By PowerPlayCJ @powerplaywithcj on July 7, 2014
With the 2014 NHL free agent frenzy (mostly) behind us and NBA superstar LeBron James keeping the sports world guessing about his (latest) free agency decision, it’s time to look back on NHL free agent signings that changed the game. While many big names have changed teams via the open market before, these marquee players not only cashed in but delivered Stanley Cups to their new squads.
Sidney Crosby had yet to turn 18 and Evgeni Malkin was still plying his trade when Sergei Gonchar joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2005 after a longtime stint with the Washington Capitals (and a brief stop over in Boston). Gonchar was an integral part of Pittsburgh’s 2009 Stanley Cup win playing big time minutes in all situations. For what it’s worth, Gonchar has moved on via free agency not once but twice since being a Penguin.
“The Golden Brett” had worn out his welcome with Mike Keenan and the Blues when he bolted St. Louis for Big D in 1998. His Texas-sized first season in Dallas ended with Hull and the Stars winning their first Stanley Cup. Hull would later make another memorable free agent move going from Dallas to Detroit and helping the Wings win the 2002 Stanley Cup.
Niedermayer’s offensive skills were limited in the Devils’ trap happy system, but that all changed when he bolted Jersey for Orange County in 2005. Teaming up with his brother Rob, Niedermayer would captain the Ducks to the 2007 Stanley Cup, win the Conn Smythe and help create a whole new generation of hockey fans in California along the way.
The Blackhawks were a young, exciting team that had just been vanquished by Hossa’s then Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals when the Slovakian sniper joined the squad in 2009. It turns out Hossa was in so many ways the missing piece to the Blackhawks' 49-year championship drought as the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in his first year in Chicago. Hossa and the Blackhawks also added another Cup for good measure in 2013.
No player changed the culture of a team more than Chara did when he left the up-and-coming Senators for the then borderline irrelevant Bruins alongside fellow free agent Marc Savard in 2006. All the 6-foot-9 behemoth has done since joining the Bruins is win a Norris Trophy and lead a transformation that ultimately led to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup in nearly 40 years in 2011.
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