For the love of Brendan Shanahan, don’t build your team through free agency

(Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

John Tavares is almost certainly going to sign with a new team. The Islanders consistently are missing something to make them good, whether its defense or goal tending or forward depth or whatever. They’ve been that way for JT’s entire career. They’re the secondary team in the market (think White Sox in baseball but worse. Chicago hasn’t moved the White Sox to a 2nd rate stadium on the north side). He’s only 27, and for sure going to command a big contract somewhere. Some rumors have the Blues taking a big swing at his signing, but like anything, the details are going to matter.

I like Tavares, if not my favorite non-Blue player in the league, he’s at least top 3. He makes players around him better; Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo are fantastic examples. He’s also likely to command 10 million in AAV and, if he wants, a term of 10 years. It’s been a while since such a forward has changed teams via free agency, not since Parise by my recollection.

Let’s look at Parise

Parise hit the free agent market in 2012, and signed with Minnesota for 13 years, AAV of around 7.5 million. He hasn’t been bad, he just hasn’t quite lived up to his 7.5M cap hit. And he’s signed at that rate till he’s 40.

Ok enough about Parise, he’s an outlier anyways! Didn’t you just say so in your introduction?


I looked at forward signings the last 4 years. I limited my examination to forwards who signed a 5 year deal. Why limit to that scope? Because it’s always about term. Stastny didn’t live up to his 7M AAV, but the Blues aren’t chained to an anvil contract till he’s 35. It’s this lack of term that made it possible to trade him at the deadline for a 1st.


Only Alexander Radulov fit my qualifications for 2017. He signed with Dallas for 5 years, 31.25 million dollars. So far so good for Radulov. He’ll probably get 70+ points, and around 30 goals. That’s living up to a ballpark $6M cap hit. But…he’s signed till he’s 36 and playing on Seguin’s line. Seguin is another one of those players who make everyone around him better. So again, so far so good! Radulov is good enough to benefit from Seguin!


2016’s class was pretty big. David Backes, Andrew Ladd, Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson and Kyle Okposo. In order of best so far to worst.

Backes: 5 years, $30 million. Points wise, Backes isn’t living up to a $6M cap hit. He does bring more to the rink besides his points, and Boston is going to be a top seed in the East, implying that he’s a part of something good. I’d describe his current play compared to his cap hit as ‘mixed’

Ladd: 7 years, $38.5 million. This was a bad signing. But at least Ladd remains a competent NHL player. However, since the Islanders are bad, you can’t put too much value on things that aren’t scoring related.

Eriksson: 6 years, $36 million. I waffled on whether to switch places with Okposo or Eriksson, finally I went with my default: less term is better. Eriksson is at least a marginal player. Same deal as Ladd, Vancouver is bad; anything Eriksson may bring something besides his points, can certainly be duplicated with a guy making 1/3 his salary.

Okposo: 7 years, $42 million. This is going to be a theme with Buffalo: overpay for Tavares’s former linemate.

Lucic: 7 years, $42 million. My notes for Ladd, Eriksson and Okposo read ‘yikes’. I needed a new designation for Lucic, so I scribbled ‘super duper triple dog dare yikes’. Lucic is not only bad, he is so bad that Connor McDavid can’t elevate him to competent. 5 more years of that for Oilers fans!


2015 only had Matt Beleskey; 5 years $19 million. I giving a mixed review for Beleskey. Yes, he was dumped to the Rangers because of salary reasons, and yes New York isn’t playing him, but his AAV was less than $4m. His 1st season wasn’t awful and then he got hurt. I try not hold injuries against players. A 5 year deal was still too long.


2014 qualifiers were Benoit Pouliot, Mike Cammalleri, Dave Bolland, and Matt Moulson.

Pouliot: 5 years, $20 million. He’s mixed. He was at least adequate for a couple three years. $4M isn’t too big of a cap hit. But he fell of a cliff and that $4M cap hit is now toxic. He’s on Buffalo until it expires.

Cammalleri: 5 years, $35 million. ‘Super duper yikes’. Had 1 good year in NJ before having a sharp decline. Still has a year left, and currently has 5 goals and 22 assists in 62 games this year.

Moulson: 5 years, $25 million. Former Tavares linemate signs a big deal with Buffalo. Now currently in the minors.

Bolland: 5 years, $27.5 million. Who could have predicted that this signing would be awful? Me! I predicted this signing would be awful. Bolland got hurt, and even though I don’t hold that against Beleskey, Bolland had an injury history before Florida signed him. But disregard that entirely. Dave Bolland was a good 3rd liner for Chicago. $5.5M AAV for a 3rd liner is already ridiculous.

I totally blacked out and lost track, what was the point again?

I don’t fault the players. A career is short, and if you get a chance to cash in, do it!

I miss Backes, he scattered pieces of himself in rinks across North America giving his all for the Blues. But it was the right move letting him sign with Boston.

Teams acquiring high profile free agents, in general, end up disappointed. And it’s term, always term. Half the players I listed, (even including Lucic!) at least had a decent 1st season with their new club.

Tavares is a very good player.

Is he $100 million (ten years at ten million) good?

Because I think he’s going to sign for that.

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3 thoughts on “For the love of Brendan Shanahan, don’t build your team through free agency

  1. You’re probably not far off on your JT prediction, and with the way this season has gone, even if the Blues could find a way to afford giving him a deal like that, why would he want to come to STL? Over the last 10 years the Blues and Isles have been very similar teams and I just don’t think he’ll want to come to a team struggling to find their identity and playing such inconsistent hockey

  2. two corrections i’d like to make: a ten year contract is not possible under the current CBA, which limits term to eight years; mike cammaleri was signed 5y25m and bought out last summer and thus is no longer in the aforementioned deal.

  3. Good write-up! I agree that you really shouldn’t blow your money on marginal players in free agency. It’s made the Sabres a mess. Just one nitpicky thing though, Benoit Pouliot signed with the Sabres for a one year deal for a little over 1 million bucks after the Oilers bought out his massively long contract last summer.

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