2011 NHL Free Agency: 7 Natural Leaders Who Can Help Deliver a Cup

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2011 NHL Free Agency: 7 Natural Leaders Who Can Help Deliver a Cup
Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Championship NHL teams possess skilled scorers, dependable goaltenders and complimentary role players.

Lacking any one of those three elements, no team can shortcut its way to a Stanley Cup title.

Scoring forwards are the most attractive of the elements, but as Philadelphia demonstrated in their second-round loss, no number of good forwards can nullify having a goaltender who is either very good or very hot.

Boston, meanwhile, demonstrated how valuable it can be to have a very good goaltender who is playing very good hockey. Tim Thomas took home the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup trophies this year, and is merely waiting for the ink to dry on his Vezina Trophy as the league's best regular season goaltender.

Put shortly, scorers and goalies are big news.

So what of the lesser guys? Role players are often signed in the later days of free agency, plucked from the waiver wire or called up through a club's farm system—but they are pivotal players nonetheless.

Ask the Pittsburgh Penguins what they're worth. With a lineup including Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, both Game 7 goals of the 2009 Finals were scored by Maxime Talbot, a career grinder and prototypical role player known better for his locker room presence than scoring touch.

Some of these players come with big names and big price tags, but their experience can be invaluable. Others may not command the same salary or bring the same point production, but as role players are too vital to be ignored.

Seven free agents who can bring a championship presence to the ice and behind the scenes:

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