Free agency is always described as a frenzy of overspending, and it often is, but below the top level of out-there contracts, the real point of free agency is often about market correction. Players with formerly inflated contracts are reset at reasonable amounts, and usually, for all the pay cheque goes down, that's as good a thing for the player as it is their new team.
Last year, Toronto specialized in overpriced players. Several of them have moved on to new, lower contracts, but all of these deals seem good for the player.
Florida Panthers - 5 years - $3.4 million AAV
Reimer landed on his feet with the Cats, and with news today that Roberto Luongo is out for at least part of the regular season after hip surgery, the Florida goalie glut now makes a lot of sense.
Prior to free agency, they traded for Reto Berra, a decent backup who can play behind Reimer to start the season. The Panthers let former Al Montoya go, and he was signed by Montréal.
Once Luongo is back, the goalie shuffle begins. At least Reimer can comfort himself with the fact that one thing Luongo is famous for is handling that situation with class.
Winnipeg Jets - 2 years - $2.125 million AAV
Matthias, traded to Colorado at the deadline last year, was rumoured to be someone the Avalanche wanted to re-sign. They did not, and it is now rumoured that he took a pay cut to go to Winnipeg. None of that may be true, but he has landed in a team that plays more like the Leafs than the Avs do, and he will not likely be asked to suddenly be a top line winger like both of his teams did last year.
It was the Leafs that had signed him to more than his new contract, so he is the rare case of a player the Leafs pushed up in value.
This deal seems like a perfect fit for him and the team as long as they don't expect him to hit his high water mark on goals.
New York Rangers - 2 years - $1.65 million AAV
Grabner is going back to New York, to a team that saw him play for years on the Islanders and will know exactly what he can and cannot do. Finally getting a reasonable salary, his team won't suffer from the irritation of unrealized expectations.
His new team plays fast, and that's his best event, so this also seems like a perfect fit at a perfect price.
New York Islanders - 1 year - $1.25 million AAV
Every Leaf fan expected this at the deadline last year, but now the Islanders get him without giving up a pick. The price looks right, the term is sensible, and short of staying on the Leafs, this was likely his first choice.
Minnesota Wild - 1 year - $650,000 - two-way with AHL salary of $300,000
Now at a reasonable contract amount and signed as a backup/AHL goalie, Stalock should be able to meet expectations.
Pittsburgh Penguins - 1 year - $575,000 AAV - two-way with AHL salary of $200,000
Not given a qualifying offer by the Leafs, Percy accepted a significantly lower value contract than his QO would have been. Its AHL base salary is higher, but his old deal had very large performance bonuses on it. Without knowing what those bonuses entailed, this may actually be an increase in pay if he stays in the AHL. The overall AAV is attractive for a cap-strapped team if they want to play him in the NHL.
A win for him and the Penguins.
Chicago Blackhawks - terms unknown
Also not given a qualifying offer, Carrick was picked up by an organization with a very good AHL team. He seemed to have smashed into his ceiling in Toronto, but the Blackhawks have a way of making that ceiling disappear when they need depth forwards.
Tampa Bay Lightning - terms unknown
Bounced around the AHL, with a brief stint on the Marlies to no acclaim, Morin was picked up by the Lightning to fill out the Crunch lineup. They also picked up the infamous Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond so, it's not really clear what the team is looking to do as they transition away from their old captain and their old coach.
Morin looks good on paper, but so far has never performed well. Maybe this is the chance he needs. It's another one, anyway.
Blast from the past
Edited to add:
- Brad Boyes
- Nick Spaling
- T.J. Brennan
- Ben Smith
- Mark Arcobello - his contract for SC Bern has an NHL out clause up to mid-July