by PuckStopsHere on 10/05/09 at 02:59 PM ET
Just before free agency opened up this year, I listed a UFA All Star Team. This was the best 23 man roster I thought could be made by signing unrestricted free agents. This is an exercise to see how good a team can become by investing heavily in free agency. It is usually a method to show that free agency is not as big a contributor to team success as building through younger players via drafts and trades. It shows that despite all the media attention that free agency gets, it doesn’t significantly change the playing field.
All 23 players on the 2009 UFA All Star Team have signed new contracts in the NHL this season. A couple signed slightly before they hit the market as unrestricted free agents (as I picked the team hours before the free agent market opened up).
Here is the 2009 UFA All Star Team listed with their new team, their new salary cap hit from their new contract and their old team.
Salary Cap Hit
|Mike Cammalleri||Mon||$6 mill|
|Erik Cole||Car||$2.9 mill|
|Marian Gaborik||NYR||$7.5 mill|
|Brian Gionta||Mon||$5 mill|
|Martin Havlat||Min||$5 mil|
|Alexei Kovalev||Ott||$5 mill|
|Robert Lang||Phx||$1 mill|
|Sami Pahlsson||CBJ||$2.65 mill|
|Daniel Sedin||Van||$6.1 mill|
|Henrik Sedin||Van||$6.1 mill|
|Steve Sullivan||Nas||$3.75 mill|
|Alex Tanguay||TBL||$2.5 mill|
|Francois Beauchemin||Tor||$3.8 mill|
|Mike Komisarek||Tor||$4.5 mill|
|Derek Morris||Bos||$3.3 mill|
|Scott Niedermayer||Ana||$6.75 mill|
|Mattias Ohlund||TBL||$3.607 mill|
|Rob Scuderi||LA||$3.4 mill|
|Jaroslav Spacek||Mon||$3.833 mill|
|Nikolai Khabibulin||Edm||$3.75 mill|
|Dwayne Roloson||NYI||$2.5 mill|
All told, this team signed for a $97.465 annual salary cap hit. Since the NHL has a $56.8 million salary cap, this team could not be assembled. It makes over 70% more than the salary cap. This team would be in the playoff hunt, but I am not certain if they would make them or not. Building a team through free agency will get you a squad that is far too expensive to be assembled, but not one that is good enough to contend.
We can see other general trends by looking at this team. UFAs usually jump to a new team. Of the 23 players on this UFA All Star Team, only five remained with the same team. They are Scott Niedermayer, Steve Sullivan, Erik Cole and Daniel and Henrik Sedin (the Sedins were never actually UFAs - they signed hours before free agency began).
Nineteen of these players came from teams that were playoff teams in 2009. The only ones who did not were Marian Gaborik, Steve Sullivan, Jaroslav Spacek and Dwayne Roloson. This number is reduced somewhat because Derek Morris and Erik Cole were traded at trade deadline time from non-playoff teams to playoff teams. Of these players, 13 signed with teams that made the playoffs in 2009. This puts ten of them on teams that missed the playoffs. A simple model for these numbers is that good teams tend to have good players who make an All UFA team and they sign all over the NHL. The players sign essentially randomly throughout the league. They are about as likely to sign on playoff teams as they are non-playoff teams. Hence the best teams are weakened (though not a significant amount as these are often aging players and these teams tend to have depth to replace them) by free agency and no team gains a particularly strong benefit. These numbers change when looking at the truly elite free agents (those on Hall of Fame tracks). They tend to be able to move wherever they wish as free agents (any team will want to acquire them) and they tend to gravitate to the biggest media markets.
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