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Hodgemail: Who's been the best or worst of the UFAs signed?

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TSN.ca Staff
11/9/2011 1:32:51 PM
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When NHL free agency opened on July 1, there was a predictable frenzy of activity with players finding new homes and teams trying to sign the parts that might prove to be the groundwork or perhaps the final touch towards a championship run.

And now we put the question to you: "Who has been the best or worst of the free agents signed during the off-season?"

While many good players re-signed with their teams after becoming free agents, we'll focus on those that switched teams after July 1.

When Jaromir Jagr inked a deal with Philadelphia, the Flyers hoped that the 39-year-old would be able to find some of the form he showed in the NHL before he left for the Kontinental Hockey League. And he's returned with 15 points in his first 14 games to boost a Flyers attack that traded away Mike Richards and Jeff Carter over the summer.

Sheldon Souray was banished to the AHL by the Edmonton Oilers for the 2010-11 campaign. After spending an entire season with the Hershey Bears, Souray was bought out by the Oilers and inked to a one-year deal by the Dallas Stars. Since moving to Dallas, the 35-year-old rearguard has tallied 12 points and has helped lead the Stars to first place in the Pacific Division.

Taking a chance on inexpensive goaltending has also paid off for some of the teams that took a chance in the off-season.

The Blues' Brian Elliott, Washington's Tomas Vokoun, the Coyotes' Mike Smith, Mathieu Garon of the Lightning and Florida Panthers starter Jose Theodore all signed for under $2 million each and have all exceeded early expectations.

The Dallas Stars have also enjoyed great starts from forwards Vernon Fiddler and Michael Ryder.

Max Talbot has given an unexpected boost to the Flyers and Tomas Fleischmann has been a positive since joining the Panthers from Colorado.

Of course, some of the off-season moves have yet to pay off.

The biggest free agent in the pond this summer was forward Brad Richards, who made a high profile move from Dallas to the New York Rangers. He was expected to drive their offence but the 31-year-old has given New York less than a point per game and has just four goals in 13 contests.

When the Buffalo Sabres inked Christian Ehrhoff, they expected to get the same strong play that he displayed for the Vancouver Canucks. Thus far, Ehrhoff has only one goal and is carrying a minus rating for a Sabres team that is sitting in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference.

Things are also not going according to plan for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the early play of James Wisniewski. After a 51-point season last year for the Islanders and Canadiens, Wisniewski has four points in the Blue Jackets' first six games (after a lengthy suspension) and is a minus-five to start the season. His new team is also dead last in the NHL.

The Toronto Maple Leafs were looking for a centre to head up their top line and they thought they had their man in former Sabres forward Tim Connolly. But injuries have again limited Connolly, who has only played more than 70 games in a season only once since 2005, to six games and one goal on the season. He is currently on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

The Carolina Hurricanes have also seen Tomas Kaberle slump with just three points to open the year coming off his Stanley Cup victory with the Boston Bruins.

So here was Dave's question to you - "Who has been the best or worst of the free agents signed during the off-season?"

Here are some of the best responses:

"Ville Leino is getting 27 million dollars over the next six years from Buffalo and Tim Connolly has scored more points for Toronto." - Ben

 "I have two words for worst free-agent signing--injured reserve. Two more words if you need them: Tim Connolly." - Zac on Twitter

"Three years in the KHL made him three years older, but at 39, Jaromir Jagr has been an absolute steal for the Flyers." - Shaun

"We knew it in Toronto and they saw it in Boston, so why not in Carolina? Tomas Kaberle's best days are over." - Al

"Marco Sturm was a great signing by the Canucks because it helped them get David Booth." - Matt on Facebook

"If you watch the Rangers, you know that Brad Richards is not the answer to this question. He may not be the best signing, but he's far from the worst." - Stephen

Dave's reply to all:

My choice, and we did hear this a lot from others, is Sheldon Souray, but the real star of this discussion is the guy who signed him, and five other free agents, and that's Joe Nieuwendyk, the general manager of the Dallas Stars who just happen to be the NHL's first-place team.

Those six free agents came at a total cost of just over 11 million dollars, which is less than Brad Richards' 12 million--just saying.

Souray has been the Dallas Stars' most valuable addition, he is tied for the NHL's plus-minus lead, he is the third highest scoring defencemen, has the booming shot and is a physical and veteran presence on the blue-line, playing 21 minutes a game for 1.65 million dollars.

It's a long season, he's 35 and he does get hurt, but so far, Souray is the best free agent for the money that we've seen in the NHL's first month.

I scratched out a line about how he could have helped Edmonton.

Hodgemail - Free Agency (Photo: Getty Images/The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: Getty Images/The Canadian Press)
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