Last summer's NHL free-agent feeding frenzy began on July 1. The yearly crapshoot saw some teams overpaying, some getting the players they desired for fair market value and some getting lucky and signing the players they coveted at a discounted rate.
Signing the player is just a small piece of the puzzle. The larger piece is what the team will get in return for that investment.
Will the player they signed never fully gel and just sit on the books, eating up a huge chunk of the team's salary cap? Will the player deliver as expected, appeasing the fans and allowing the general manager to hold onto his job? Or will the free agent shine, delivering far more than his contract was worth and making the GM look like a genius?
What follows are the players that fit into the latter category, players that were signed at a discounted rate and are delivering the goods.
When the St Louis Blues signed Brian Elliott as a free agent, the thinking was that he would push the team's 2005 draft pick Ben Bishop for the backup job. Well, things didn't really work out that way.
Instead, Bishop is playing with the Peoria Riverman, while Elliott is set to play in the 2012 NHL all-star game after posting a .937 save percentage and a 1.68 goals-against average to go along with a record of 15-5-1.
Elliott's numbers have been a true surprise for the Blues, considering his numbers from last season were a goals-against average of 3.34 and a save percentage of .893 in 55 games split between the Colorado Avalanche and the Ottawa Senators.
If the Blues want to hold on to Elliott past this season, they are going to have to give him a significant raise over the $600,000 they are paying him this season.
The Florida Panthers have been without their starting goaltender, Jose Theodore, since he left a game on New Year's Eve. Before sustaining the injury, Theodore was on pace to post his best numbers since the 2003-04 season he had with the Montreal Canadiens.
Before missing time with injury, Theodore had a 2.43 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage. In addition, the Panthers were also in the mix for a spot in the playoffs.
Theodore's price for the Panthers this season is $1.5 million, a far cry from the $4.5 million he pulled down in 2009-10 when he finished the season with a 2.81 GAA and a .911 save percentage.
Steve Sullivan did not have one of his best years while playing for the Nashville Predators last season; in fact, injury limited him to just 44 games. During those games, he scored 22 points.
The Pittsburgh Penguins picked up the 37-year-old winger for $1.5 million (one-year deal) over the summer. And just as in Nashville, he has been a half-point-per-game player, delivering 22 points in 44 games, but at a salary far reduced from the $3.75 million he earned in Nashville.
The Penguins aren't expecting Sullivan to light up the scoring sheet on a nightly basis, but as a serviceable veteran presence with the ability to chip in points, he's a good deal for what his salary is.
Vokoun was one of the prized free-agent goaltenders, and after earning $6.3 million during the 2010-11 season with the Florida Panthers, there were very few that thought that any team would be able to snag him at such a bargain-basement rate.
The early going was rocky for Vokoun, and at some points it seemed as if that $1.5 million may have been too much to pay for him. But as of late, he has gotten things back together and is putting up numbers consistent with the rest of his career.
His 2.52 goals-against average is slightly better than his career average of 2.56 in that department, and his save percentage of .918 is very close to his career average of .917
The Caps could have spent a lot more and received a lot less.
Not too long ago, Sheldon Souray signed a five-year $27-million contract to patrol the blue line for the Edmonton Oilers. For whatever reason, things did not work out, and Souray found himself collecting that salary to play for the AHL's Hershey Bears.
The Oilers did what they could to unload Souray via trade, but they were unable to find a partner that was willing to take on his salary. Eventually, at the end of the 2011 season, the Oilers bought his contract out, making him an unrestricted free agent.
The Dallas Stars would sign Souray for a much reduced rate, $1.65 million, for one season.
To date, the signing seems to be working out for both Souray and the Stars. The veteran player has 16 points in 37 games with a plus-nine ranking, which ranks him first among Stars defensemen.
When the Columbus Blue Jackets lost Kristian Huselius to long-term injury over the summer, they went out and signed Vaclav Prospal to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. The thinking most likely being that Prospal would serve the purpose of filling the spot in the lineup while Huselius healed.
Well, after 44 games, that thinking may have changed.
Prospal is second on the team in scoring with 30 points, just one point behind Rick Nash, who will pull in $7.5 million this season. Third in scoring with 19 points is Fedor Tyutin, who is pulling in $3.425 million.
Maxime Talbot's signing with the Philadelphia Flyers was a bit unexpected, mostly because he had been a member of the hated Pittsburgh Penguins and was not a very shy and unassuming enemy, either. However, he was a free agent, so his signing was a but more acceptable to the Philly faithful since the team did not have to part with any players to pick him up.
Talbot's signing was looked at, by some, as a mistake. They questioned the wisdom of signing a player that had never put up more than 26 points in an NHL campaign to a five-year deal worth $8.75 million.
Well, right now, that signing is looking to be a solid one, as Talbot is on pace for a career year.
Over the course of 43 games, he has 10 goals and 9 assists. If he stays on his current pace, he will destroy his career high in points.
Talbot's salary for this year is $2.25 million, but over the course of the deal, his cap hit is a manageable $1.75 million.
Normally, one would not consider a $3.3-million contract a bargain signing. But when that $3.3 million is attached to a surefire Hall of Famer, whose last NHL contract was worth $66.44 million over seven years, then, yes, the $3.3 million that Jaromir Jagr signed with the Philadelphia Flyers for is a bargain.
Jagr has played in 37 games for the Flyers, posting 12 goals and adding 20 assists to put him third in scoring on the team. The two players that are above him are linemates Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux.
In addition to his play on the ice, he is paying off in other ways, helping Giroux as he continues his climb toward NHL stardom and showing his teammates that even an immensely talented player like him needs to practice hard; Jagr has done this by practicing on his own, after hours, at the Flyers facility.