Every NHL Team’s Best Free-Agent Signing of the Cap Era

Bleacher Report

Another year. Another shot at redemption.

Though an NHL franchise's long-term fate can be harpooned by a bad free-agent signing, it's no less true that those fortunes can turn positive with one fortuitous transaction.

So while the B/R hockey writing types went all-in on the dark side of post-salary cap acquisitions last week, we're flipping the page this week to celebrate where the league's general managers got it right the most.

In 2020, that meant Tyler Toffoli in Montreal, Cam Talbot in Minnesota and Tyson Barrie in Edmonton. 

Historically, the best deals have meant different things in different cities.

Some yielded Stanley Cups. Some brought prolonged prosperity. And others helped a climb toward respectability. But regardless of the definition, all brought some measure of happiness to a fanbase.

Take a look at what we came up with and share a thought or two of your own in the comments.

 

Nos. 1-7: Ducks, Coyotes, Bruins, Sabres, Flames, Hurricanes, Blackhawks

Anaheim Ducks: Scott Niedermayer (2005)

Throwing a truckload of money at a 30-plus defenseman isn't always a recipe for success, but it could hardly have worked better for the Ducks when it came to their acquisition of Niedermayer on a four-year deal worth $27 million. He registered his career-best in points (69) and helped the team to its first title in his five-year stay.

      

Arizona Coyotes: Mike Smith (2011)

There isn't a storied history of success when it comes to the Coyotes and their UFA acumen. But getting Smith on a two-year, $4 million pact in 2011 led to the team's first appearance in the Western final after he played 67 games and registered a .930 save percentage. And he's still going today with the Edmonton Oilers.

      

Boston Bruins: Zdeno Chara (2006)

The hulking Slovakian was deep into an effective NHL career having played for the New York Islanders and Ottawa Senators, but he became a star after getting $37.5 million from the Bruins over five years. He was a Norris Trophy winner by 2009 and led Boston to a Stanley Cup win in 2011.

      

Buffalo Sabres: Jaroslav Spacek (2006)

Like the Coyotes, the Sabres haven't lit it up in free agency. But Spacek was a good player at a good price whom they got in 2006 after he'd helped the Edmonton Oilers to a Western Conference playoff title. With the Sabres, his point total went up each year and peaked at 45 in 2008-09. 

      

Calgary Flames: Jiri Hudler (2012)

The Czech-born winger found Alberta's southern capital city to his liking after getting a four-year deal worth $16 million. He established career-bests in goals (31) and points (76) in 78 games and helped the Flames return to the brink of a Cup. He also brought home the Lady Byng Trophy.

       

Carolina Hurricanes: Ray Whitney (2005)

The Alberta native was a steadily effective NHL player before arriving in Carolina, where he got a two-year, $3 million deal in 2005. Within a year, he was hoisting a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes and his two best point-scoring years, 77 and 83, came during his time in Raleigh.

      

Chicago Blackhawks: Marian Hossa (2009)

Hossa got to the brink of NHL championship status in 2007 and 2008, jumping from the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings and losing in the Cup final each year. He skipped town for Chicago soon after, getting 12 years and $63.3 million and three Stanley Cups for his trouble.

 

Nos. 8-12: Avalanche, Blue Jackets, Stars, Red Wings, Oilers

Colorado Avalanche: Andrew Brunette (2005)

A solid contributor on the wing, Brunette had spent six years in the league with a pair of teams before arriving to the Avalanche in 2005 on a two-year deal paying just $800,000 per season. He instantly clicked with Joe Sakic and put up 83 points, a career best, in the second year of the contract.

      

Columbus Blue Jackets: Kristian Huselius (2008)

It's not always a marquee destination for high-end free agents, but the Blue Jackets landed Huselius, a Swedish winger who'd spent parts of four seasons with the Florida Panthers and a couple more with the Calgary Flames. Year 2 in Columbus saw Huselius score 63 points before injuries ended his run in the 2011-12 season. 

      

Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski (2019)

The Stars brought the then-nearly 35-year-old to Dallas following more than 950 games with the San Jose Sharks. He got three years and $21 million before netting 14 goals in 67 regular-season games, then 13 more in 27 playoff games as the team advanced to a Cup final before losing to Tampa Bay.

     

Detroit Red Wings: Brian Rafalski (2007)

The Michigan-born defenseman had spent seven years with the New Jersey Devils before signing a $30 million deal that covered five years with the Red Wings. He won a Cup the following spring with Detroit and was a consistent point scorer for the team in his final four NHL seasons.

      

Edmonton Oilers: Dustin Penner (2007)

In the aftermath of the Anaheim Ducks' swiping of defenseman Chris Pronger in 2006, the Oilers clapped back with an offer sheet in August 2007 that provided a five-year, $21.25 million deal for Penner, then a 24-year-old. He scored 40 goals across years one and two before busting out for 32 in his third season.

#hockey, #nhl

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