July 1st and the Damage it can Cause
In light of the news that Brad Richards will be a healthy scratch for the Blue Shirts tonight in game 4 I thought it would be interesting to look at back some UFA busts that teams bet big on. I love July 1st as much of the next guy, however if I were running a NHL I would be cautious of the damage it can do. Numerous teams have bet big and lost big. More times than not that July 1st signing doesn't pan out. So here's a look at my top 10 free agency busts:
10. Michael Nylander-Washington Capitals-4 years 19.5 million
On July 2nd 2007 Michael Nylander signed a 4 year deal with the Washington Capitals to be the Caps #1 center. If you remember the controversy behind the Nylander signing, the Oilers thought they had a deal worked out with Nylander only to find out that he instead stiffed the Oilers to sign with the Capitals. Nylander's tenure in DC started off bad when he tore is rotar cuff in December 2007. Nylander never really recovered from that injury. In two years in Washington, Nylander played 112 games and scored 20 goals and 70 pts in those two seasons. After the 2008-09 season Nylander would finish his career in the AHL and Europe.
9. Sean Avery-Dallas Stars-4 years 15.5 million
On July 2nd 2008 the Dallas Stars made a splash when they signed pest Sean Avery. Then Stars GM Brett Hull thought Avery could bring grit and scoring to Dallas. Instead all Avery brought were headaches. Avery played 23 games in Dallas scoring 3 goals and 10 points. Avery was suspended for controversial comments he made about a Calgary Flames player Dion Phaneuf who was dating Avery's ex-girlfriend. After Avery's suspension the Stars waived Avery who would eventually wind up back in NY the next season, but never truly made an impact again in the NHL. Avery would end up wearing out his welcome in NY and went on to retire.
8. Sheldon Souray-Edmonton Oilers-5 years 27 million
On July 12th, 2007 Souray signed a 5 year deal with the Oilers to bring stability to a struggling blue line in Edmonton. The year before the Oilers were in the cup finals and ready to make another run. In the 07-08 season Souray struggled with injuries. In 08-09 Souray produced on a poor Oiler team, but however in 09-10 the injury bug bit Souray again. The 2010-11 season the Oilers burried the big D man in the AHL as they tried to move him, but were unable to do so with his contract. Souray would have a NHL revival in his time in Dallas and Anaheim. Souray would put up 76 points in his 124 games with the Oilers.
7. Jeff Finger-Toronto Maple Leafs-4 years 14 million
On July 1st, 2008 the Leafs signed Finger away from the Avalanche with a 4 year deal. At the time a lot of people believed that the Leafs over paid for Finger. Finger never played a full season in his two years with Toronto. He played a total of 105 games in two years. Finger would play the final two years of his deal in the AHL and would not play another game in the NHL again.
6. Mike Komisarek-Toronto Maple Leafs-5 years 22.5 million
On July 1st, 2009 the Leafs for the 2nd straight season signed a defeseman that turned out to be a disaster. Komisarek like Finger never played a full season in Toronto. He dealt with injury issues his three seasons with the Leafs. Komisarek often looked slow and was a whipping boy in Toronto. The Komisarek deal is one of the moves Burke haters stood on to help oust Burke. This season when healthy Komisarek played in the AHL after Toronto was unable to move him with his large contract. Komisarek has one more season left on his deal and is likely headed for a compliance buy out at the end of this season.
5. Wade Redden-New York Rangers-6 years 39 million
On July 1st, 2008 Redden signed a big deal with the Rangers after a great career in Ottawa. Redden would only wind up playing 2 of those 6 years in the NHL with NY. After two tough years in Manhattan the Rangers assigned Redden to AHL where he would play for the next 2 seasons until he was bought out by Rangers this last offseason. The Rangers still had to pay Redden 5.6 million dollars this season even though he played in St. Louis and Boston. Like Souray Redden has had a career revival of sorts this season.
4. Brad Richards-New York Rangers-9 years 58.5 million
On July 2nd, 2011 the Rangers signed the top free agent Brad Richards to a 9 year deal to be the Blue Shirts #1 center. Here we are into only the second season of the 9 year deal Richards is going to be a healthy scratch in game 4 of the ECQF. Before being scratched Richards was in Tort's dog house and was playing on the 4th line. Richards had 66 pts in 82 games his first season in NY and 34 pts this season in 46 games. Richards is starting to slow down and has been a big disappointment in the playoffs this year. With 7 more years left on Richards contract the Rangers are stuck and can only hope Richards can still produce at some level in the years to come or he could be a compliance buy out in the near future.
3. Scott Gomez-New York Rangers-7 years 51.5 million
On July 1st, 2007 the Rangers made a statement signing both Chris Drury and Scott Gomez to big deals. Neither player really worked out for NY, but Gomez is the big eye sore. Gomez played two years in NY and was a huge let down. In 158 games Gomez put up 128 points with 16 goals in each of the two seasons. To the Rangers credit they managed to get the Montreal Canadiens to take Gomez off their hands and ended up picking up Ryan McDonagh in that trade. Gomez went on to continue his decline in Montreal and kill the Candiens cap until they bought him out this offseason. Gomez is now at best a 3rd line player.
2. Bobby Holik-New York Rangers-5 years 45 million
We will end the run of Rangers awful signings with Bobby Holik. On July 1st, 2002 the Rangers signed Holik to a monster contract. Holik never came close to living up to that deal in NY, which was a mistake the second the Rangers offered that deal to Holik. In two years in NY Holik put up 91 pts in 146 games. After the 04-05 lockout the Rangers bought out the final two years of Holik's deal. Holik would go on to play 4 more seasons in the NHL with a minor role in Atlanta and NJ.
1. Alexei Yashin-New York Islanders-10 years 87.5 million
This move was more of a trade and sign that happened on draft day 2001, but is still needed on this list. On draft day 2001 the Islanders acquired Yashin for Zdeno Chara, Bill Muckalt, and the 2nd overall pick that year (Jason Spezza). The Islander quickly signed Yashin to perhaps one of the if not the worst deals in NHL history. Yashin played 5 seasons on Long Island reaching over 65 points once and over 50 pts three times. In 2007 the Islanders bought out the remainder of Yashin's deal and since then the Russain forward has played in his homeland Russia. The Islanders will be finished paying Yashin after the 2014-15 season.
Honorable mentions- Ville Leino Buffalo, Tim Connolly- Toronto, Cristobal Huet- Chicago, Martin Lapointe- Boston, Dustin Penner- Edmonton, Ilya Bryzgalov-Philadelphia