3 Players Most Likely to be Overpaid in Free Agency

As free agency in the NHL is here, there is bound to be a willingness for teams to overpay in order to bring in the player they want. It happens every year, and sometimes really comes back to hurt general managers that go all-in on the market. As is with every year prior, there are some top free agents that will have many interested teams and will be getting paid. The contracts may look alright at the start, but by the end with age and a slow decline, they will hurt them, likely resulting in a cap dump or buyout. Let’s take a look at the top three players who will be overpaid in free agency in 2022, which just happens to cover all three positions on the ice.

Nazem Kadri

Understandably, the Colorado Avalanche weren’t able to come to an agreement to keep Nazem Kadri. He was an integral piece in winning the Stanley Cup in both the regular season and playoffs where he finished with the fourth-most goals (28), most assists (59), and third-most points (87) in 71 games. He also battled through an injury that Erik Johnson said should’ve kept him out weeks longer, to come back in the Stanley Cup Final and score a massive overtime goal. Kadri ended the playoffs with seven goals and 15 points in 16 games and after multiple years of doing something in the playoffs that hurt his team’s chances, got himself together and helped them get over the hump.

Nazem Kadri Colorado Avalanche
Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

It would’ve been a risk if he continued to do questionable plays and hits in the playoffs, but after an entire postseason playing clean hockey, teams should feel as if they can trust him to play smart as he gets older. Kadri is at the back-end of his prime, so it will be a risky signing to ink him to a seven-year deal which is what he’s looking for. He is listening to any team that extends him an offer, so if someone is serious about signing him, the price will be driven up to outbid the rest.

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Kadri is a great number two center right now and even a solid 1B on a team that doesn’t have a true number one. He received votes here and there for the Selke Trophy so his defensive play is recognized, and though he isn’t the most physical player, he will wear teams down and shut down the opponent’s top players. Teams will likely have recency bias and base their offers on what he accomplished last season, even though he shattered his career high in points. Since he won’t be playing with the likes of Mikko Rantanen, Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, or Cale Makar on one of the highest-scoring teams in the league, it will be incredibly difficult for Kadri to replicate his offensive success. His previous career high was 61 points, so if he reverts back to something similar, the $8 million-plus average annual value (AAV) he is expected to receive will be an overpayment and look worse as the contract ages.

John Klingberg

John Klingberg is the top-ranked defenseman hitting free agency after Kris Letang re-upped with the Pittsburgh Penguins. There are some teams in need of an offensive defenseman in his prime, and since he is 28, a seven-year contract won’t hurt them too bad down the line if he finishes it up at age 35. A team like the Carolina Hurricanes will be hard-pressed to replace Tony DeAngelo, but won’t get a cheaper deal on someone who would be the perfect replacement like Klingberg in free agency. While a trade would cost them assets to fill their needs.

John Klingberg Dallas Stars
John Klingberg, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Klingberg has his options, as offensively-skilled defensemen are hard to come by, and will demand a high price to be able to contribute from the blue line while also being able to run a power play. You would think a player like him would set the market for defensemen, but there aren’t many others like him on the open market which will make him a highly sought-after player. Since he isn’t elite at both ends of the ice, a team will be overpaying for offense while losing out on defense.

Darcy Kuemper

The goaltending market has pretty much cleared itself up by this point. There are a couple of big names left on the board and a few teams in desperate need of a goaltender. The Edmonton Oilers are already rumored to have Jack Campbell locked down, so that leaves the biggest free agent goalie from the start, Darcy Kuemper.

The 2022 Stanley Cup winner is going to demand to be paid and will get what he asks for, considering most teams are more than willing to add a player who’s won it all or has good playoff experience. Kuemper priced himself out of Colorado, so they went with two goaltenders who will have to split the net. The Washington Capitals are very high on him, as they may be the most desperate of the teams in need of a starter, considering they traded away Vitek Vanecek and let Ilya Samsonov hit free agency by not qualifying him.

Darcy Kuemper Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup
Darcy Kuemper of the Colorado Avalanche carries the Stanley Cup following the series winning victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena on June 26, 2022 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Kuemper does have very good career numbers, but he is also 32 years old and injury prone. A team will be paying for a starter who may be able to hit only 40 games in a season, which isn’t starter numbers. He showed that when he went out with two injuries in last season’s playoffs. After being paid just $4.5 million on his previous contract, desperation by teams will cause his price to rise by at least $1.5 to $2 million per season at a good length in term. He will definitely be overpaid down the line, and even right away if he can’t stay healthy and put up the consistent numbers he has hit on better teams.

There will surely be more than just these three players overpaid in free agency as teams get more desperate when they don’t get the player they want. As such, it should once again be exciting to watch unfold.

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