Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cross Checks [Print without images]

Thursday, August 23, 2012
Talking Hockey: The best free-agent signings

By Tim Boughton, Paul Grant and David Walton

This week, our regular guys talk about the best free-agent signings of the summer. Because that's what's on everyone's mind these days. Play along, people!

DAVID WALTON: Well, when you are talking about the best signings, it's easy to focus on one or two players: Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. They received many of the headlines.

But when I think about length and value of the contacts, and then factor in potential, Alexander Semin qualifies for the "best" free-agent signing.

Yes, Suter and Parise are marquee players and were the cream of the crop. But Semin has just as much skill (if not more) than Parise. While he might appear to lack the desire to play game after game, a change of scenery could just be what he needs. Besides, Carolina lost out on the Parise and Nash sweepstakes. So they were desperate to acquire secondary scoring. Semin brings that much-needed goal-scoring ability. Over his career, he has 408 points in 469 games and is surprisingly a plus-65. Although some might not agree that plus/minus is a good statistic for proving a player's worth, I think in this case it's worth noting.

He's going to fare well in Carolina. And if it doesn't work out, both he and Carolina can move on after the season. It's not like he has another 12 years remaining on his contract.

But if it does work out, goalies in the Southeast Division are going to have many a sleepless night at the thought of Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Semin peppering them with shots.

Tim, what do you think?

TIM BOUGHTON: As far as Semin is concerned, if Marc Crawford knows hockey as well as he knows hair-care products, then we might be searching for Kirk Muller's coaching career in the obit section of the Hockey News by mid-January (given a full season). Pierre McGuire (like him or not) used stronger language, calling Semin a “coach killer.” That's a pretty hard bashing.

I’m gonna start off by raising a huge red flag for Nashville: OK, Shea Weber is probably one of the top players in the league (no argument here, but with a possible argument from Henrik Zetterberg's face) -- but 14 years? Really? So let me present this theory for your consumption: Were the Flyers and the league in conjunction with Prestige Worldwide while attempting to blatantly force contraction by bankrupting the Predators with that offer sheet? (Sure, this all sounds Dave Mustaine-crazy, but Nashville had to re-sign this guy and everyone knew it.) And unless his wife threatened to take a “Louisville Slugger to both headlights” of Preds GM David Poile's vehicle, I think they overpaid for Mike Fisher as well. I think we are through the looking glass here, gentlemen.

Since I can barely focus on one thing for more than a minute, I’m gonna say that two short-term deals for teams that could win now were the best signings of the offseason.

First, let's start with an RFA: Tuukka Rask. With Tim Thomas’ “retirement or whatever,” the Bruins had to have this guy. They still have the core of their Stanley Cup-winning team intact. He is a somewhat proven commodity and the Bruins should be in position to sign him long-term next season after Thomas’s money is off the books. The great part about it for the Bruins was that they weren’t really competing with any other team to get Rask. I think he is a solid No. 1 in the NHL and last season's injury as well as Thomas’s amazing Cup run two years ago has undervalued him.

And I’m gonna get hammered for this but c’mon, what about Teemu Selanne? Convincing him to play one more season is a home-run signing for the Ducks and a huge windfall for Bruce Boudreau in his first full season behind the bench in Anaheim. Selanne is a fan favorite, the contract is for only one season and in their wildest dreams he is just a second-line forward. They already have a solid first line with budding superstars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry; they already have the chemistry with Saku Koivu sitting on the second line. Go back and watch a bunch of Ducks games last season; Selanne is always around the puck, and sure, he might have lost a step, but great hands never get old. Keeping Selanne with the existing core for one more season will get the Ducks in the playoffs, there is no doubt.

PAUL GRANT: Are you guys on the junk? Again?

You're both telling me that Parise and Suter are not going to set a Wild fire with their offense?

Well, I agree. Those guys are talented, but $98 million over 13 years is way too much term for anyone. Long contracts just don't make sense, especially in hockey. (But are a mighty fine idea in journalism, ahem!) The players are a good catch and great competitors, but human nature will kick in around Year 5 of their respective deals. In other words, there will be coasting, especially if the Wild don't develop as they expected.

So, for my money (and let's be clear, it's not my money), I'd bank on Dominik Hasek! Ha-ha! I slay myself. Seriously, I really like the Jason Garrison signing by the Canucks. This guy can get it done at full strength, gets time on the power play and can even log minutes on the PK. The Canucks sorely needed more from their blue line during their first-round loss to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion Kings -- which is one reason Sami Salo went free to sign with Tampa -- and they addressed that in Garrison. He's under 30, can score and is not a defensive liability. And all at a cap hit over six years of $4.6 million, which is less money than Suter, Matt Carle and Dennis Wideman each were given. Heck, he's not getting all that much more than Sheldon Souray. That's a bargain, no matter what currency your revenue is in.

That gives the Canucks quite the D: Garrison, Alexander Edler and Dan Hamhuis. Oh, right, Timmy's favorite, Kevin Bieksa. Pretty good top four, yeah?

All right, that's enough. Until next week, stay classy, fellas.