rejuvenate Ottawa’s powerplay since they are 19% effective with the man advantage and Gonch has 14 of his points then. However, it is interesting that 20-year old Erik Karlsson has been outperforming him as the team’s best offensive defenseman. Ottawa getting someone like Gonchar made sense but was he really worth this contract? Imagine how he’ll look at the end of it and they’re still paying him $5l.5 mil a year.

Dan Ellis 2-year contract with $1.5 mil cap hit


This signing looked good for Tampa Bay this summer but it turned back quickly. Ellis is normally a league average goalie who can be a starter but he sure as hell hasn’t looked like one this year. Ellis has a save percentage of .884 and Tampa’s other goalie Mike Smith is around the same area. It’s interesting that he’s been so bad because he’s been Nashville’s starting goaltender before and played decent during then and the Lightning don’t give up a lot of shots. The duo have been so bad that the Lightning traded for Dwayne Roloson to give them some help in net. It’s a good thing that Tampa Bay has enough offense to make up for their goaltending woes. At least San Jose are getting what they’re paying for with the league-average tandem of Antero Niittymaki and Antti Niemi.

Henrik Tallinder 4-year contract with $3.375 mil cap hit


The Devils spent a lot of money to help their defensive corps this year and it hasn’t done much since the team is sitting in last place and their defense has been pretty bad and riddled with injuries. Tallinder, however, has been healthy the whole year and pretty abysmal. Granted, he was playing tough minutes while Volchenkov, Salvador and others were hurt but having a -26 is scary. I actually thought Tallinder could be a good 2nd pairing defenseman this year for a lot of teams but he’s really proving me wrong. Buffalo also replaced him for less money with Jordan Leopold, one of the better signings this off-season.

Jody Shelley 3-year contract with $1.1 cap hit


Okay, the cap hit isn’t that bad but when you’re a team like the Flyers who don’t have a lot of space to work with, it’s pretty bad to spend $1.1 mil on a guy who is scratched on a lot of nights and isn’t a good player. Similar mistake to the signing the Rangers made with Boogaard. That and I think Shelley has done a better job of getting himself suspended this season than do his job as an enforcer.

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