Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fringe Signings (July 31)

The Toronto Maple Leafs added a bit more grit to their line-up and another Randy Carlyle-type player in winger Daniel Winnik, who signed a 1-year, $1.3 million deal on Monday. Winnik had 6 goals and 30 points with the Anaheim Ducks in 2014, helping the team to a huge regular season, which was only cut short by an early playoff exit in the Spring.  I don't necessarily see Winnik's numbers improving with the move to Toronto, but put in the right situation, he could bring a much needed X-factor to a Toronto team that will be desperate to make the playoffs again.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Wild avoided arbitration with forward Justin Fontaine. Fontaine played in 66 games, scoring 13 goals and 21 points, good enough for 256th among all forwards.  Fontaine sits somewhat lower on the depth chart for scoring, but might not be in bad shape, if he was to play 75-80 games in the 2015 season.  The undrafted forward signed a 2-year deal on Tuesday, which will take him into unrestricted free agency, so he would be wise to do himself a favour and play well over these next two seasons, so he can get paid in his next deal.

The Los Angeles Kings avoided arbitration with forward Dwight King on Wednesday, signing him to a 3-year deal, carrying a cap hit of $1.95 million per season.  King had 30 points in 70 games for the Kings in 2014 and provided an everyday presence that was both productive and intimidating at times.  I can see King improving on his numbers slightly in the 2015 season, which may bring him to the fringe of being pool-worthy and there might be a team or two that might take a flyer on him as their last forward.

Also on Wednesday, the Winnipeg Jets reached an agreement with unrestricted free agent forward Matt Halischuk, signing him to a new 1-year deal. Halischuk was signed by the Jets last season, after being bought out by the Predators and this Summer, the Jets didn't qualify the restricted free agent, sending him to the open market.  The market obviously wasn't kind to the 26-year old forward, as he had only scored 5 goals and 10 points in 46 games for Winnipeg last season.  Halischuk signed a two-way deal, which will make him a cheaper fit, if he is playing in the AHL for an extended period of time.

The trouble of playing behind a goalie that likes lots of minutes is that your hockey pool stock goes down significantly as a backup goalie.  Robin Lehner has this issue, playing behind Craig Anderson, and that's what makes him somewhat of a fringe signing, because he isn't going to be at the top of anyone's list and there might be a backup or two that could be a better pick for more minutes.  Lehner signed a 3-year deal on Thursday, worth $2.225 million per year, but he may be lucky to repeat his performance of 12 wins and 26 points from 2014, if Anderson remains healthy through the year.

Another successful arbitration diversion, as the Pittsburgh Penguins and forward Nick Spaling came to terms on a 2-year deal, worth $4.4 million in total.  Spaling was acquired by the Penguins in this off-season from the Nashville Predators in a deal that saw James Neal go the other way.  The change of scenery for Spaling, going to a more offensively rich team like the Penguins, could seriously give the 25-year old forward a boost to his numbers, where he totaled 13 goals and 32 points in 71 games for Nashville last year.  If Spaling can get a sniff of the top six in Pittsburgh, he may get an opportunity to become a solid sleeper.

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