Today I’m going to try to keep a running update of incoming free agents to Columbus and interesting-to-me player moves elsewhere in the NHL. We’re going to call this a quasi-Live Blog (the first time I’ve attempted such nonsense) so this will probably crash and totally fall apart in the first hour. Exciting times!
Players Added By Columbus
Nathan Horton (7 years, $5.3MM per year) – Horton is an extremely effective possession player and has been since his days in Florida. His purely counting scoring numbers don’t necessarily pop off the page, but his scoring rates (this year in the top 30 in NHL goal scoring) are impressive. Concerns remain about impending shoulder surgery and a history of injuries in general (he averaged only 70/82 games for the past 7 full seasons), but Horton is an extremely valuable addition to the team and is coming off this half-season with a PDO of only 982 (reasonably low). Expect a high-level contributor to Blue Jacket success once he recovers from surgery, but keep playtime expectations realistic over the lengthy term if future injuries resurface. Also remember he’s 28 now, so the first few years of productivity on this contract are crucial.
Cody Bass, Ryan Craig, Jeremy Smith (all on two-way deals) – None of these moves do too much for the club; all three should read as depth moves for the AHL team in Springfield. Bass is 26 and similar to Jared Boll (a less-than-NHL player himself), Craig is 31 and figures to slot into a leadership role for the Falcons. Jeremy Smith, the goalie, is probably the most interesting of the three. He’s only 24 with a few impressive AHL seasons under his belt with Milwaukee (.921 and .922 SV% in 10-11, 11-12). He should figure into the Springfield crease this year.
Thomas Larkin (2 year entry level) – Larkin is a 6′ 5” Italian defenseman who played college at Colgate University. The height/reach thing likely makes him popular, but I personally enjoyed watching him play versus Clarkson in his first two years in the ECAC. He’s a bit unpolished, but he’s only 22 and competent enough to get AHL consideration (with an outside shot at the NHL in a few years).
Noteworthy Additional Moves
Bobby Ryan to Ottawa, traded for Silfverberg, Noesen, 1st Round Pick to Anaheim – And now at about 3:30 we get a big trade to add to the free agency madness. This is a surprising move that sees regular 30 goal scorer (and great possession player) Ryan move East and sends highly valued prospects to the Ducks. The sports headlines in Ottawa now shift away from the loss of Alfie and to this exciting move. But who’s the winner here? Short-term it’s easy to believe that Ottawa comes out ahead with an in-his-prime scorer (14th in goals since 08-09). Long-term? That’s harder to say. Both Silfverberg and Noesen (who has been lighting it up in the OHL) are very impressive young players that should be solid NHL contributors for years. Add in a (probably) late 1st rounder? Anaheim can’t be upset with their return, but they’ll need to find some short-term replacement for the power they lost with Ryan gone.
David Clarkson to Toronto (7 years, $5.25MM per year) / Tyler Bozak re-signs with Toronto (5 years, $4.2MM per year) – After throwing out Grabovski for nothing, Toronto GM Dave Nonis has decided to give a non-elite point producer (less than 0.60 pts/game for his entire career), a non-elite goal scorer even (has only hit 30 goals once in his career), at age 29 (on the wrong side of the age curve) a 7 year deal. Seven years of not-really-that-great, and also not-always-great-at-Corsi either. The cap hit isn’t quite as dire as some had predicted leading up to the start of free agency, so that much is positive for Toronto. However, that kind of term for someone with inconsistent possession ability and good-not-great scoring is the kind of bad deal that seems to surface at the trade deadline.
In addition, the ouster of actually-top-six-talent-center Grabovski has led the Leafs to re-sign their “first” line center Bozak. It’s not that he’s inherently awful, mind you. It’s merely that Bozak’s Corsi results are worse than Grabo’s, his scoring is less effective, and he’s doing all this non-elite-scoring while riding the coattails of actual top sniper Phil Kessel. The whole process of Nonis losing another center to keep Bozak at this term and contract size just doesn’t make any sense. Overall, not the most inspiring set of moves by Mr. Nonis. Check out more Leafs coverage from the good folks at Pension Plan Puppets.
Daniel Alfredsson to Detroit (1 year, $5.5MM) / Stephen Weiss to Detroit (5 years, $4.9MM per year) – In a shocking move, Ottawa’s iconic captain moves to Eastern Conference-newcomers Detroit. He’s not as productive as he once was, but Corsi production shows an effective possession player, even at age 40. A bizarre change of scenery, but probably a strong (if somewhat expensive) addition by the Red Wings.
Detroit’s second move of the day was to pick up the former Florida center Weiss for a 5 year term. He’s a mixed bag of possession results, and 2nd line level for point scoring. While he adds depth scoring punch to the Wings, Weiss is already 30 making this a risky a risky addition for 5 years.
Evgeni Nabokov re-signs with Islanders (1 year, $3.25MM) – Contrary to the narrative established in the lead-up to the Isles’ playoff appearance, Nabby was a serious part of why New York was held back this year. That .910 SV% (an unimpressive .916 at even strength) kept Tavares and company from reaching greater heights in both the regular season and, eventually, in the playoffs.
Mike Ribeiro to Phoenix (4 years, $5.5MM per year) – Ribeiro seems like an unwise pickup at age 33 for that kind of cap hit and term. His scoring output has been reasonably strong in the past 5 years (minimum of 0.80 pts/game in 09-10 with Dallas), but he’s on the wrong side of the age curve. I imagine year 4 of this deal won’t look quite so nice. In addition, his Corsi production has taken quite the hit going +3.4, +3.4, -4.4, and -10.3 chronologically over the past four seasons.
Ryane Clowe to New Jersey (5 years, $4.85MM per year) – It’s unfair to judge Clowe on the shockingly low and thoroughly unlucky shooting % this past season, so we won’t. Instead, his in-season possession results are something to find impressive. But we’re still considering a player who turns 31 in September going for nearly $5 million in cap space. Yes, he’ll be a useful addition and free agency prices should never surprise, but I’m glad Columbus stayed out of this one.
Rob Scuderi to Pittsburgh (4 years, $3.375MM per year) – My reverence for Ray Shero erodes whenever he decides to sign an aging, offensively-ineffective defenseman (see: Douglas Murray). Scuderi isn’t quite the possession mess that Murray was (although he’s still not great), but he’s older (will be 35 at the end of December) and that four year term won’t seem very worthwhile very shortly. I suppose the good news is that the cap will go up? I’m just not a fan of this deal.
Valtteri Filppula to Tampa Bay (5 years, $5MM per year) – Filppula has been a solid scoring contributor to Detroit, but a mixed bag of possession results on a team that was (by and large) a very powerful puck-driver. Like most deals today, age is a significant risk here (he’s 29 now), but was a team in need of new scoring depth and a new center following the buyout of Vinny Lecavalier so this kind of cap hit doesn’t seem as big an impact relative to prior obligations.