I am a huge fan of one-year or short term contracts for a few veterans who might have fallen off a bit. A one-year is definitely a win-win for both sides. The player gets a platform to work for a longer term deal, while the team gets a cheap option, and if the player comes through, all the better.
It’s definitely something not enough teams take advantage of, or if they do they get hooked and sign an aberration to an albatross contract. There’s been three players this season that fit the mold, well, two with one kind of fitting it.
After playing for three teams (Sabres, Islanders, Canadiens) in the 2013-14 season, Vanek signed a two-year deal with Minnesota in the hopes of finding his 40-goal form back where he played in college. While he wasn’t awful for the Wild, he didn’t live up to their hopes, so he signed with Detroit on a one-year, $2.6 million contract.
Unfortunately, Vanek was just injured in a game against the Rangers, but up until that point he was on pace for a great year. In 36 games he has 31 Points (12G, 19A), which was just 10 points off his total from last season in Minnesota (74GP, 18G, 23A). Not a bad pace for sure. Hopefully he won’t be out too long, but did suffer a hip injury last season.
After being shipped out of Edmonton after the 2013-14 season, Gagner is now on his third team, signing a one-year, $650,000 over last summer. Gagner was to add depth and a veteran presence to a young Blue Jackets team. However, he appears to be turning into the player the Oilers had hoped for.
In 45 games, Gagner already has 33 points, and is four goals off his career high of 18 back in the 2011-12 season. While the entire Blue Jackets team is running on all cylinders, Gagner is definitely a big part of the success. Maybe the fourth team is the charm, we’ll see though when he is looking for a new deal this summer.
While I am cheating a bit here (Staal signed a three-year contract) it’s still significantly lower than he was making. Staal was a big reason for success of the 2005-06 Hurricanes winning the Cup, putting up absurd numbers (82GP, 45G, 55A) at the age of 21. But his form began to slide since the 2011-12 season, never going over 24 goals. With his large contract ($8.25m) expiring at the end of last season Carolina shipped him to the Rangers for a steep price (a prospect, and two, second-round picks). A steep price for a guy on the decline.
While Staal only put up six points in 20 games, the Wild took a chance, signing him to a three-year contract for $3.5 million per year. Staal has seen a resurgence in Minnesota, putting up 40 points (16G, 24A) in 46 games. He’s been a great signing this season, and seems to be what the Wild were looking for from Vanek.
While these types of contracts aren’t always guarantees, they also come with a very low downside. Even though Staal’s is three years, its a relatively low hit. So if he falls off again they shouldn’t have trouble unloading it to Arizona like everyone else does. The one challenge is will these teams fall into the trap of locking these guys up long-term? It’s the battle they always face.