A look back through the history books shows us that there have been a handful of major signings in the second week of free agency.
Thursday marks the end of the first week of NHL free agency. It’s a nerve-racking time for players still looking for a home, since conventional wisdom says that if you don’t have a deal in place by the end of Week One, you’re pretty much out of luck. You could end up having to wait all summer, like Cody Franson did last year. You may not get a contract anywhere at all.
But the good news is that that’s not quite true, at least not all the time. A look back through the history books shows us that there have been a handful of major signings in the second week of free agency. It’s a small handful, to be sure, but you take your hope where you can get it.
Here are the five biggest names who found new homes in Week Two of unrestricted free agency during the salary cap era.
2006: Brendan Shanahan, Rangers
The signing: After nine years and three Stanley Cups in Detroit, Shanahan headed for New York with a one-year, $4 million deal on July 10, 2006.
How big was it? Fairly big. Shanahan’s departure came on the heels of Steve Yzerman’s retirement, putting an exclamation point on the fact that an era was ending in Detroit. And he was coming off of a 41-goal, 81-point season, so even at 37 years old he looked like a guy with some hockey left in him.
Did it work out? Pretty much. Shanahan put up 29 goals and 62 points, and provided the sort of leadership that quickly won over the Rangers faithful. He re-signed for another year in New York, scored 23 more goals, and then finished his career with a return to the Devils. All-in-all you’d have to call this signing a success, which it goes without saying was a flagrant violation of established Rangers team policy.
2007: Sheldon Souray, Oilers
The signing: After establishing himself as one of the league’s best offensive defensemen in Montreal, Souray inked a five-year, $27-million deal with the Oilers on July 12.
How big was it? Huge. Souray was one of the most sought-after free agents of the heavily hyped 2007 class, right up there with Chris Drury, Scott Gomez and Daniel Briere. (Did we mention the class of 2007 was bad? It was very bad.)
Still, Souray was coming off a season where he scored 26 goals to lead all defensemen, and he headed home to Alberta to help the Oilers get back the playoffs after a one-year absence that was probably just a minor blip.
Did it work out? Not so much. Injuries limited Souray to just one decent season in Edmonton, and by 2010, he was ripping on Oilers’ management and demanding a trade. By his fourth year in Edmonton he’d been buried in the minors, and he was mercifully bought out of the final year of his contract during the 2011 offseason.
Determined to never have that happen again, the Oilers made sure that all future long-term deals were buyout-proof.
2009: Saku Koivu, Ducks
The signing: After 13 years in Montreal, nine spent as captain, Koivu left the only team he’d ever played for to join the Ducks. The breakup was a mutual decision, with Koivu citing a desire for a change of scenery and a better chance at winning a Stanley Cup. He signed a one-year, $3.25-million deal on July 8.
How big was it? Koivu was coming off a 50-point season in which he’d been the Habs’ third-leading scorer. But this was much more than your typical hockey move. Koivu was (and still is) beloved in Montreal, having overcome cancer to return to the lineup in 2002 in what stands as one of the most emotional moments in recent league history. His leaving wasn’t a surprise, but it marked the end of an era in Montreal.
Did it work out? For the most part, yes. Koivu ended up playing five seasons in Anaheim, putting up 52 points in 2009-10 and remaining a reasonably productive player until the end. He finally retired after the 2013-14 season; in his final game in Montreal, the fans gave him another loud ovation.
2013: Dustin Penner, Ducks
The signing: After three years in Los Angeles, Penner made the jump to Anaheim, rejoining the team he’d infamously left in 2007 after signing what still stands as the only unmatched offer sheet of the 21st century. This time, his contract didn’t nearly trigger a barn fight; he signed a one-year, $2 million deal on July 16. (Note: Settle down, nitpickers – free agency started five days late that year.)
How big was it? Not all that big, to be honest. Major week two signings were rare in the first few years of the cap era; they became all but unheard of after 2010, so we’re stretching things here. Still, Penner was a former 30-goal scorer looking to revive his career where it all began.
Did it work out? Not especially, although Penner was reasonably productive in his second stint in Anaheim, scoring 13 goals and 32 points in 49 games. But the Ducks flipped him to Washington at the trade deadline, and that wasn’t a fit. He managed just three points in 18 games, the Caps missed the playoffs, and Penner somewhat surprisingly never got another shot at the NHL.
OK, I know that wasn’t an especially big signing, which isn’t doing much for our whole “give hope to the unsigned” theme. But don’t worry. The last entry on the list features a player who went on to become an all-star!
2015: John Scott, Coyotes
The signing: Looking to add some toughness, the Coyotes gave Scott a deal for the league minimum $575,000. The deal was signed on July 10,
How big was it? Super big, in the sense that Scott is 6’8″. Other than that, no, barely anyone noticed.
Did it work out? Well, about that… Every fan knows the whole Scott saga by now: the internet campaign, the controversy, the weird trade to Montreal, and finally the ridiculously over-the-top drama of his actual all-star appearance and MVP honors.
It was, it’s fair to say, a bizarre scenario, and it’s one that probably marks the end of Scott’s NHL career. And if anything, it teaches us an important lesson: Pay attention to those under-the-radar signings over the next week or so. You never know when one of them is going to blow up into the story of the year.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.