As usual in the NHL, the opening of NHL free agency on July 28th ushered in a frenzy of expensive free-agent contracts. A total of more than $750 million over 336 combined years was spent on players with expiring contracts.
Here is an early look at five of the most valuable and cost-effective free-agent signings from the 2021 offseason.
Frederik Andersen – Carolina Hurricanes
Contract: Two years at $4.5 million per season.
Frederik Andersen was regarded as one of the best goalies in the NHL from 2015 until around 2020. When his play started to falter in the 2020-21 season, many thought his prime years were coming to an end.
He only played 24 games last season and posted an 0.895 save percentage. Coupled with the emergence of Jack Campbell in Toronto, Andersen knew he had to look for other options.
Although the Carolina Hurricanes has a fantastic year in 2020-21, they inexplicably decided not to sign two of their three goalies and traded the other. Alex Nedjelkovic was dealt to the Detroit Red Wings, with James Reimer and Petr Mrazek testing free agency after remarkable seasons.
The Hurricanes wanted a new face in the crease and Frederik Andersen fit the bill. They signed him to a $9 million contract for two years. It was a good contract for both sides because it gave the team leeway with the lack of term, but at the same time, it had a relatively high AAV.
This year, Andersen has proved that he is still at the top of his game and he isn’t going away any time soon. He has a 1.98 GAA and 0.929 save percentage to go with a sparkling 13-5-0 record.
In the early going of the season, the 32-year-old goaltender is in the running for the Vezina Trophy.
Tony DeAngelo – Carolina Hurricanes
Contract: One year at $1 million.
When the New York Rangers bought out DeAngelo’s contract last year, it looked like his career was done. He had just come off of a string of controversial-to-outright-bad things happening at the same time. Coupled with a slow start to the 2020-21 season, in which he had only one point in the first six games, it sure seemed like he would be playing in Europe by now.
There is a good chance that would have happened, had the Hurricanes not given him a chance. They brought him in on a one-year prove-it deal with a low cap hit.
Before being placed into the COVID-19 protocol DeAngelo had an astonishing 19 points in 20 games. He still ranks 10th among defensemen in points despite missing five games.
At just $1 million, a near point-per-game pace is an incredible value for a free agent signing.
Evan Rodrigues – Pittsburgh Penguins
Contract: One year at $1 million.
The 28-year-old Toronto, Ontario native was signed to the same contract as DeAngelo by the Penguins this past offseason. As evident by the term and money involved they didn’t expect him to get more than 20-30 points this year.
Rodrigues has never scored more than 10 goals in a season in his career.
This year he has career-highs in ice-time, faceoff percentage, Corsi%, and is on track for a career year in goals, assists, and points.
He got thrown into the fire early in the season when Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Bryan Rust, and other key players missed games with injuries. He has adjusted remarkably well to the top-six role, posting eight goals and 18 points in 25 games.
He’s on track to score 26 goals and 59 points this year, blowing past his previous career highs.
Ondrej Kase – Toronto Maple Leafs
Contract: One year at $1.25 million.
Ondrej Kase looked like a promising young winger in the 2017-18 season when he scored 20 goals and 38 points that year. However, in the years since then, he’s been hampered by injuries and hasn’t been able to find that spark again.
That’s why when the Maple Leafs signed him this past offseason, nobody raised an eyebrow.
He has a modest 12 points in 25 games this year. His best qualities aren’t his point production though. He has become a staple on the Maple Leafs penalty kill and third line.
Altogether, he has performed better than his contract would suggest.
James Reimer – San Jose Sharks
Contract: Two years at $2.25 million per season.
The San Jose Sharks had been sliding in the standings for a few years after the 2019 Conference Finals run. They still have Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, and Marc-Eduard Vlasic on defense and upfront top-tier players including Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Evander Kane, and others.
On paper, they should have been a contender the last two seasons. The only thing that was holding them back was their mediocre-at-best goaltending.
So far this year, James Reimer has been the answer to that problem. In 14 games this year (13 starts), Reimer has a 2.11 GAA and 0.934 save percentage and an 8-4-1 record.
He is the main reason the Sharks are in the running for a playoff spot. At only $2.25 million per year, he is an absolute bargain of a free agent signing for the San Jose Sharks.