$900,000 is the amount Tom Gilbert will be costing the Panthers against the cap this year.
Every Summer in the NHL, there is a mad rush when free agency opens. Teams get into bidding wars for the marquee players and a lot of middling players get more than they probably deserve. It's even worse when there are no marquee players. Suddenly the David Clarksons of this world are getting mammoth contracts that will, more than likely, come back to haunt the franchise who handed them out further down the line.
This Summer was a little bit different that usual, with no real stars available as UFAs, but a lot of players finding themselves the victims of compliance buyouts as teams tried to stay under the shrinking salary cap. Good players were now available, but had black marks on them, caused by the buyout or by the bad contract that they were on previously.
Long after the dust settled on the free-agency feeding frenzy, there were still a lot of very talented NHLers available. Some signed in Europe instead of waiting to see if they would have a job in America. Eventually teams started inviting them to training camp on PTOs, giving them some bit of a chance to prove themselves, albeit in a slightly awkward scenario. Some earned contracts, others weren't so lucky.
Mikhail Grabovski, who should never have been bought-out by the Leafs in the first place, was signed by the Caps for 1-year at $3 million dollars against the cap. That's a good deal to get a talented NHL forward who can play tough minutes. If Grabbo had been a regular UFA this Summer and a part of the initial signing-frenzy, he would've got more than that.
Tom Gilbert, another victim of the numbers game, signed in Florida for $900,00. Gilbert is a legit top-4 defenceman who can play on the PP and PK. He had a rough end to the year for the Wild, but also had the worst On-Ice Sv% on the team, and had his year affected by pneumonia. With that bad luck behind him, I would expect him to bounce back and be a great value pick-up for the Panthers. To put that signing in perspective, he has a smaller cap-hit for 2013-2014 than Zenon Konopka ($950,000) and Clayton Stoner ($1,050,000).
Tim Thomas, who has been the best goaltender in the NHL from the last 6 years was another smart signing by the Panthers late in the day, for 1-year at $3.75 million. Obviously his situation was slightly different, as it was unknown if he would even play for a while, but getting a goalie of his calibre for under $4 million is great. Even if Thomas isn't quite as good as he used to be, this is a low-risk, high-reward move for a young team trying to stay above the cap floor and develop their prospects, such as young goalie Jakob Markstrom who could do without being thrown in at the deep end this year.
Ron Hainsey played insanely tough minutes for the Jets last year, and has been a solid top-4 defenceman throughout his career, but, due to the fact that he was overpaid on his previous contract, got bought-out. A lot of people thought he was being blackballed by the NHL for his role as an "enforcer" for the NHLPA during the lockout negotiations when he went unsigned. Finally, Carolina picked him up on a PTO, and he impressed them so much that they gave him a 1-year, $2 milllion contract.
I can't believe I'm about to compliment the Leafs, but singing Mason Raymond for $1 million after a PTO is great business. He's a solid bottom-6 forward and will be worth a whole lot more than that. Brad Boyes to Florida for 1-year at $1 million, Brendan Morrow to the Blues for 1-year at $1.5 million and Damien Brunner to the Devils for 2-years at $2.5 million per year strike me as smart moves too.
When you compare these signing to the ones that happened in the initial part of free agency, it's easy to see how the teams who waited til late made the smarter moves. When you see mediocre, or over-the-hill players like Zidlicky, Scuderi, Ference, Bozak and Clowe getting way overpaid, and decent players like Clarkson, Filppula, Alfredsson, Smith and Ribeiro getting contracts that they are very unlikely to live up to, you can really see the value in waiting til the frenzy is over to make your move.
It will be interesting to evaluate these moves at the end of the season and to see what players are available at the end of the Summer next year.
That's all folks. Hit me up on Twitter for more hockey talk.