NHL Free Agency: Biggest Steals in Free Agency History During Salary Cap Era

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IAugust 11, 2012

NHL Free Agency: Biggest Steals in Free Agency History During Salary Cap Era

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    The NHL free agency period is pretty much over so now is a good time and reflect on some of the better deals that have been struck in the history of free agency.

    While many teams often over pay for marquee free agents early on in free agency, some general manages take care of things in a much more efficient way. Some general managers also lock up their RFA players at an amazing rate.

    Some general managers make solid signings at a fair rate and it ends up being a real steal. Some of these signings even occur outside of the free agency period. This would apply to NCAA free agents and other un-drafted players.

    Nonetheless,  this slideshow will take a look at some of the greatest steals in free agency history during the salary-cap era.

Matt Moulson

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    The New York Islanders made an amazing steal back in 2009 when they inked Matt Moulson to a one-year, two-way contract for $575k.

    The Islanders got a sizable return on their investment because Moulson went on to score 30 goals and 48 points.

    Moulson went on to improve his totals in 2010-11 and 2011-12 as a member of the Islanders.

Brian Elliot

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    What is the going rate for an all-star goaltender in today's NHL? Is it $3.0 million? Is it $4.0 million or is it more? The answer is that it could as little as $600k to have a goaltender that will give you security and piece of mind.

    Brian Elliot had an amazing year and made $600k for the St.Louis Blues and posted an impeccable stat line of 23-10-4 with a 1.56 G.A.A.

    Elliot was handsomely rewarded for his efforts with a contract extension but his new contract with a $1.8 cap hit is still a steal.

Ian White

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    The Detroit Red Wings are a franchise that has been very fiscally sane in the salary cap era and they made a solid steal when they signed Ian White last offseason to a two-year deal worth $5.75 million.

    With a cap hit of $2,875,000 per season, White went on to score seven goals and added 25 assists for 32 points. White also was a plus-23 on the year. If he can step up in the absence of Nicklas Lidstrom, he can prove to be a real steal for Ken Holland.

Chris Osgood

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    Ken Holland worked his magic again when he was able to retain netminder Chris Osgood back in 2006 to a two-year deal worth $1.8 million a season. 

    The Wings wanted to have a solid 1-2 goaltending tandem after adding Dominik Hasek to the mix.

    Osgood served as a solid backup for most of his tenure in Detroit but he made his name during the playoffs.

    During the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, Osgood won 14 games and he posted a respectable 1.55 GAA and a stellar .930 save percentage. He had relieved Hasek during a first-round series against the Nashville Predators.

    Osgood would also record three shutouts and would have been a worthy recipient for that year's Conn Smythe Trophy.

Sean Bergenheim

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    Sean Bergenheim made headlines when he became lightning hot for Tampa Bay during the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. Bergenheim made $700k that season and he scored 14 goals and he assisted on 15 others for 29 points.

    That postseason, Bergenheim went on a tear and scored nine goals and he assisted on two others for 11 points in 16 games. During that postseason, Bergenheim was in a groove and he couldn't be stopped.

Mike Smith

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    Mike Smith was one of the biggest stories of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs when he won nine games, posted a 1.99 GAA and a .944 save percentage along with three shutouts.

    Smith's postseason really wasn't a surprise for many because during the regular season he won 38 games, had a 2.21 GAA and a .930 SV percentage with eight shutouts.

Tim Thomas

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    Tim Thomas was a steal because the Boston Bruins brought him into the fold when no one was willing to give him a chance. Thomas was signed back in 2005 to a low cost one-way deal worth $450k. 

    He didn't have a winning season but the Bruins were not the most competitive team. However, the Bruins saw something in Thomas and signed him to a three-year deal at $1.1 million year. 

    Thomas went on to win a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe trophy after earning a significant bump in salary but he was a major steal considering that the Bruins picked him up out of virtually nowhere.

Max Talbot

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    Max Talbot defected to the Philadelphia Flyers from the PIttsburgh Penguins last offseason. Talbot signed a five-year-deal with an annual cap hit of $1.75 million and it proved to be one of the best bargain signings in recent memory.

    The center posted a career best 19 goals and 15 assists for 34 points for the Flyers and he was an all-situations player. He killed penalties, rotated lines and did everything that was asked of him.

    Talbot is still very young and is signed at a very reasonable rate.

Teddy Purcell

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    Teddy Purcell was recently given a sizable contract extension but he has been a solid steal up to this point.

    In 2010-11 he made only $750k and he rewarded Tampa Bay with a 51-point the season. His breakout year landed him a two-year-deal worth $2,362,500 a year and he scored 65 points during 2011-12.

    That breakout year enabled Purcell to land another extension but when you look at his production and the amount of money he made, Purcell was a real steal.

David Desharnais

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    David Desharnais is another player who was an RFA that was retained at a bargain rate.

    Desharnais made only $850,000 and had an amazing year. He scored 60 points and has another year on his deal so it is considered to be a real RFA steel for the Canadiens.

    If he has another year like 2011-12, he could earn quite a raise from his original $800k.

P.A Parenteau

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    P.A. Parenteau was signed by the New York Islanders as a free agent before the 2010-11 season. He was signed to a one-year deal worth $600k and he had a breakout year for the Isles. Parenteau had 53 points and became one of the Isles' best offensive contributors.

    This past season, P.A.P. made double his salary but was still at a bargain basement rate when you consider the year he had. Parenteau had 67 points and cashed in as a free agent and went to sign a fat contract with the Colorado Avalanche.

    While it lasted, Parenteau was a real steal by the Islanders.

Pascal Dupuis

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    Pascal Dupuis only made $1.5 million last year and he will make the same during this upcoming season. He was an UFA of the Pittsburgh Penguins during this past offseason and decided to resign for a slight raise.

    During the 2011-12 season, Dupuis scored 25 goals and he assisted on 34 others for 59 points. That amount of production is a real steal in this salary cap era.

Matt Read

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    Matt Read was an NCAA free agent that flew under almost every team's radar except for the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Read was signed to a three-year deal with a cap hit of $800k per year and he had an amazing rookie year. The right winger scored 23 goals and assisted on 24 others for 47 points. Considering that Read literally came out of nowhere, this was an amazing steal for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Dan Girardi

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    Dan Girardi has slowly developed into one of the NHL's premiere shutdown defenders. He is a workhorse defenseman that logs tons of minutes and he throws his body and caution to the wind at the drop of a dime.

    Girardi was undrafted and the New York Rangers were the only team willing to give the Guelph Storm defender a shot. 

    This undrafted defenseman has emerged as an all star and he is one of the most significant steals of the last few years.

Ray Whitney

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    After Ray Whitney finished a three-year-deal with the Carolina Hurricanes, he became a UFA. The Stanley Cup champion decided to sign in Phoenix for a slight pay cut. Whitney had been making $3.5 million a year but settled for $3.0 million.

    Whitney went on to replicate his performance from 2009-10 in 2010-11 and he had an amazing 2011-12 campaign that the Dallas Stars hope he can repeat in 2012-13.

    Whitney scored 77 points and was one of the best in the league and he made a very low salary.