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Radulov proving the best big-money free-agent signing of the summer

Francois Lacasse / National Hockey League / Getty

Marc Bergevin is loving life. What a difference a few months makes.

After the Montreal Canadiens general manager watched his team collapse in spectacular fashion last season, Bergevin set out to right the ship. And so far, so very good: The Habs are the best team in the league.

Alex Galchenyuk is blossoming into the star everyone thought he could become, and he was Bergevin's first draft pick, third overall in 2012, two months into Bergevin's tenure as Habs GM and executive vice president. The 22-year-old has 22 points in 23 games - and is averaging only 16:03 of ice time per contest. Shea Weber, who Bergevin acquired one-for-one for P.K. Subban in one of the most polarizing trades in recent memory, is second on the team in scoring with eight goals and 10 assists. Weber's tied in scoring with Alex Radulov, whose return to the NHL has gone about as smoothly as possible.

Radulov has four goals and 14 assists, and has found instant chemistry playing with Galchenyuk. Signed to a one-year, $5.75-million contract, Radulov is arguably proving to be the summer's best big-money free-agent signing.

Here's a look at how the big-ticket 2016 free-agent class - those players signed on July 1 and earning an average annual salary of $5 million or more - is faring so far, a quarter into the season:

Player Contract Cap hit Age on July 1 Points GP
Radulov (MTL) 1 year/$5.75M $5.75M 29 18 21
Milan Lucic (EDM) 7 years/$42M $6M 28 17 24
Kyle Okposo (BUF) 7 years/$42M $6M 28 15 21
Frans Nielsen (DET) 6 years/$31.5M $5.25M 32 13 23
Loui Eriksson (VAN) 6 years/$36M $6M 30 10 23
David Backes (BOS) 5 years/$30M $6M 32 9 18
Andrew Ladd (NYI) 7 years/$38.5M $5.5M 30 4 22

Some takeaways:

  • Yes, Radulov's on a one-year deal, so comparing him to guys who signed long-term deals is a bit apples and oranges - but he's being paid well, and Bergevin certainly took a risk in signing him. Based on the fit so far, it's not a stretch to think an extension may be on the way.
  • Radulov turned 30 on July 5, so this is his age-30 season.
  • Andrew Ladd's contract is already frightening, and the New York Islanders are in last place. Only six more years.
  • The Boston Bruins giving David Backes five years at 32 still doesn't make a lot of sense.
  • Loui Eriksson turned 31 on July 17. The Vancouver Canucks are eventually going to have to face reality and embrace a true rebuild, and it's difficult to imagine how Eriksson fits into that plan.
  • Six years for 32-year-old Frans Nielsen didn't seem very Detroit Red Wings-like at the time. It still doesn't.
  • If anyone deserved seven-year contracts, it was Milan Lucic and Kyle Okposo, who are still a couple of years away from 30. And so far so good on both fronts. They're producing. Lucic is living the life alongside Connor McDavid in Edmonton, and lord knows the Islanders miss Okposo.

Paying for past performance is always risky business, especially with unrestricted free agents north of 30. As the game gets younger, these deals only get riskier. On July 1, buyer beware.

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