Puck Daddy - NHL

It's been roughly a week since the Unrestricted Free-Agent Derby began in the NHL, and to say the pace has slowed would be an insult to sluggishness. There were 36 UFA signings on July 1. There were 16 on July 2. There have been seven since then. 

Sure, Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) should decide in short order in whose money bin he'll swim. Stars-in-name-only-now like Mike Modano(notes), Marty Turco(notes) and Paul Kariya(notes) linger on the market. After that ... well, let's just say you could sign them all and still not hit the salary cap ceiling.

The dust has settled on the Frenzy, so we figured it was a good time to revisit 10 UFA signings that, with the benefit of some context and a dab of hindsight, aren't all that terrible. At least on paper.

10. Dan Hamhuis(notes) (Vancouver Canucks; 6 years for $27 mil.)

Both he and Anton Volchenkov(notes) with the New Jersey Devils signed for six years to bring down their respective cap hits, but Hamhuis is the better investment because he's historically more durable. (And, frankly, doesn't play with the same velocity as the A-Train.) Yes, what is basically a second-pairing defenseman has had his tires pumped to Gravedigger size on the open market. But a $4.5 million cap hit for him is a win for the Canucks.

9. Andrew Ebbett(notes) (Phoenix Coyotes; 1 year for $500,000)

He was terrible last year: Getting dropped on waivers twice, scoring just 15 points in 61 games between the Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild in a season marred by a concussion. But that 32-point season two years ago lingers like a stakes race win for a struggling horse. GM Don Maloney has him for $500,000 and 1 year, with a two-way deal. The risk couldn't be lower. Besides, it'll be fun to see how Ebbett and Ed Jovanovski(notes) discuss their previous interaction:

8. Sean O'Donnell(notes) (Philadelphia Flyers; 1 year for $1 mil.)

If he's not on the third pairing, he's just a strong, cheap veteran insurance policy for the Flyers. He's 39 and a great mentor; plus, he used to play with Chris Pronger(notes), which gives Philly a little flexibility if they ever decide to move Matt Carle(notes). (Not saying that's in the cards, but still.)

7. Kurtis Foster(notes) (Edmonton Oilers; 2 years for $3.6 mil.)

Scott Cullen of TSN broke down the benefits of Foster's fit with the Oil:

Given his salary, of $3.6-million over two seasons, it's not unreasonable to have Foster play on the third pairing at even strength while handling first-unit power play time.

Foster's big shot from the point ought to help create room for Edmonton's forwards down low on the power play and improve the blueline production with the man advantage.

A mobility-challenged defenseman who's aces on the power play, and yet costs $3.6 million against the cap less than Sheldon Souray(notes)? Throw in the incredible back story, and it's a win.

6. Pavel Kubina(notes) (Tampa Bay Lightning; 3 years for $7.7 mil.)

One of the agents we interviewed for our Free Agent Confidential piece on Wednesday called Kubina's signing one of the best of the offseason: "Good player, didn't pay a lot and not a lot of term." Compare it to the Mattias Ohlund contract, and you'll see why.

5. Toni Lydman(notes) (Anaheim Ducks; 3 years for $9 mil.)

Whether or not he was part of a secret Finnish recruitment scheme for Koivu and Selanne, a $3 million a year cap hit for a defenseman who can get you 20 solid minutes a night and around 25 points is a solid addition.

4. Chris Mason(notes) (Atlanta Thrashers; 2 years for $3.7 mil)

He's a legit starter, an upgrade over Johan Hedberg(notes) and is expected to split starts with Ondrej Pavelec(notes). He showed last season that he can handle the role as the workhorse if needed. Plus, the Thrashers can eventually get the attendance benefit of "Chris Mason Skull Cap Night, sponsored by Rogaine".

3. Henrik Tallinder(notes) (New Jersey Devils; 4 years for $13.5 mil.)

The Devils refurbish their blue line with a solid former Buffalo Sabres defenseman in his prime (at 31), as well as a Swedish mentor for some of the franchise's top blue-chip prospects. Four years seems just about right as well. 

2. Dan Ellis(notes) (Tampa Bay Lightning; 2 years for $3 mil.)

As we mentioned last week, getting Ellis in at under $2 million and for friendly competition with Mike Smith(notes) was a coup for Stevie Y ... and not exactly a shining moment for Montreal Canadiens management that misjudged his desire to be Carey Price's(notes) waterboy next season.

1. Paul Martin(notes) (Pittsburgh Penguins; 5 years for $25 mil.)

Finally, the Zbynek Michalek(notes) signing was keen, too, but Martin's signing was an absolutely win for Ray Shero. He received offers of more money, but chose Pittsburgh for a cap hit that's less than what Sergei Gonchar(notes) received from the Ottawa Senators. From the Penguins:

Martin is a great two-way defenseman with underrated offensive ability. He put up respectable offensive numbers in New Jersey (five seasons with 20-plus points), despite playing in a defense-first system. His numbers and talent should only flourish under the Penguins up-tempo, attacking system.

"Paul is a really smooth skating defenseman, great stick, good defensively," Shero said. "Offensive production might be a little bit better than what he's had in the past. He's a real solid all-around player. He can play lots of minutes, an effortless skater."

Devils fans have waited years for Martin to find his inner Rafalski in his point totals; maybe he finds it feeding the puck up to Sid and Geno.

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