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Free agent flops

The Hockey News

The Hockey News

We’re approaching the quarter-pole of the NHL’s 2011-12 regular season and players who’ve signed significant contracts this past summer have had a good amount of time to acclimate to their environments and show they’re worth their salary. Who hasn’t done that? That’s the focus in this week’s Top 10: The biggest busts – so far – of the 2011 unrestricted free agent market:

10. Marty Reasoner, C, NY Islanders

The Isles jumped on the first day of free agency to sign Reasoner to a two-year, $2.7 million contract. Unfortunately, the 34-year-old – who tied a career-high with 14 goals for Florida in 2010-11 – has amassed only a single assist and a minus-7 rating.

9. Anton Babchuk, D, Calgary

The 27-year-old Babchuk split last season between Carolina and Calgary and set a career high in assists (24) while tying his career best in points (35). This season, after signing a two-year, $5 million contract, he has three assists in eight games. That’s not exactly horrendous, but considering he was a plus-18 in 65 games with the Flames and was just a plus-1 this year, it’s clear he isn’t having the impact he did in 2010-11.

8. Dwayne Roloson, G, Tampa Bay

The 42-year-old Roloson was the undisputed star of Tampa Bay’s playoff run last spring and was rewarded with a one-year, $3.5-million deal. But after he started this season with a strong performance in his first game, Roloson has struggled mightily. In the 10 games that followed, Roloson let in four goals or more six times – and his overall numbers of a 3.29 goals-against average and .895 save percentage have not been nearly good enough.

7. Erik Cole, RW, Montreal

He’s gotten better as the season has continued, but after signing a four-year, $18 million deal with the Habs, the 33-year-old Cole began the year with just one assist in his first seven games. Even now, he’s on pace for a 19-goal, 38-point season – a sizeable drop from the 26 goals and 52 points he posted in Carolina last year.

6. Marco Sturm, LW, Florida

The well-travelled Sturm signed with Vancouver for one year at $2.25 million – and he lasted just six games as a Canuck before being traded to Florida in the David Booth transaction. The fact he was pointless and a minus-5 in those games had more than a little to do with it.

5. Roman Hamrlik, D, Washington

The 37-year-old veteran blueliner signed a two-year, $7-million pact with the Capitals on the first day of free agency, but in his first 16 games with Washington, he has just one goal. Contrast that with the 29 assists and 34 points he put up for Montreal last season and you’ll see why Hamrlik isn’t earning his keep.

4. James Wisniewski, D, Columbus

The expectations placed on Wisniewski increased exponentially after he agreed to a six-year, $33 million deal with the Blue Jackets on July 1. Since then, he’s experienced an endless series of nightmares – an eight-game suspension to start the year and just five points and an ugly minus-10 rating in nine games. That’s not great for a $5.5 million average salary.

3. Tomas Kaberle, D, Carolina

Fans of the Bruins and Leafs could tell you how much Kaberle’s game has slipped in recent years, but that didn’t stop the Hurricanes from signing the 33-year-old D-man to a three-year, $12.75 million deal. What have they gotten for $4.25 million so far? Four assists in 18 games and a minus-5 rating. Yikes.

2. Tim Connolly, C, Toronto

Connolly’s battles to stay healthy over the years are well known, so when he signed a two-year, $9.5-million deal to play in hockey’s biggest fishbowl, some were skeptical he’d be able to stay in the lineup. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, the skeptics have been correct – a variety of injuries have limited Connolly to just six games as a Maple Leaf.

1. Ville Leino, C/LW, Buffalo

Sabres owner Terry Pegula was one of the most aggressive players in unrestricted free agency, but it appears he and GM Darcy Regier were overly aggressive in signing the 28-year-old Leino to a six-year, $27-million deal. In return, Leino has flopped badly to begin his Buffalo career, with just two goals and four points in 17 games. That’s a nine-goal, 18-point pace – and at $4.5 million this season, that’s also incredibly awful

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