Top free-agent deals this offseason

Contracts for Ehrhoff, Vanek among five smartest in NHL's opening frenzy

Updated: July 9, 2014, 12:16 PM ET
By Matthew Coller | Hockey Prospectus

Christian Ehrhoff Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesOne year and $4 million for a player of Christian Ehrhoff's talent level was a steal for Pittsburgh.

The opening of free agency in the NHL has been nicknamed "silly season" because of the number of over-the-top contracts that are handed out on July 1. This year, there were certainly silly deals, but several teams landed quality players for reasonable contracts.

This week, we're going to look at some of the best and worst of those contracts, according to both standard and advanced metrics. We'll make reference to Hockey Prospectus' proprietary statistic goals versus threshold (GVT); for more on GVT, click here. All other advanced stats are courtesy of ExtraSkater.com.

Here are the five best deals so far:


Free agent: Christian Ehrhoff, D (2013-14 GVT: 3.5)
Team: Pittsburgh Penguins
Price tag: One year, $4 million

After the Buffalo Sabres surprisingly bought out their best player, the veteran puck mover had plenty of possible suitors. He elected to sign a one-year deal with a club poised to compete for the Stanley Cup. Ehrhoff will immediately help a mediocre puck-possession team. The former Shark and Canuck was 13th in the NHL among defensemen in the possession statistic relative Corsi, which is a measure of shots for and against when that player is on the ice, relative to his teammates.

He also scored as many even-strength points as Drew Doughty this past season while playing on the NHL's lowest-scoring team. Ehrhoff has played in all situations, averaging more than 22 minutes per game in each of his three seasons with the Sabres. It seems likely his power-play scoring -- which dropped from 34 points in his final season in Vancouver to a high of 11 with the Sabres -- will bounce back while playing with Sidney Crosby & Co.

Financially speaking, a team cannot do much better than grabbing a top-four defenseman on a one-year deal with a reasonable cap hit. This is, so far, the best deal of free agency.


Free agent: Thomas Vanek, LW (2013-14 GVT: 15.4)
Team: Minnesota Wild
Price tag: Three years, $19.5 million