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Grades for Top NHL Free-Agent Signings from the 2013 Offseason After 1 Year

Carol SchramFeatured ColumnistAugust 16, 2014

Grades for Top NHL Free-Agent Signings from the 2013 Offseason After 1 Year

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    If you're an NHL fan who's hoping for a star turn from your team's newly-signed unrestricted free agent, you might want to temper your expectations.

    Not every free-agent deal turns out badly: Witness the Boston Bruins' signing of Zdeno Chara to a five-year, $37.5 million deal in 2006. Boston won the 2011 Stanley Cup, and Chara's still the captain almost a decade later.

    But you don't have to look far to find albatrosses that hung around teams' necks for years: Scott Gomez's $51.5 million deal with the New York Rangers in 2007 is a prime example.

    Even the 2012-13 NHL lockout may not have done much to temper general managers' desires to go for broke in free agency—despite the often-disappointing results.

    One year later, here's a look at how the top signings of 2013 have fared with their new teams.

Mike Ribeiro: Arizona Coyotes

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: four years, $22.5 million, cap hit $5.5 million per season

    2013-14 Stats: 80 games played, 16-31-47

    The Impact: Unsustainable. Ribeiro's stats dipped from his better-than-a-point-a-game performance with the Washington Capitals during the lockout year, but the real trouble came off the ice.

    The Arizona Coyotes announced in late June that they had terminated Ribeiro's contract, citing "some real behavior issues last year with us I felt we could not tolerate going forward," said general manager Don Maloney, according to Sarah McLellan of AZCentral.com.

    The decision will cost the Coyotes $1.94 million against the salary cap for each of the next six seasons. They plugged the hole at center left by Ribeiro's departure by trading for Sam Gagner in late June, per NHL.com.

     

    Grade: F

Vincent Lecavalier: Philadelphia Flyers

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: five years, $22.5 million, cap hit $4.5 million per season

    2013-14 Stats: 69 games played, 20-17-37

    The Impact: Poor. After a year that saw Vincent Lecavalier's stats plummet and his ice time disappear, CSNPhilly's Tim Panaccio reported in mid-June that the Philadelphia Flyers might be ready to pull the ripcord on the signing:

    [General manager Ron] Hextall admitted Friday he had a candid conversation [with Lecavalier's agent Kent Hughes] on what to do about a guy making $4.5 million and playing less than double-digit minutes on some nights, but isn’t sure what’s next.

    Lecavalier is a Flyer for now, but doesn't look like he has a comfortable home on Craig Berube's bench. A trade would be the easiest solution for both sides if a partner can be tempted to step up.

     

    Grade: D-

David Clarkson: Toronto Maple Leafs

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: seven years, $36.75 million, cap hit $5.25 million per season

    2013-14 Stats: 60 games played, 5-6-11 

    The Impact: Disastrous. Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun summed it up in March:

    Clarkson’s lost season began with a mindless 10-game suspension, has been checkered with injuries, further suspension, and then he never fit in to wherever coach Randy Carlyle slotted him. Whatever it was the Leafs expected of him, he has delivered next to nothing. Whatever they believed he was capable of — and they were not in any way alone in their beliefs — Clarkson has yet to find his way.

    Clarkson is still just 30 years old. He'll try to prove that last year's issues were an aberration when he returns to the ice for the Toronto Maple Leafs this fall.

     

    Grade: D

Ryane Clowe: New Jersey Devils

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: five years $24.25 million, cap hit $4.85 million per season

    2013-14 Stats: 43 games played, 7-19-26

    The Impact: Worrisome. Larry Brooks of the New York Post reported that Clowe is believed to have suffered three concussions during the 2012-13 season; then Clowe missed 39 games with two separate head injuries during his inaugural season with the New Jersey Devils, according to The Hockey News.

    According to Tom Gulitti of NorthJersey.com, Devils' general manager Lou Lamoriello reported in mid-June that:

    Ryan Clowe, who sustained his second concussion of the season when he hit his head on the boards following a check from Florida’s Quinton Howden on March 31, is 'fine with the knowledge we know' and has been working out in the off-season.

    Clowe's best NHL success came when he played a physical game with the San Jose Sharks. Even if he's fully recovered when the new season begins, his concussion history will continue to be cause for concern.

     

    Grade: C-

Stephen Weiss: Detroit Red Wings

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: five years, $24.5 million, cap hit $4.95 million per season

    2013-14 Stats: 26 games played, 2-2-4

    The Impact: Nasty. The Detroit Red Wings chose to bring in Stephen Weiss from the Florida Panthers rather than re-sign their own impending free-agent center Valtteri Filppula.

    Filppula signed for only a sliver of additional money with the Tampa Bay Lightning and had a great season. Meanwhile, the generally durable Weiss continued a trend that started in 2012-13, missing considerable time due to a sports hernia.

    Ansar Khan of Mlive.com reported in early July that Weiss is feeling good and ready to make an impact in 2014-15. He'll be needed if the Wings hope to keep their 23-season playoff streak alive.

     

    Grade: C

Nathan Horton: Columbus Blue Jackets

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: seven years, $37.1 million, cap hit $5.3 million per season

    2013-14 Stats: 36 games played, 5-14-19

    The Impact: To be determined. The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Horton last summer knowing that he needed offseason shoulder surgery and would miss the early part of the season, per CBC.ca. Horton joined the team in January but also missed the end of the season after undergoing abdominal surgery in April, per NHL.com.

    It's not an auspicious beginning, but Horton has six more years to use his big body and soft hands to help a Blue Jackets team that's looking to move up to the next level in the Eastern Conference.

     

    Grade: C+

Jarome Iginla: Boston Bruins

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: one year, $1.8 million, cap hit $1.8 million

    2013-14 Stats: 78 games played, 30-31-61

    The Impact: Insufficient. Jarome Iginla was impressive as a Boston Bruin with 30 goals, but the team got bounced in the second round of the 2014 playoffs.

    Iginla had $4.2 million in available bonuses on his contract in addition to his $1.8 million salary, which has contributed to the Bruins' $4.8 million in salary overages that have left them over the cap. That's left the team not only unable to re-sign Iginla but also struggling to sign emerging stars Reilly Smith and Torey Krug, who are both restricted free agents.

    Jarome Iginla was a fine Boston Bruin, but the lingering price was probably too high to pay without a Stanley Cup to show for it.

     

    Grade: B-

Daniel Alfredsson: Detroit Red Wings

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: one year, $3.5 million, cap hit $3.5 million per season

    2013-14 Stats: 68 games played, 18-31-49

    The Impact: Moderate. Alfredsson did lead the Detroit Red Wings in scoring in 2013-14, but it was only by virtue of his 18 goals. He was tied in points with defenseman Niklas Kronwall and just one point ahead of Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist, who both played significantly fewer games.

    While the Red Wings were wracked by injury last season, 41-year-old Alfredsson held up reasonably well, missing just 14 games with groin and back issues over the course of the season, according to The Hockey News.

    Even with a signing bonus that contributed to a $3 million salary-cap overage for 2014-15, according to CapGeek.com, Wings general manager Ken Holland is hoping to get a deal done with Alfredsson, according to Ansar Khan of Mlive.com:

    If we can get a certain amount of games out of (Alfredsson), we would feel like he would be a real positive addition. But at the end of the day I think he wants to (skate) and we want to see him skate every day for 2-3 weeks and then let's see how he feels.

    Though Alfredsson didn't catapult the Red Wings back to the league's top tier, both sides seem amenable to continuing their arrangement.

     

    Grade: B

Valtteri Filppula: Tampa Bay Lightning

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    Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    The Contract: five years, $25 million, cap hit $5 million per season

    2013-14 Stats: 75 games played, 25-33-58

    The Impact: Solid. Now the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, former Detroit Red Wings executive Steve Yzerman knows Valtteri Filppula well and used that knowledge to upgrade the center position with the Tampa Bay Lightning after the team bought out Vincent Lecavalier.

    Filppula responded with the second-best season of his career, easily outperforming both Lecavalier and his Red Wings replacement, Stephen Weiss. He's a key part of a team on the rise.

     

    Grade: A-

Jaromir Jagr: New Jersey Devils

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    Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    The Contract: one year, $2 million, cap hit $2 million per season 

    2013-14 Stats: 82 games played, 24-43-67

    The Impact: Fantastic. The now 42-year-old Jaromir Jagr also received a $2 million signing bonus from the New Jersey Devils, but he led the team in scoring and delivered great value for the dollar despite his elder-statesman status.

    It turns out that the dynamic Jagr and the defensive Devils are a good fit. He'll be back in New Jersey in 2014-15 with a manageable cap hit of $3.5 million.

     

    Grade: A

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