NHL Free Agency: Top Five 2015 Signings


Jan 20, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Vancouver Canucks center Shawn Matthias (27) against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

With the signing of a new free agent to a team comes speculation. Fans often ponder whether the new addition was actually worth the money spent, and ask themselves’: what qualities does this player brings with them? Does this make the team better? I thought I’d dive into the five NHL free agency signings that I felt are noteworthy thus far. Albeit not all of the players on the list are high-profile names, but rather those that I believe will be key contributors in their own given right next season and going forward in some cases.

Shawn Matthias/Daniel Winnik (Toronto Maple Leafs)

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I think these signings are two of the smartest decisions the Leafs organization has made in a long time, probably since the 2012 trade that shipped Luke Schenn out of town for James Van Riemsdyk…yeah, that long. Bringing back Winnik is a no-brainer. The winger plays a hustle-and-bustle, two-way game that netted him a nice little tally of 7 goals and 25 points across 58 games with the Leafs before being dealt to the Pens as a depth piece. What I like about Winnik is that he can be implanted on any line, like he was much of last season, and be productive. Heck, he even lead the Leafs last season with a plus/minus score of +15.

Matthias is another score. The 6’4”, 220-lb winger offers something that the Leafs lacked last season, physicality and grit. In addition, with all the pending holes in the Leafs’ lines, as it stands Matthias will likely get a nice little bump in playing time over his average TOI of 13.10 minutes last season with the Canucks. I see no reason why he won’t hit the 20 goal, 40 point mark next season.

Both Winnik and Matthias are on small bridge contracts, 2-year and 1-year respectively, which offers them the motivation to prove something on a team that is in a state of flux. Plus, and this is a BIG plus, they are both hometown boys who are thrilled to play for the team they grew up cheering for. A major bonus indeed.

Justin Williams (Washington Capitals)

Williams is a veteran who has won 3 Stanley Cups in his career (one with Hurricanes, two with Kings). After failing to reach the ‘big dance’ despite reaching the playoffs seven out of the last eight years, Williams holds the type of experience the Caps covet right now. Some may say the Capitals overpaid giving the 33-year old a 2 year, $6.5 million contract, but I don’t think so. On top of logging 115 postseason games played over his career, Williams is a reliable workhorse having missed only a single game over the past four seasons. Between adding Williams, resigning Evgeny Kuznetsov and trading for T.J. Oshie, the Caps are suiting up with the talent to win now rather than later. All that is left is signing Braden Holtby as a staple between the pipes.

Micheal Frolik (Calgary Flames)

Many thought Frolik would sign elsewhere, including myself, but I see the Flames being a good fit. Frolik is set to earn $4.3 million annually across a 5-year contract, but that is just typical market value for a guy who can score 20 a season along with 40-50 points while being a consistent multi-tool player. What I really like is that Frolik has already won a Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks back in 2013, so there is an veteran element, but more importantly he is only 27-years old. This bodes very well with the youth movement in Calgary, where the average age is coincidentally 27-years old. On top of that, as mentioned Frolik has garnered the reputation as an all-around, utility player out on the ice. In an article via CBC Sports, Flames GM Brad Treliving compared Frolik to a “Swiss Army Knife” in saying,

"“He’s able to do a lot of different things that are very valuable. He probably is not going to be a guy that scores you 30 goals, but he’s going to do a lot of the heavy lifting in some of the areas that aren’t so sexy that help you win games.”"

Frolik is just another valuable piece of the puzzle needed if Calgary wants to see the playoffs again in consecutive years.

Viktor Stalberg (New York Rangers)

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Your probably thinking, why is Stalberg on this list? Well let me tell you, as he

has a lot to offer the Rangers

. Stalberg posses speed and is a good skater, which is a crucial piece to add since the team decided to ship Carl Hagelin via trade out West to the Ducks. In addition to speed, he brings size to the ice. Measured at 6’3”. 220-lbs, I see Head Coach Alain Vigneault inserting him on checking lines on top of scoring situations. So while some may take it as the Rangers adding a depth piece, I see a guy who can score, finish checks and play good hockey. If Stalberg is effective in bringing all these qualities to the Rangers next season, the organization will be deemed successful in taking a small gamble offering him a budget-like

1-year bridge contract worth $1.1 million

. All from a guy who was bought-out by the Nashville Predators.

Antoine Vermette (Arizona Coyotes)

If it works, it works. That is most likely the reasoning behind the Coyotes bringing back Vermette to the club after what can be summed up as a post-season loan to the Blackhawks. It actually works out well for the Coyotes. Not only do they get a common face back, but one who now can bring fresh playoff experience to a group of young forwards that include Tobias Rieder, Max Domi, Dylan Strome and Anthony Duclair. Projected undoubtedly to center the top line next season, a two-year, $7.5 million contract is money well spent for club that gets one of their top point contributors back.

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