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"Sabres/Northeast Division Buzz"
Twitter @SabreHess • 28 Years Old • Male
Now that the initial free agent frenzy is over, I'd like to review some contracts that have been handed out in order to assess the value of 3.5 to 4.5 million dollars on the open market. Or more importantly, to see how NHL franchises value that dollar range differently. Below are a list of forwards who have signed AFTER July 1st 2011 to contracts that will have an annual cap hit of 3.5 - 4.5 million dollars. This list DOES NOT include RFA's signed prior to July 1st 2011 (Drew Stafford @ 4mil), players acquired via trade (Matthew Lombardi 3.5mil), or players who may incur a salary in the aforementioned dollar range but whose annual cap hit does not fall between 3.5 - 4.5 million dollars. Let's take a look.

Ville Leino - UFA - 4.5 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .489, signed with the Sabres, age 27, contract length 6 yrs

His PPG is skewed because he has only had essentially one full season in the NHL and last year with the Flyers Ville had a PPG of .654. Given that he is a late bloomer and stands to improve on a team loaded with scoring ability, that PPG can still go up.

Tomas Fleischmann - UFA - 4.5 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .521, signed with the Panthers, age 27, contract length 4 yrs

Fleischmann has improved every year in the league and carries a ton of intangibles along with his better than a point every other game average. If his blood clotting issues are over there is no reason to believe he can't continue to improve.

Erik Cole - UFA - 4.5 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .629, signed with the Canadiens, age 32, contract length 4 yrs

Unlike Fleischmann and Leino, Cole is unlikely to improve on his resume prior to signing with Montreal. Though he has performed well in big games, and won a cup with Carolina he faltered after being traded to the Edmonton Oilers two years ago and may not gel as well in Montreal without an elite center ala Eric Staal.

Brooks Laich - UFA - 4.5 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .498, signed with the Capitals, age 28, contract length 6 yrs

Brooks Laich is the model of consistency. Over the last three seasons his point totals have been within 9 points every year, he stays healthy, and plays a solid two way game. On a team with soft superstars (not mentioning any names) a hard nosed guy like Brooks is valued for more than just his point totals, and with similar style players in Brouwer and Ward now on board Laich doesn't have to shoulder as much of the load.

Andrew Ladd - RFA - 4.4 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .517, signed with Winnipeg, age 25, contract length 5 yrs

The only RFA on this list, Ladd is coming off his career best 59 point season and will be the new captain Canada once the puck drops in Winnipeg this fall. With some added depth to their roster Ladd should continue to improve upon last years totals and being a two time Stanley Cup champion at 25 years old is saying a lot to the leadership he should command in that young Jets locker room.

Scottie Upshall - UFA - 3.5 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .476, signed with the Panthers, age 27, contract length 4 yrs

Scottie is a high energy guy who's determined play is infectious. Florida desperately needed some new energy and Upshall should provide them with some secondary scoring as well. I'm not sure he'll ever be more than a third line winger, but he can be extremely effective in the right role with the right line mates.

Alex Tanguay - UFA - 3.5 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .838, signed with the Flames, age 31, contract length 5 yrs

Alex seems to have found a second life in Calgary after disappointing stints in Montreal and Tampa Bay, he has regained his form from his earlier days in Colorado. In fact his 17 powerplay assists were the most he'd had since 05-06 with the Avalanche (21). At 31yrs old he should still have plenty of hockey in him and i would look for him to put up similar numbers to this past year (69pts in 79gms) for at least the first three years of his five year deal.

Michael Ryder - UFA - 3.5 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .608, signed with the Stars, age 31, contract length 2 yrs

I find it a bit odd Ryder didn't hold out for a deal with a longer term. All the aforementioned players signed for 4+ years with similar dollar value. When he's on his game he is a tenacious fore checker with some scoring punch, but his goal production has dropped off dramatically over the past few years. Still, he had a great playoff run with Boston and now has a cup on his resume and will provide Dallas with much needed secondary scoring.

Simon Gagne - UFA - 3.5 mil annual cap hit, career NHL PPG .775, signed with the Kings, age 31, contract length 2 yrs

Simon also only signed for 2 years, but given his post lockout injury concerns it is more understandable than Ryder's deal. Not the scorer he once was, Simon is still one of the better two way forwards in the league and for what he lacks in goal production the past couple seasons, he makes up for by shutting down opponent scorers. The Kings have good scoring depth and Gagne should fit in well, i can see him improving upon his 40 points with Tampa and getting back into the 50 point range, though i don't imagine him ever being the 30 goal, 70 plus point player he was earlier in his career again.

Honorable mentions: Two guys who didn't quite qualify for this list but i wanted to comment on were Jaromir Jagr and Tim Connolly. Jagr is 39 years old, but signed a fairly economical 3.3 million dollar contract. I can see that being a steal for Philly as anyone who watched the World Championships knows Jagr can still play, at the very least he should improve their power play tremendously. Connolly on the other hand is carrying a 4.7 million dollar cap hit! For a guy who has concussion problems, and whose season just ended with a concussion, not to mention his diminishing offensive numbers it strikes me that he'll cost Toronto more than anyone listed above. This is the fallout from the Brad Richards deal, as Timmy was the next best playmaking center on the market.

Value Ranking

1) Andrew Ladd -great value with huge upside, for less than Tim Connolly (i promise that's the last Connolly reference)
2)Alex Tanguay -as long as he stays productive on the back end of his deal it's a nice cap hit for a guy who can rack up the points
3)Simon Gagne -his point totals should improve in LA and he's so good defensively you won't cringe when he's in a slump
4)Ville Leino -his cap hit is pretty high if he doesn't improve off of last year, but i still think he will
5)Michael Ryder - Dallas needs a couple more Ryders to be a contender, but at 3.5 mil he should earn his pay
6)Brooks Laich - Chris Drury also got a lot of money for intangibles, let's hope it works out better for the Caps than it did for the Rangers
7)Erik Cole - I'm not big on this move for Montreal. I'd be leery of the Edmonton Cole reappearing not to mention his injury issues, too much money.
8)Tomas Fleischmann - He has to improve on what he's done thus far to earn the contract, i do think he can...but the Panthers may regret the price.
9)Scottie Upshall - Maybe Kevin Dineen can turn this guy into Brian Gionta. If not, i can't justify 3.5 mil to a guy not in the top 6, too much money. Clearly a move to get to the cap floor.

I'm sure many will disagree with my perspective, but i really don't like the Cole, Fleischmann, and Upshall deals. What say you?
Filed Under:   Leino   Gagne   Cole   Jagr   Upshall   Laich   Ladd   Ryder   UFA  
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