The 2023 NHL free-agent market opened on Saturday. As usual, the first day saw a blizzard of signings as general managers attempted to sign the best available unrestricted free agents to address their respective roster needs. Cap Friendly reported 166 signings on Day 1 worth a total of over $650 million.

A lack of big-name UFA talent combined with a high number of teams carrying limited cap space resulted in no expensive long-term contracts being handed out this year. Only five players signed multi-year contracts with average annual values exceeding $5 million. One of them, New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin, was a contract extension.

Many of the UFA signings were deals between one and four years for AAVs less than $5 million. Most are affordable contracts that won't create any long-term salary-cap issues for the teams handing them on.

A handful, however, have the potential to become salary-cap headaches. The player could be overpaid or the contract could be too long.

Here's a look at seven of the worst NHL free-agent signings since July 1. If you agree or disagree with our ranking, you can let us know in the comments below.


5. Ryan Reaves, Toronto Maple Leafs

Hired on May 31 as the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brad Treliving made two forays into the free-agent market on July 1. One was signing puck-moving defenseman John Klingberg to a one-year deal worth $4.15 million, while the other was signing scrappy winger Ryan Reaves to a three-year, $4.05 million contract.

Reaves, 36, is among the few enforcers remaining in the NHL. As fighting declines, he spends more time as a physical fourth-line forward. In 73 games last season, split between the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild, he had 196 hits while averaging just 9:19 of ice time per game.

The Leafs were eliminated from the second round of the 2023 playoffs by the Florida Panthers, who played a heavier, physical style well-suited for the postseason grind. Treliving wanted to address that issue, signing Reaves as well as Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi.

Bertuzzi and Domi have shown they can play a physical style in postseason action while contributing to the scoresheet. Reaves drives opponents to distraction, but his type of game and restricted playing time limits his effectiveness.

With big contracts due for Auston Matthews and William Nylander next summer and Mitch Marner in 2025, Treliving needed to invest his cap dollars wisely. Reaves' contract takes up precious cap space that could've been better used to address the team's real needs.

Reaves' $1.35 million average annual value isn't excessive and his presence won't make the Leafs any worse. A one-year deal would have sufficed for a player with diminishing value and limited skills. Instead, the Leafs signed him to a 35-plus contract.

If they were to buy him out down the road or he retires, the entire cap hit still counts against their cap.