What has free agency done for us lately?
That's the question that every NHL team should be asking themselves around this time of year. Now, that's not to say that we should do away with free agency, effectively making each player an indentured servant to the team that drafted them; however General Managers standing still on the big name free agents is encouraging to see. For every Yannic Perreault, who has a career season after signing with a new team, there's a Kim Johnsson, who just doesn't meet expectations. Too many times we, as hockey fans, go up in arms when our team doesn't push for the next big free agent, but it isn't always what our respective teams need.
BOLD PREDICTION ALERT:
Scott Gomez will live up to expectations this year in New York and Michael Nylander will not live up to expectations this year in Edmonton.
See, there's a few things to consider. First, the needs of the team. Let me use my team, the Minnesota Wild as an example. Last year they needed depth at the blueline (Kim Johnsson and Keith Carney), grit (Branko Radevojievic) and a power forward in front of the net (Mark Parrish). They didn't get more than they needed and, in fact, got a plesant surprise from free agency with the addition of Niklas Backstrom. This year, we could use a first line forward to play alongside Demitra and Gaborik and a fourth liner or two to swap depending on the need of the game. I don't believe we will even consider signing a fourth liner, solely because of the players we have within. The first line center, we could have gone out and put bids in for, but decided not to. Why? Only our organization knows. Is a current player ready to step in the role? Is there a trade in the works? Who knows. My point is, the needs apparent to us as fans are not always the needs apparent to the organization. Second, you must consider the monetary situation. Again, I will use the Wild. We have roughly $41M committed thus far (assuming we re-up some of our RFAs). We want to leave ourselves roughly a $4M cushion against the cap. This gives us about $5M to spend. Again, you have to read in between the lines with this. Knowing that we have $5M to spend to get up to our self-imposed limit, a quiet first day isn't the end of the world. All rumors aside, GMs and coaches know who they want to pursue and who they want to get. It doesn't always move fast, but it does move.
BOLD PREDICTION ALERT:
Teams that were silent on day one and even on day two will still become players in the coming weeks.
When you look at all of the free agent signings of last year, how many really made a difference to push the teams over the top? Ottawa and Anaheim? Neither had significant free agent signings. Buffalo and Detroit? With the exception of Hasek, both primarily stood pat. With all of the optimism of the pre-season, free agents rarely live up to their inflated expectations. In the end, free agency can fill gaps on a roster and can bring in tremendous value. But, because of the hype, can also cause great disappointments and lead to false clouds hanging over players' heads in their careers. Which is why GMs and fans need to take good, long looks at the players picked up by their organizations before getting overly excited about their acquisitions.
FINAL BOLD PREDICTION ALERT:
Though many Free Agent signings may have good seasons, many will disappoint in comparison to their expectations. Jason Blake, Chris Drury and Daniel Briere are the top candidates for this.