NHL Free Agents 2010: Marty Turco and Five Other Underpaid Signings

Kyle WahlgrenCorrespondent IAugust 10, 2010

NHL Free Agents 2010: Marty Turco and Five Other Underpaid Signings

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    Heading into an offseason filled with projections of who will go where ran into many road bumps.  A year that many may not forget is being referenced as a "salary cap" stricken period.

    With numerous teams facing strict budgets and tight salary caps, there has been very little room for over-spending.

    Oft-mentioned 2010 Stanley Cup champion, the Chicago Blackhawks, knows firsthand how the salary cap can be compared to that of a guillotine in the Middle Ages.

    In a matter of a few weeks, the Blackhawks managed to shed nine former players, including former starting goalie Antti Niemi, that played key roles in the resurgence of the organization.  Amidst fan disapproval of their favorites being dismissed many started to wonder who would fill the vacancies.

    With very little money left to spend, the Blackhawks were able to bring a little daylight to the seemingly overcast concerns.  On August 2, they managed to sign Marty Turco, former Dallas Star, to a one-year, $1.3 million contract.

    In the 2009-10 season Turco made $5.4 million, meaning he took a nearly $4 million discount in order to be a part of a winning organization. 

    The free agency list continues to be considerably long and training camp nearly a month away now.  Many can imagine the pay cuts some may be willing to take in order to have an opportunity to get that elusive championship or perhaps just to get an opportunity to play.

    What follows are five more players who have shown that in order to be given an opportunity, one must make a sacrifice.  While some free agents look to sign big amounts, these players only want the opportunity to win.

Mike Modano

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    Now 40, Modano is returning to his roots to hopefully add to an already miraculous career by joining the Detroit Red Wings.  Born in Livonia, Michigan, Modano is looking to close his career in the same area where he grew up.

    A career player in the Stars franchise, Dallas and Minnesota, recently announced he would sign a one-year, $1.25 million contract.  Past obvious prime and joining a new team, Modano will be looked upon to provide stability on the third line. 

    Last year Modano made $2.25 million in an unusually shorter season.  Playing in 59 games, he accumulated 14 goals and 16 assists. 

    By joining the Wings, he gives them ideal depth, which was visible through numerous bouts of injuries last season.  Most of all Detroit has been able to acquire a veteran at a considerable cap-friendly amount.

Dan Ellis

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    Officially being pegged as the new Tampa Bay Lightning GM, Steve Yzerman's first official free agent signing, Ellis, was a steal.

    Obviously, serving under Pekka Rinne took away much of the sparkle and glimmer the young goalie first experienced.  Ellis signed a two-year, $3 million contract at the opening of the free agent signing period.

    While receiving $1.5 million per year, it is a downgrade from what he made in Nashville, $2 million.

    What Ellis will earn is the starting role heading into the 2010-11 season with the Lightning.  In the three years serving as starter and backup, Ellis consistently maintained a save percentage above .900. 

    Now at the age of 30, it can be projected that Ellis' best years may be ahead of him.  With the change of jersey and youthful lineup, Ellis may be in the best position to prove he is worth more than $1.5 million dollars.

Anton Babchuk

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    After a year of contract disputes and playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, Babchuk returns by signing a one-year, $1.4 million contract as a restricted free agent with the Carolina Hurricanes.

    After a season of play with Avangard Omsk in 2009-10, Babchuk returns to the NHL to get back on the same track he left.  Then 26-year-old, Babchuk had a breakout season as the young defenseman netted 16 goals in 72 games.

    In the KHL, he led the Avangard defensive corps in goals (9), points (22), and plus/minus (plus-17).

    While Babchuk brings much needed size to the defensive depth chart, he will be aiming to mend issues stemming from the contract disputes last offseason.  He will now look to build on where he left off in 2009 and should become an important role in the Hurricanes' defense.

Saku Koivu

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    Koivu could be valuable in more ways than one to the Anaheim Ducks.  By signing a two-year, $5 million contract, he brings consistency.  Most of all, however, he may have been the very reason Teemu Selanne signed a contract extension Monday, August 9. 

    Koivu brings 50-plus point production over the past three seasons, as he centered the very line Selanne is part of in Anaheim.  While Koivu has possibly seen his best years, another 50-point output for $2.5 million would be considered a huge gain as the Ducks look for additional offensive weapons.

    Stemming from the Selanne signing could perhaps be the Ducks aquisition of Paul Kariya in the next few days.  The reunion would be much welcomed from a duo that brought success from 1995 to 2001.

    A second line consisting of Selanne, Kariya, and Koivu would be a threat many fans would love to see.

Darren Helm

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    Recently announced was Helm's signing of a two-year extension worth $1.8 million.  While not a huge offensive output, Helm provides consistent penalty-kill, fourth-line attributes.

    Drafted in 2005, he tallied 11 goals while centering the Red Wings' fourth line.  Although not outstanding, he led the Red Wings with three shorthanded goals.

    Helm brings the physical attribute to the lineup and provides an increasing maturing rate. 

    Now, with an opportunity to learn from one of the best centers in the game, Modano, Helm could have a very surprising season.  Many teams would enjoy his presence and consistency at only a $912,500 cap hit.