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The 6 craziest NHL free-agency demands this summer (Puck Lists)

(As the NCAA hockey season is done, our own Ryan Lambert needed something on which to opine. Say hello to a special Tuesday series from yer boy RL, PUCK LISTS, in which he arbitrarily lists hockey things.)

It's becoming very apparent that the NHL's salary cap will either stay static or move very marginally this summer. Over the weekend it was reported that the cap might even go down, depending on what the NHLPA decides to do. 

And with all this in mind, it's important to turn an eye to the summer, as 28 teams have already done full throttle. Two more have at least kicked around some ideas for how things will go once the free agency period opens. To that end, we also have to mentally prepare ourselves for the idea that there will be some teams out there who give out completely nonsensical contracts to players who in no way deserve them.

Well, I guess they deserve exactly as much money as a team is willing to give them. But what I mean is that they are not going to live up to the deals they sign. One wonders whether players would willingly give up the extra million dollars or the extra year or two in exchange for not being scapegoated, hated, run out of town, etc. I guess not. It's a million dollars. At that point who cares?

But anyway, here are six guys who are going to want a lot more money than their play indicates they should be worth, and who teams would do well to avoid instead.

6. Cam Ward, any number of years, almost any amount of money

There was a nice breakdown of all the various troubles now facing the Carolina Hurricanes. There are a whole lot of them. Like, way more than you would think a franchise could have. One of those problems: The Hurricanes might still bring him back.

No one thinks he's going to pull anything resembling his cap hit from the last several years (a staggering $6.3 million), but at this point he might not even be a replacement-level goalie.

Since the start of 2012-13, nearly 68 goaltenders have played at least 2,000 minutes in the NHL. Ward's quality-adjusted 5-on-5 save percentage ranks 57th. Most of the guys behind him are either career backups or no longer in the NHL (Curtis McElhinney, Niklas Backstrom, Tim Thomas, Dan Ellis, Martin Brodeur, Anders Lindback, Ilya Bryzgalov, etc.)

He's also now past 32, and the past four seasons his unadjusted overall save percentages have gone .908, .898, .910, and .909. That's something you can get from most guys you call up from the AHL. As such, there's really no reason at all to sign Ward for anything more than the league minimum. It is extremely unlikely he will ever “find his game” again.

5. David Backes, (something like the Kesler deal: 6 years, $6.875 million AAV)

Backes, at least, can play. But for all the reasons you'd expect that signing a 32-year-old, physical, two-way center for six years and almost $7 million is a bad idea is why giving Backes this much money or term is a bad idea.

There were times in the last two or three seasons where Backes looked like he could produce at a first-line pace, but now he's starting to hover around second-line production. And that's fine. That's perfectly reasonable, and right in line with his career averages.

But again, he's 32 and physical, meaning these are some hard miles he's racked up over the past decade or so. And is that the kind of horse you want to be betting on long-term? The Kesler deal — which hasn't even started yet!!!! — is already a pretty clear indicator of how bad an idea this is: The wheels are already starting to fall off, and he's a little younger than Backes is.

The first year or three of this deal might be fine, but by the time Backes is, say, 34 or 35, you really have to wonder how bad this contract starts to look.

4. Darren Helm, unknown years, at least $3 million

What we know right now is that Helm wants to be back with Detroit, but with a raise from the $2.5 million he earned last season. 

Unfortunately for the Red Wings, the Casey Cizikas deal signed in Brooklyn last week probably gives a baseline of what Helm would want — three or four years, $3-something million — and yeah, I wouldn't give it to him. He's a second-slash-third line tweener, and yeah he's extremely fast, but he doesn't do very much with that speed.

And hey, look at that: He'll be 30 in January. Super-fast guys who has never cleared 33 points or 15 goals tend to at least keep their speed as they move into their mid-30s, right?

3. Milan Lucic, 6 years, $6 million AAV

We know for sure that Lucic is going to cash in this summer. We don't know who's going to give him that money, but someone will. And from the look of things, it might not be his current team.

The rumors that came out this week were that Lucic was seeking the numbers you see above, but the Kings are offering a little less than that in terms of money, and 33 percent less in terms of years. What the Kings have on the table is a sane way to treat a 28-year-old who hasn't cleared 60 points in four seasons, who has dealt with fitness issues, and is generally seen as a big, physical presence in addition to being able to score a bit.

Do you want to give a second-line guy like that $6 million until he's 34? He scored 20 goals last season. The odds that he scores fewer as he ages out of his prime increase significantly. It's a real concern.

Again, someone (Vancouver) is going to give him that money (Jim Benning) but we're not sure who (it'll be the Canucks), but it really looks like a bad bet.

2. Alex Radulov, 1-2 years, $7.5 million AAV

Depending upon whom you believe, Radulov either wants a one- or two-year deal, which seems pretty smart because when guys — particularly guys who have already given the NHL a whirl — come over from the KHL, the results can be difficult to predict.

Radulov is coming off another dominant KHL season, no doubt, but he's about to be on the wrong side of 30. A short-term deal is absolutely wise for all involved.

What's not at all wise is asking for — or indeed paying him — $7.5 million. Here's a brief rundown of all the forwards in the league clearing $7.5 million against the cap next year: Toews, Kane, Ovechkin, Malkin, Crosby, Perry, Giroux, Getzlaf, Kessel, Nash, Parise, Stamkos, Spezza, Tarasenko. And Datsyuk if he sticks around. That's it. That's the whole list.

You can think a lot of Radulov, but you can't think, “He's one of the 15 or 20 best forwards in the league.” His career NHL numbers are good-ish at 0.66 per game. Over the last three seasons that's in line with what guys like Sean Monahan, Mark Scheifele, Gustav Nyquist, and — hey look at that — Milan Lucic have produced. You take all those players. You don't pay them anything close to $7.5 million. And given his, ahem, team-related difficulties in Nashville, that's even more reason to tread carefully.

This is a player any team should want to sign, but not for anything even close to Parise money.

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 5: Kris Russell #2 of the Dallas Stars attempts to block a shot by Alexander Steen #20 of the St. Louis Blues in Game Four of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Scottrade Center on May 5, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

1. Kris Russell, 5-6 years, $6 million AAV

Here's Bob McKenzie on who Russell wants this summer sees as his comparables: Jeff Petry, Andrej Sekera, and Jared Spurgeon.

And here's what he wants for money and term: At least five years and $5.5 million.

No thanks.

I've said it before but the guy is basically Andrew MacDonald Pt. 2: The Return of Andrew MacDonald. Which is to say that he's going to be a phenomenal waste of money and a roster spot for whichever team is unfortunate enough to sign him this summer. He blocks shots, that's it.

The good news is that this rumor came up months ago, and he was so abysmal for Dallas in the playoffs that it probably hurt his asking price. Of course, even a 50 percent drop in both term and money would be a bit worrying for me, if my favorite team signed it. Because Russell is maybe an okay third-pairing guy, and guys who are better than him hit the waiver wire multiple times per season.

A year or two from now, whoever signs him will be dealing with another Dan Girardi contract.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.



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