Bless Mike Commodore. Bless his humongous red afro, bless his shaggy red playoff beard and bless his hard-rock, defense-first approach to the game.
He hits, fights and blocks shots, and would be a welcome addition to any NHL team’s blueline as a solid, stay-at-home, depth defenseman. You know, on the second pairing or maybe even a No. 5 or 6 guy who can give the club a workmanlike 15 to 16 minutes a night.
But when Commodore signs a five-year deal worth $18.75 million – that’s nearly $4 million a season, folks – well, something has gone astray. Perhaps Columbus thought it had no choice but to get crazy with its free-agent effort after watching defenseman Ron Hainsey, whom the Blue Jackets plucked off the waiver wire a couple years ago, sign a five-year pact with Atlanta worth $22.5 million.
Granted, cherry-picking ludicrous contracts this time of year is child’s play. Almost every NHL team is guilty of at least one head-scratcher of a deal.
Here are five of the best – and five of the worst – signings so far this summer:
Jason Williams, C, Atlanta: One-year deal worth $2.2 million.
The Thrashers are having real problems attracting quality free agents, but they get an underrated one in Williams. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the center who clicks with Ilya Kovalchuk.
Jarkko Ruutu, LW, Ottawa: Three-year deal worth $3.9 million.
Don’t expect 20 goals – 10 might even be a long shot – but this 6-foot-2 agitator can skate a regular shift and will check, check, check. He talks a lot, but is tough enough to back it up.
Darcy Tucker, RW, Colorado: Two-year deal worth $4.5 million.
He’s only 33 and has the potential – and motivation, after being bought out by Toronto – to return to being a 25-goal, two-fisted tormentor.
Andrew Brunette, LW, Minnesota: Three-year deal worth $7 million.
Yes, he’ll be 35 when the season starts, but he’s a lock – as always – to be around 20 goals and 60 points. And he spent three seasons in Minnesota, so he knows the system. Add it all up and Brunette offers good bang for the buck.
Adam Hall, LW, Tampa Bay: Three-year deal worth $1.8 million.
He’s forgotten how to score since leaving Nashville in 2006, but here’s a player who kills penalties and stands up for his teammates. Plus, he was a regular with the Penguins last spring during their run to the Stanley Cup final, so he knows how to play when it gets intense. All that, for the bargain-rate price of $600,000 per season.
Jeff Finger, D, Toronto: Four-year deal worth $14 million.
OK, it’s not Mike Commodore money, but then again, he’s no Mike Commodore.
Shawn Horcoff, C, Edmonton: Six-year contract extension worth $33 million.
He’ll turn 30 in training camp and has had just one full NHL season as a front-liner (22 goals, 73 points in 79 games in 2005-06). He played well last year before injuries struck, but $5.5 million is too much and six years is too long.
Cory Stillman, LW, Florida: Three-year deal worth $10.6 million.
No joking, he’s no Jokinen.
Rob Blake, D, San Jose: One-year deal worth $5 million.
There was a time when this would’ve been a steal of a deal. But that time has passed.
Michael Ryder, RW, Boston: Three-year deal worth $12 million.
Not bad money for a “sniper” who scored 14 times in 70 games and was a healthy scratch eight times in 12 playoff games.
Sam McCaig is The Hockey News’ senior copy editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears weekly.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.