2023-10-09 · 4 min read · NHL/Hockey
Tyler Bertuzzi and Tristan Jarry

Via The Athletic | Stephen Sylvanie/USA Today Sports

Best Tyler Bertuzzi (Toronto Maple Leafs)
  • I assumed Bertuzzi would get overpaid on a long-term deal, but the Leafs managed to avoid that. Not only getting Bertuzzi at market value, but on a one-year deal; I love that. He gives them a left winger that they’ve lacked since Zach Hyman departed two years ago, possessing grit and goal-scoring ability, creating much-needed secondary offence in Toronto behind the big four up front. The Leafs have likely given Mattews and Marner the best linemate of their careers.
Worst Scott Mayfield (New York Islanders)
  • Mayfield, who turns 31 on Oct. 14, got a seven-year contract with full no-trade protection in the first four years. Mayfield is a solid player. It's a strange signing by Islanders GM Lou Lameriello. Mayfield needed a raise from his previous annual cap hit of $1.5 million but 3.5 is boarding on robbery. If this deal was half the money and length I'd like it, but it reeks of an overpay. Plus, the deal has a 16-team no-trade clause in the final three years. The Isles singing of Pierre Engvall feels fairly similar, but at least he's 27.
Best Matt Duchene (Dallas Stars)
  • Duchene went from having one of the worst contracts in the league to one of the best in the league; sometimes the buyout works. Duchene isn’t quite what he used to be, but he still comes with excellent skating and puts up solid points. The 31-year-old can play down the middle but is best as a middle six right wing. It’s a great move for Dallas, because for next season it gives them a really strong top-nine forward group, and the option to move Tyler Seguin down into a lesser role if desired. Duchene also doesn’t come with any performance bonuses that will hurt his team’s salary cap next season. Dallas still has work to do on its blueline to become a true Cup contender, but Duchene still looks to improve what was already a great team.
Worst Tristan Jarry (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Pittsburgh Penguins GM Kyle Dubas wasted little time making his presence felt in this summer's free-agent market. Dubas' biggest move (at least in free agency) was bringing back goaltender Tristan Jarry. Having spent the past seven seasons with the Penguins, the 28-year-old was signed to a five-year, $26.9 million contract worth an average annual value of $5.4 million. That's two years longer than his previous deal with the Penguins and $1.9 million more per season. This is despite Jarry having mixed results at best, after becoming the Penguins' starting goalie in 2020-21, due to injuries and inconsistency. A 34-win season with a .919 save percentage in 2021-22 was sandwiched between 24/25 win performances with .909 save percentages. In his only complete playoff series (2021), he won just two of six games with a 3.18 GAA and .888 SP. If Jarry can put his injury woes behind him and play up to expectations, Dubas' faith in him will be vindicated. Based on the past three seasons, though, it looks like too much money invested for far too long in a goalie who has struggled to stay healthy and consistent. This is a contract Dubas is likely to regret.
Best Connor Brown (Edmonton Oilers)
  • Brown was a potential buy-low candidate, as he was coming off a season where he only played four games and possibly could be had on a prove it deal. That’s exactly what he did, taking a league minimum cap hit and reuniting with former Erie Otters teammate Connor McDavid in Edmonton. The last time these two played together, Brown led the OHL in scoring with 45 goals, 83 assists, and 128 points. The only downside is the performance bonuses come back to haunt the Oilers. The main reason Brown signed for so cheap is that he spent a long enough time on long-term injured reserve last season to be eligible for performance bonuses, which is where he’ll make most of his money. The only requirement is that he plays 10 games and he gets $3.225 million, which for the Oilers gets carried over to next season. It’s a low bar to hit, but it essentially kicks the can down the road for another year. With the cap going up, that might not be as big of a concern as it would’ve been this season.
Worst Justin Holl (Detroit Red Wings)
  • 3.4 million per year (three years 10.2 mil) for a guy who seems unlikely to be more than a middle of the road last pairing defenceman does add up to me. I have often been frustrated by Holl as a Leafs fan and I've watched him make many head scratcher errors; particularly a penchant for giving away the puck. Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman is known for savvy moves but I'm not sure what he's thinking here. I did not think the Compher signing made much sense either, but Sprong almost made this list on the good side.
Honourable Mentions
  • Best Jonathan Drouin (Colorado Avalanche)
    • Perhaps a reunion with Halifax Moosehead teammate Nathan MacKinnon will help rejuvenate his career? At the very least, it’s a smart gamble to add depth for super cheap, but the uncertainty keeps it as an honourable mention for now.
  • Worst Joonas Korpisalo (Ottawa Senators)
    • Ottawa made a substantial investment in a goalie who has yet to establish himself as more than a backup after eight NHL seasons. The 29-year-old spent nearly eight seasons with the Columbus Blue Jackets as an understudy before losing out on the starter's job this year. Traded to the Los Angeles Kings on March 1, he won seven of 11 starts with a 2.13 goals-against average and .921 save percentage, though he struggled in the postseason.
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