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2022 NHL Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Best Free Agent Signings So Far

Jason Yamaguchi ranks his top 10 signings of the 2022 NHL free agency period to this point.
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2022 NHL Free Agency: Ranking the 10 Best Free Agent Signings So Far

NHL free agency opened last Wednesday, leading to a flurry of signings across the league. Most teams have since made a splash, although some clubs have been much more active than others. Of the signings to this point, here are the ones that I rank highest based on the following criteria: team need, quality of player, and value/term of contract.

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1. Johnny Gaudreau - CBJ

In a shocking turn of events, star winger Johnny Gaudreau spurned potential suitors in New Jersey, on Long Island, and back in Calgary to sign with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Coming off of a career year in which Gaudreau scored 40 goals and added 75 assists, he was able to cash in on a seven-year, $68 million contract with the Jackets. Perhaps the most stunning fact was that he allegedly turned down larger offers from both Calgary and New Jersey. With the cap set to rise by a significant margin in two years and Gaudreau squarely in his prime, this contract will likely return value for the Blue Jackets.

2. Claude Giroux - OTT

After spending well over a decade in Philadelphia, Giroux signed a three-year, $19.5 million deal to gear up for his hometown team. Despite the fact that Giroux is 34 years old, he is still producing at a high level — at both ends of the ice. Carrying an AAV of just $6.5 million, this is a fantastic contract for the Senators, a team looking to make the leap into playoff contention in the near future. Giroux may end up centering recent acquisition Alex DeBrincat, an elite goalscorer whose style of play complements Giroux's perfectly. One could argue that the Senators have jumped the gun in terms of their contention window, but this signing will not be the reason they ultimately fall flat.

3. Brett Kulak - EDM

This is a signing that flew under the radar, but it deserves ample praise. Kulak, signed for four years at an AAV of $2.75 million, is an excellent defensive defenseman who fit in nicely with the Oilers after joining the team at the deadline. Edmonton would've been hopelessly thin on the back-end without re-signing Kulak — this was a signing they needed to make. Of the various contracts doled out across the league thus far, this one might be the most likely to return positive value.

4. Dylan Strome - WSH

Dylan Strome inked a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Capitals, a team desperate for help at center following reports that top-line center Nicholas Backstrom may miss extended time in 2022-23. The signing of Strome could pay dividends for Washington — he is a great passer, has an underrated shot, and can handle top-six minutes. The Capitals are looking to compete in the short term, and this signing will go a long way towards that end.

5. Mason Marchment - DAL

Despite having minimal NHL experience prior to the 2021-22 season, Marchment exploded onto the scene, grabbing 47 points in just 54 games. He also logged excellent underlying numbers at both ends of the ice and played a key role on a Florida team that steamrolled through the regular season. When free agency opened, he cashed in on a four-year deal with the Stars that carries an AAV of $4.5 million. It is possible that Marchment will regress, but he could do so and still return value on this contract. If he takes another step forward or even maintains his level of play from last season, he will be worth far more than $4.5 million on the cap. In other words, from Dallas's perspective, this contract is a great bet.

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6. David Perron - DET

David Perron signed a two-year deal with the Red Wings that carries an AAV of $4.75 million. This is a great deal for the Wings — despite his age (34), Perron is still a top-six caliber winger who boasts an elite shot, making him especially useful as a power-play piece. He is also responsible in the defensive zone, as evidenced by his stellar defensive metrics over the past few seasons. In keeping the term of this contract down to two years, Detroit minimized the risk of a situation where they would be caught holding the bag when Perron finally regresses.

7. Darcy Kuemper - WSH

Following a Stanley Cup win with the Avalanche, Kuemper cashed in, inking a five-year deal with the Capitals. The contract holds an AAV of $5.25 million, which is a reasonable price for a goaltender who posted a .921 save percentage and saved 21 goals above expected during the regular season. By signing Kuemper, Washington addressed their situation in goal, which had been in desperate need of improvement.

8. Andre Burakovsky - SEA

After a dismal inaugural season, Seattle eliminated a key area of need by locking in Burakovsky for five years at an AAV of $5.5 million. The versatile winger, who is just 27, has a high-end shot to go along with stellar transition and offensive-zone passing skills. The cap hit on this deal is marginally higher than one might prefer, which is why Burakovsky isn't higher on this list. Still, this is a good signing for the Kraken.

9. Vincent Trocheck - NYR

The 2021-22 Rangers made a run to the Eastern Conference Finals but then allowed multiple key contributors to walk to free agency, most notably Ryan Strome and Andrew Copp. Trocheck, signed for seven years at an AAV of $5.625 million, fills a glaring need for the Rangers on the second line. The 29-year-old center has an established history of playing an airtight, 200-foot game while also putting up solid point totals. Trocheck's history playing under Rangers' head coach Gerard Gallant in Florida, as well as his ability to contribute on both the power play and penalty kill, makes him a good fit in New York. A term of seven years isn't ideal, but the annual cap hit is fair.

10. Rudolfs Balcers - FLA

Balcers is a player who has quietly driven play at a high level for two straight seasons with San Jose. Despite that, the Sharks inexplicably bought out Balcers' contract, allowing the Panthers to snag him on a one-year, $750,000 deal. While this is seen by many as an irrelevant depth deal, it's a savvy pickup by a team known for capitalizing on gaping NHL market inefficiencies.

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Jason Yamaguchi is an avid New York sports fan. He has a proven record of providing +EV bets by combining traditional handicapping tactics with advanced statistics. You can follow him on Twitter @TopMoneyPicks to view all of his bets, including NFL, NHL, and MLB picks.


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