Worst UFA deals this off-season

July 12, 2014 in Premium Articles by Matthew Coller

The opening of free agency in the NHL has been nicknamed “silly season” because of the number of over-the-top contracts that are handed out on July 1. This year, there were certainly silly deals, but several teams landed quality players for reasonable contracts. We examined those on Wednesday. In this file, we’re going to look at some of the worst of those contracts, according to both standard and advanced metrics. We’ll make reference to goals versus threshold (GVT), a Hockey Prospectus proprietary statistic; for more on GVT, click here. All other advanced stats are courtesy of ExtraSkater.com. Here are the five worst deals so far: Free agent: Ryan Miller, G, (2013-14 GVT: 15.6) Team: Vancouver Canucks Price tag: Three years, $18 million This head-scratching contract presents the question: Are the Canucks rebuilding after trading Ryan Kesler or not? Even-Strength Save Percentage, 2013-14 Player ES Save % Tuukka Rask 0.941 Carey Price 0.934 Semyon Varlamov 0.933 Jonathan Bernier 0.933 Sergei Bobrovsky 0.931 Jonathan Quick 0.929 Henrik Lundqvist 0.926 Kari Lehtonen 0.925 Mike Smith 0.925 Craig Anderson 0.925 Roberto Luongo 0.925 Corey Crawford 0.925 Jonas Hiller 0.925 Ryan Miller 0.923 Source: NHL.com   Signing a 33-year-old goaltender to a $6 million per year deal suggests they are in win-now mode instead of finding out whether they have the next franchise goaltender in Jacob Markstrom or Eddie Lack. Yet, considering the additions the Anaheim Ducks, Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks made, it seems like a long shot the Canucks will be a contender this season. Oh, and there’s still the matter of the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, who didn’t lose any key players from their championship roster. The other aspect of the deal that is questionable is the cap hit for a goaltender who has been only a bit above average since winning the Vezina Trophy in 2009-10. He has had save percentages of .916, .916, .915 and .923 during that stretch, with the league average hovering around .913. The best predictor for future performance is even-strength save percentage, where Miller was below the elite company of the league last season, as seen in the chart at right. There is no doubt Miller is a very good goaltender, but spending $6 million per year during a time of retooling or rebuilding does not make a lot of sense. Expect Miller to be reminded of his days in Buffalo, fighting to sneak in to the postseason. Free agent: Dave Bolland, C (2013-14 GVT: 2.8) Team: Florida Panthers Price tag: Five years, $27.5 million It never ceases to amaze how a Cup-winning role player can make a team’s eyes gloss over the facts when he hits the open market. There is no question that Bolland was an important player during the Blackhawks’ two Stanley Cup victories, but at 30 years old — and going on three underwhelming seasons — his services aren’t worth half of what the Panthers are going to shell out. The veteran center has netted just 63 points in 134 games going back to 2011-12. That 0.47 points per game rate is similar to what Sean Bergenheim, R.J. Umberger and Lee Stempniak posted this…

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Matthew Coller