One of the joys of NHL free agency is watching teams and players find the fit that looks absolutely perfect.
Whether a player is joining the club for the rest of their career or just finding a cozy place to spend the season before hitting the market again, there’s something satisfying about seeing two LEGO pieces snap together. It can be obtained.
At the same time, it’s equally fun to see strange deals surface that seem inconsistent with our understanding of talent ratings, markets, salary caps, or how hockey teams are made.
Every year some bizarre deals are announced and 2023 is no different.
New team: Ottawa Senator
contract: $20 million in 5 years
Why Weird: In a market where teams have been able to get quality players on short-term demonstrative contracts, it’s strange that Colpisaro could walk away with a five-year contract.
The Finnish netminder has had a strong 2022-23 season, but has been a backup for most of his career and has yet to make 40 appearances in the season. Not only is he not carrying the weight of a starter, he’s underperforming as a starter overall. Colpizarro has a career save percentage of .904. His GSAA-20.53 over the past three seasons ranks 28th among 36 goalkeepers with 5,000 minutes or more.
Senators may believe they have secured a starting goalkeeper at a reasonable rate in the long run, but most of Colpisaro’s track record suggests he is a below-average choice.
A more rational move would have been to sign a short-term deal at a higher AAV to make the 29-year-old Shaw’s +11.5 GSAA season last year less of a fluke.
New team: Arizona Coyotes
contract: 1 year, $5.3 million
Why Weird: The deal makes a lot of sense for the Coyotes. Arizona has a lot of cap space and wants to be respected. If Mr. Zucker is productive, he could also make a good trading asset.
But this is strange on Zucker’s part.
Yes, $5.3 million is a lot, but the winger had great motivation to seek safety this offseason. He was coming to the end of a glorious season with 27 goals after several seasons in which injury-hit goals kept him in the single digits.
The 31-year-old had just finished a strong season and seemed to be eyeing a multi-year deal. The veteran winger is now a free agent at age 32 after completing his season with the Coyotes. There’s no guarantee that his output will go down if he goes to Arizona, but the Coyotes aren’t brimming with elite offensive talent.
The desert probably isn’t the best place to “bet on yourself” play.
New team: colorado avalanche
contract: $15 million over 6 years
Why Weird: Paying $2.5 million to put Wood in the bottom six for the season seems reasonable. It’s hard to understand him playing six years as a winger.
Wood is only 27, so this is a little more defensible, but there still seem to be cases where teams fall in love with players and lose sight of the market.
After all, Wood is the man who skated just 12:06 for the New Jersey Devils in 2022-23 and has never scored more than 32 points in a season. He’s not even the typical defensive player at the bottom of the lineup, as he has less than 30 minutes of penalty kill experience in his entire eight-year career.
Wood isn’t a flashy player, but despite his career shooting percentage of 8.9%, he usually shoots enough to produce total goals in his teens. People like Wood don’t grow on trees, but they are available on much shorter, less risky contracts.
New team: toronto maple leafs
contract: $4.05 million over three years
Why Weird: Players like Reeves are almost nonexistent in the modern NHL anymore, so it’s understandable that they’re difficult to evaluate.
That said, the 36-year-old bailiff’s on-ice abilities are very limited and his contract should reflect that. Salaries are high considering the number of hours played for this big winger, and the terms will be daunting for a player who will be nearly 40 by the time the deal is finalized.
Broadly speaking, the deal is so modest that the front office will, by any measure, judge a player like Reeves if it doesn’t work out. But according to reports about the deal, Toronto took notice of him, I want to continue for another year than his other main suitor, Minnesota Wilde.
It is generally not recommended to compete against timed players. It’s weird to do that with a guy like Reeves. Perhaps Tough Guy will bring something invisible that really helps the team win, but even if he can’t prove it – and previous experiments with the old Tough Guy have been It hasn’t done much for Toronto so far.
team: new york islanders
contract: $21 million over 7 years
Why Weird: Engvall is similar to Wood in that he’s younger (27), and AAV on his current deal wouldn’t really be outrageous on a shorter deal.
Still, this extension by the Islanders is a huge commitment to the Maple Leafs needing a punch in the bottom 6, but having no trouble letting go at the final trade deadline. He may find another level and bargain for this deal, but it’s unfair to expect a significant improvement from a guy his age.
Perhaps he is in his true form. He’s big, fast, and devastating, but he’s a player who can’t consistently turn his tools into production. Unlike Wood, Engvall has played in just 244 regular-season games in the NHL, so there’s not even a “veteran presence” factor here.
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