I might have been naive, but I expected the 2011 offseason to be a quiet one. There were just a few big names available in free agency – Brad Richards, Christian Ehrhoff, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Tomas Vokoun – along with a number of lesser lights. It seemed likely that there would be a few minor trades, a couple bidding wars, and some stupid contracts handed out to mediocre players.
While those did occur, things went a little crazy: Philadelphia traded away two star centres in order to sign Bryzgalov to a massive long-term deal. Florida started making it rain like Pacman Jones. Jaromir Freaking Jagr returned to the NHL. And everyone seemed to forget that Tomas Vokoun existed.
Now that we’re over halfway through the NHL season, how well are the offseason’s biggest acquisitions doing? Are they living up to expectations?
Ilya Bryzgalov – Let’s not mince words: Bryzgalov has been terrible. His save percentage third worst in the league, ahead of only Steve Mason and Dwayne Roloson. It’s enough to make you think that the Flyers’ goaltending woes are an organizational issue, except for the fact that Sergei Bobrovsky is drastically outperforming Bryzgalov. Turns out the Flyers may have had a franchise goaltender under their noses all along, meaning they probably didn’t need to make the drastic move of trading Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
Jaromir Jagr – Jagr, on the other hand, has been even better than expected. After three seasons in the KHL and at the age of 39, Jagr looks like he never left. He has 34 points in 38 games, making up for the offensive depth that left town in the off-season. While he might be a little more susceptible to injury thanks to his age, the Flyers can’t complain about his production. Also, isn’t it just plain awesome to see him in the NHL again? Don’t answer if you’re a Penguins fan.
Brad Richards – The biggest name in last year’s UFA market, Richards commanded a high price, signing with the Rangers for 9 years and $60 million. While you can’t argue with the Rangers’ place in the standings or with Richards all-around play, his offensive production has been sub-par. He has 31 points in 44 games, after two straight seasons of scoring at a better than point-per-game rate. He’s certainly made the Rangers a better team, but it’s troubling to see him on pace for the fewest assists of his career. Yes, that includes the season when he only played 56 games.
Tomas Vokoun – Remember when the Flyers emptied their wallets for Bryzgalov and the Avalanche leveraged their future in a trade for Varlamov? Yeah, that was hilarious, because Vokoun signed for just $1.5 million with the Capitals. While the team has struggled at times, Vokoun has been solid, if unspectacular. His .917 SV% and 2.53 GAA are right around league average, which, for the price, is pretty good and much better than that of backup Michael Neuvirth.
Tomas Kaberle – Remember when Kaberle was a marquee offensive defenceman? It wasn’t that long ago. The Hurricanes were trusting him to reinvigorate their ailing powerplay, but had no goals and just 9 assists in 29 games before they traded him to the Canadiens. A perennial 40+ point defenceman in the past, Kaberle might reach 30 points this season. He’s gotten to the point that I’ll likely be ridiculed for including him as a “big” acquisition. Fair enough.
Brian Campbell – When the topic of untradeable contracts has come up over the past few years, Campbell’s name is one of the first that came to mind. Then along came the GM that signed him to the contract originally, now managing a team that needed to reach the salary floor and Campbell’s contract was suddenly a valuable asset. The best part is that Campbell has been fantastic for the Panthers: his 34 points have him ranked second amongst defencemen in scoring, he’s fourth in the NHL in average icetime, and he’s heading to the all-star game. For the first time, it actually looks like he deserves his contract.
Christian Ehrhoff – Like the Sabres as a team, Ehrhoff has been a disappointment. He signed a 10-year contract for $40 million, but has just 17 points in his first 37 games with the team and only 1 powerplay goal. He’s also a minus-11 and has a negative Corsi rating for the first time in the last 5 seasons. It’s beginning to look like a large chunk of his offensive success was from playing with some very potent offensive players in San Jose and Vancouver.
Martin Havlat – 15 points in 26 games for the Sharks wasn’t anything too spectacular. Then he managed to tear his hamstring jumping over the boards on a line change. I’d poke fun at him, but I’ve torn my hamstring before and it was the most painful thing I have ever experienced in my life. On the plus side, he’s been less disappointing in San Jose than Dany Heatley. Speaking of…
Dany Heatley – There was a time when Heatley was a dominant goalscorer, with two 50-goal, 100-point seasons in Ottawa. The winger has just 30 points in 46 games and seems unlikely to even reach 30 goals this season for the Wild. Meanwhile, the player he was traded to the Sharks for, Milan Michalek, has 23 goals and is one of the top-10 goalscorers this season. The NHL is weird, guys.
Mike Richards – It’s a little tough to judge Richards. His points are down compared to previous seasons, but the Kings just don’t score a lot anyway: it’s tough to judge how much of that is the Kings’ style of play and how much is individual performance. He is tied with Anze Kopitar for the team lead in goals with 14 while playing in 8 fewer games, but he also has the worst Corsi rating on the team. Let’s just say the jury’s still out.
Jeff Carter – With his season completely derailed by injuries and the Blue Jackets hopelessly mired in the NHL’s basement, this season looks like a write-off for Carter. When he has been in the lineup, he has just 17 points in 30 games, 10 of those being goals. Not to worry, though: he has 10 years left on his contract with Columbus, so he’ll get another chance or 9 to get it right.
James Wisniewski – Wisniewski also has 17 points, but in one fewer games than Carter. Also, he’s a defenceman. Quite frankly, he’s done exactly what he was signed to do. He can’t really be blamed for the Blue Jackets starting the equivalent of Milhouse in net. And again I feel the need to point out that Vokoun signed for just $1.5 million. In any case, Wisniewski has not been the problem in Columbus, though his fractured ankle certainly doesn’t help. Like Carter, this season is a write-off for Wisniewski.