5 veteran free-agent signings who haven’t worked out

With the quarter mark of the 2017-18 season now firmly in the rear view, we approach the portion of the NHL campaign when teams begin to jockey for playoff position and assess their rosters ahead of a few months of intense puck.

So naturally, we felt it was an excellent time to do some assessing of our own.

Here’s a look at a group of five veteran free-agent signings from this summer who are currently leaving their general managers searching for answers.

Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks

Once a perennial 30-goal man, Sharp has seen his stock steadily decline over the past four seasons. But the Blackhawks still expected him to contribute on a regular basis when he was inked to a one-year deal in July.

Through 25 games, however, Sharp has struggled to find consistency while being shuffled up and down Chicago’s lineup.

While few thought Sharp could recapture his 65-plus-point form, his current total of three goals and four assists just won’t get the job done, regardless of his relatively cheap price of $800,000.

Sam Gagner, Vancouver Canucks

When Gagner was able to parlay his 18-goal, 32-assist 2016-17 campaign in Columbus into a three-year deal worth $3.15 million a season, Canucks general manager Jim Benning’s competence as a front-office executive was questioned once again.

With Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat currently on fire, Gagner’s lackluster start of three goals and seven assists have been somewhat masked. Gagner has struggled to find a fit in Vancouver’s lineup, and at that price, he needs to be much better.

Radim Vrbata, Florida Panthers

Currently on pace for his lowest goal output since 2013 – a measly 12 – Vrbata is having a tough time hitting his stride in the Sunshine State. So far for the Panthers, Vrbata has been a complete non-factor while playing just under 14 minutes per night on a line with the offensively-challenged Henrik Haapala and Jared McCann.

Until the Panthers find him some better linemates who are more suited to supporting a 36-year-old player with his best days clearly behind him, Vrbata’s point total of 11 might not be increasing all that much this year.

Chris Kunitz, Tampa Bay Lightning

The four-time Cup champion moved from one Eastern Conference powerhouse to another when the Lightning signed Kunitz from the Pittsburgh Penguins last summer on a one-year deal.

Despite the decorated mantelpiece, Kunitz has failed to translate his past success to his new club, registering only three goals, four assists, and a Corsi For percentage of 49 across 25 games for the Lightning.

Trevor Daley, Detroit Red Wings

Being the highest-paid player on this list (three-year, $9.5 million), Daley gets the least amount of slack for his poor performance so far this campaign. He was added to Detroit’s roster in the summer to bring an element of veteran defensive stability to a Red Wings blue line that allowed the fifth-most goals only one season ago.

Fast forward to today, and the Red Wings are still allowing goals at an alarming rate.

Factor in Daley’s one point, minus-5 rating, and a negative Corsi percentage of 48, Detroit is probably wishing it hadn’t sunk what it did into this 34-year-old veteran.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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December 3, 2017

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