x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Ill-advised money on free agents

As the most sought-after free agent on the market, Marian Hossa was going to get a princely sum and lengthy term.

In short, here's what happened during the first few days of unrestricted free agency in the NHL: Marian Hossa left Detroit to sign with Chicago - which meant that fellow unrestricted free agent Martin Havlat would have to depart the Windy City (because Chicago didn't have the salary cap space to keep them both). And he did, accepting a six-year, $30 million (Dh110m) contract from Minnesota - which meant that fellow unrestricted free agent Marian Gaborik would have to depart the Twin Cities. And he did, accepting a $37.5m pact over five seasons from the New York Rangers.

And that's what happens in the early frantic days of NHL free agency - some crazy contracts get handed out, as NHL gerneral managers offer infinite money to a finite amount of available star players (and pretty hefty paydays for run-of-the-mill players, too). Leading the four deals that may be rued down the road is Marian Hossa's 12-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, which is worth $62.8m. Getting Hossa at $5.2 m per season is a steal. But over six or seven seasons, max. Twelve years? Get real: Hossa will be 42 at the end of this deal. (Heck, he'll be 37 and still be under contract for five more years.) As the most sought-after free agent on the market, Hossa was going to get a princely sum and lengthy term. But this, simply, is much too much for a player who's already 30. Just look at the Islanders and 15-year goalie Rick DiPietro: he's been hurt as much as healthy since signing his decade-and-a-half deal, including only five games played last season.

Marian Gaborik has penned a five year deal with the New York Rangers, worth $37.5m. Let's see, $7.5m a year for a man who played 17 games last season. If Gaborik had received that salary last season, he would've been paid about $440,00 per game, which is close to the NHL's minimum salary, for the whole 82-game season, that is. Gaborik's deal is among the top five most expensive contracts in the league. And, when healthy, you can make the argument he is among the top five players in the league. Problem is, he hasn't been healthy long enough for anyone to make an accurate assessment. Gaborik is known for two things: his propensities for scoring and getting injured. The Rangers have paid through the nose for the former, but Gaborik's history indicates they'll see the latter.

The Los Angeles Kings will pay $13.6m over four years for Rob Scuderi. Nothing against Scuderi; he's a reliable defensive defenceman who gives an honest effort. But he's not going to add any offence (three goals in 300 career games) and you sort of get the feeling that his value doubled when he made three great defensive plays late in the third period of Game Six of the Stanley Cup final. Yes, he should be rewarded for making big plays at the most crucial time of year.

But Scuderi, who didn't play his first full NHL season until age 26, was also fifth among Penguins defenceman in average ice time last year. Brian Gionta was snapped up by the Montreal Canadiens on a five-year deal for $25m. Gionta scored 48 goals for New Jersey in 2005-06 - that's like 65 goals on any other team, right? But since then, it's been three consecutive 20-plus goal seasons. That's still respectable, but it's not $5m-per-year respectable. Plus, at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds, Gionta doesn't exactly bring intimidating dimensions to Montreal. And neither do Montreal's other splashy additions: Scott Gomez, who arrived via trade, and free agent signee Mike Cammalleri.

Habs fans will love his speed and dazzle, but none of Montreal's new additions do much to scare their arch-rival, the big, bad Boston Bruins. smccaig@thenational.ae