Pucks in Depth: Five of the worst NHL free agent signings in 2018
Pittsburgh Penguins signed Jack Johnson to a five-year deal.

We’re less than a week into NHL free agency and there have been no shortage of signings general managers will surely regret down the road. In no particular order, let’s take a closer look at a few that stand out.

Jay Beagle – Vancouver Canucks – Four years, $3 million per

Generally, teams, especially bottom feeders, have to overpay to land their targets in free agency. The Canucks took that to a new level on July 1st when they handed a four-year, $12 million contract to Beagle.

He has averaged just 20 points per 82 games since entering the NHL and, at 32 years of age, it seems more likely his production will decrease than increase moving forward.

The value brought from his defensive game is also overstated – particularly when it comes to killing penalties.

Here’s a look at how his numbers stack up to other Capitals forwards who have skated a regular shift on the PK over the last couple seasons.

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Beagle was as bad or worse than his teammates in terms of allowing shot attempts, goals, and expected goals (based on shots and location).

I get the Canucks wanted some defensive minded veterans to chew up tough minutes, and help shelter the kids, but there were plenty of alternatives who could have been had at a cheaper price and for less term.

Leo Komarov – New York Islanders – Four years, $3 million per

Komarov was once a very good depth forward. Those days are over.

His underlying numbers had slowly been getting worse before completely falling off a cliff this past season.

The Toronto Maple Leafs – a 105 point, 49 win team – controlled just 45.13% of the shot attempts and 43.86% of the goals with Komarov on the ice at 5v5. For perspective, the Ottawa Senators controlled 47.20% of the shot attempts and 43.43% of the goals during that game state. In other words, a high-end Maple Leafs team garnered worse results than a horrendous Senators team with Komarov on the ice.

His rate stats were equally bad. He averaged just .67 points per 60 minutes at 5v5, marking the third consecutive year that total has decreased.

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Komarov’s numbers were pretty ugly across the board, which is why it’s hardly surprising he ranked 360th among 367 eligible forwards in Goals Above Replacement/82.

One would think things are only going to get worse as he works his way deeper into his 30s. This contract has disaster written all over it.

Valtteri Filppula – New York Islanders – One year, $2.75 million per

Like Komarov, he is on a clear decline and does more harm than good at this point in his career.

Since posting positive relative numbers in 2013-14, his teams have consistently fared worse on the shot clock and scoreboard with Filppula on the ice at 5v5.

Screen Shot 2018-07-05 at 11.15.32 PMI’ve seen penalty killing ability cited as one reason for the signing. He posted by far the worst numbers on a god awful Flyers PK so bringing him in to try and improve the 31st ranked kill (in terms of GA/60) seems like a flawed plan.

He’s an inefficient point producer, too, having averaged fewer 5v5 points per 60 (1.24) than the likes of Jason Chimera, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, and Devante Smith-Pelly over the last three seasons.

On the bright side, Filppula’s contract is only for one year. That’s about the only positive.

Jack Johnson – Pittsburgh Penguins – Five years, $3.25 million per

Johnson is a player whose perceived value far outweighs his actual value.

The 31-year-old defender has played 11 seasons in the NHL and his teams have *always* fared worse – in many cases significantly so – with him on the ice.

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He is not a strong defender and his offensive game is no longer potent enough to come close to making up for it.

Johnson has registered just 48 points over the last three seasons and offensive dynamos such as Robert Bortuzzo, Brooks Orpik, Johnny Oduya, and Ron Hainsey have managed to produce 5v5 points at a higher clip during that time.

I’m happy he landed himself a lucrative contract because his parents bled him dry and he has little to show for a lengthy NHL career. I don’t think he’s worth it, though, and the term is much too long for a depth player on the wrong side of 30.

Cam Ward – Chicago Blackhawks – One year, $3 million

With Corey Crawford’s status unknown, and Anton Forsberg clearly not capable of carrying the load, the Blackhawks had to go out and find a solid, veteran goaltender.

Ward is most certainly a veteran. Solid? Not so much.

The 34-year-old netminder has posted a .910 save percentage, which is below league average, or worse in six consecutive seasons. He hasn’t even hit .910 since 2014-15.

Over the last three seasons, Ward owns a .915 save percentage at 5v5. That might not sound bad on the surface but, well, it really is. Among 51 goaltenders to log at least 3,000 5v5 minutes in that three-year window, Ward ranks dead last in save percentage. Yes, even below the likes of Chad Johnson, Mike Condon, Antti Niemi, and Louis Domingue.

If the Blackhawks are banking on Ward to stabilize things between the pipes, they’re going to be awfully disappointed.