NHL Free Agency: Every Team's Most Surprising Free-Agent Signing Ever

Matthew FairburnCorrespondent INovember 15, 2011

NHL Free Agency: Every Team's Most Surprising Free-Agent Signing Ever

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    NHL teams tend to become creatures of habit. We often see the same front offices go after the same types of players and exhibit similar spending patterns.

    However, now and again, every team throws a wrench into the equation, surprising the fans and media alike.

    Let's take a look at each team's most surprising free-agent signing.

Anaheim Ducks: Tod Bertuzzi

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    The Anaheim Ducks seemed pretty set offensively following their 2007 Stanley Cup victory. However, that didn't stop Brian Burke from going after Todd Bertuzzi and giving him $4 million over two seasons. It was a puzzling move, and it became even more perplexing when Bertuzzi was a complete dud and had his contract bought out the following season.

Boston Bruins: Mark Recchi

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    Some surprises are pleasant for their teams. The signing of Mark Recchi, which was initially thought of as a way to add depth up front and veteran leadership, became one of the most valuable signings the team has ever made.

    Recchi developed into a sturdy second-line player during the Stanley Cup run and was one of the biggest leaders on the team.

Buffalo Sabres: Christian Ehrhoff

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    With new ownership in town entering the 2011 NHL offseason, the Buffalo Sabres were rumored to be ready to shell out some cash, something the previous ownership did not seem willing to do.

    Well, that dream became a reality when the Sabres went out and inked Christian Ehrhoff to a 10-year $40 million contract. It's one thing to talk about increased spending, it's another entirely to go out and do it.

Calgary Flames: Jay Bouwmeester

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    Jay Bouwmeester is a fine defenseman, so when his rights as a restricted free agent were traded from the Panthers to the Flames, Calgary fans had to have been pretty excited.

    However, when the team eventually signed the blueliner to a five-year, $33 million contract, the fans probably realized why Florida had such a tough time signing him. This deal is still a head-scratcher.

Carolina Hurricanes: Ron Francis

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    Ron Francis had a homecoming of sorts in 1998 when he returned to the organization that drafted him after a successful career in Pittsburgh. The organization had relocated from Hartford to Carolina, but that didn't stop Francis from surprisingly staying loyal to his roots and padding some franchise records.

Chicago Blackhawks: Cristobal Huet

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    Four years and $22.5 million was the contract the Blackhawks thought Cristobal Huet was worth. It's insane to think about that, considering how much of a flop he was in the Windy City.

Colorado Avalanche: Semyon Varlamov

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    Heading into the 2011 NHL offseason, the Colorado Avalanche were expected to be big players in the goaltending market. Some of the big names included Ilya Bryzgalov, Tomas Vokoun and Mike Smith.

    One name that wasn't brought up too much was Semyon Varlamov, who was a restricted free agent and had just struggled through an injury-riddled season. Varlamov was expected to be heading to Russia.

    However, the Avalanche made a huge splash by trading for Varlamov's rights and signing him to a big contract, making him their future between the pipes.

Columbus Blue Jackets: James Wisniewski

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    The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a fairly dull existence in terms of free-agent spending. That all changed this offseason when the team roped in one of the best defensemen available in James Wisniewski.

Dallas Stars: Sean Avery

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    Sean Avery's tenure in Dallas was brief, but the signing can never be swept under the rug. Avery signed a contract worth $15.5 million over four seasons, a vast overpayment for a glorified pest. 

Detroit Red Wings: Mike Modano

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    Seeing Mike Modano in a Red Wings uniform was shocking to everyone in the league, but it had to have been particularly strange for Detroit and Dallas fans.

Edmonton Oilers: Dustin Penner

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    The Edmonton Oilers broke the bank in a trade to acquire restricted free agent Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks. It turned out to be a terrible mistake.

Florida Panthers: Ed Jovanovski

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    The Florida Panthers are in the midst of a rebuilding effort, so it was curious to see them spend more than $16 million over four seasons on Ed Jovanovski, who is already 35 years old. The bigger surprise might be that he has played reasonably well thus far this season.

Los Angeles Kings: Rob Blake

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    It was nice to see the Kings try and rekindle what they once had with defenseman Rob Blake, but $6 million was a hefty price tag to pay for such an uninspiring reunion.

Minnesota Wild: Martin Havlat

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    The Minnesota Wild have struggled offensively in recent years, so there attempt to get some scoring wasn't shocking.

    However, the player they chose to go after was a bit surprising. Martin Havlat got a fat pay check and didn't put up the points to warrant his payday.

Montreal Canadiens: Andrei Markov

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    I know I've been going with a lot of recent signings, but the decision by the Habs to bring back Anrdei Markov instead of James Wisniewski was a surprising development this offseason.

Nashville Predators: Shea Weber

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    The Nashville Predators are not typically active in free agency, so it was no surprise that they let the Shea Weber situation lag on into arbitration. However, the $7.5 million Weber was awarded in arbitration was very surprising. No player had ever been award that much money.

New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk

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    Many are already writing the Ilya Kovalchuk signing off as a failure. I'm definitely not ready to do that, but I will say the length of this contract is pretty stunning.

New York Islanders: Alexei Yashin

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    As if trading for Alexei Yashin on draft day wasn't surprising enough for the Islanders' fanbase, GM Mike Milbury decided to re-sign the forward to an outrageous contract that still haunts the Long Island faithful.

New York Rangers: Scott Gomez

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    The Rangers can be blamed for a lot of surprisingly bad contracts, but the fact that Scott Gomez has a cap hit of over $7 million right now is thanks to New York. It still shocks me that Gomez makes that much money.

Ottawa Senators: Alex Kovalev

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    Alex Kovalev seemed like a decent signing at the time. His $5 million cap hit wasn't tremendously out of line. However, his performance on the ice and in the locker room was shockingly disappointing for the Ottawa Senators.

Philadelphia Flyers: Jaromir Jagr

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    It's still strange to look at Jaromir Jagr playing for his career-long, cross-state rival.

Phoenix Coyotes: Brett Hull

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    The whole Brett Hull experiment in Phoenix was a weird one. He signed a $4.5 million deal only to collect one single point while playing with the Coyotes. 

Pittsburgh Penguins: Sergei Gonchar

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    The Sergei Gonchar signing brought with it plenty of optimism. But I'm not sure anyone would have predicted that Gonchar would become such a pivotal piece to Pittsburgh's championship run.

St. Louis Blues: Wayne Gretzky

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    I'm aware that the St. Louis Blues traded for Wayne Gretzky, but the only reason the deal went through was because St. Louis was able to meet Gretzky's salary demands, so in essence, it was a signing.

    And what a surprising signing it was. Seeing the Great One in a Blues uniform had to have been an incredible sight for St. Louis hockey fans.

San Jose Sharks: Kyle McLaren

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    When the Sharks initially brought Kyle McLaren on board, he was a reasonable production player for them. It was the $7.5 million extension they gave him, however, that was both surprising and ill-advised.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Vinny Lecavalier

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    I'm not going to sit here and rip on Vinny Lecavalier's huge contract. I'm just surprised at how much he has regressed since the Lightning signed him. It's a shame it didn't completely work out for Tampa.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Jeff Finger

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    When the Maple Leafs signed Jeff Finger back in 2008, it kind of came out of nowhere. People still don't know Jeff Finger, which should give you an idea of how that signing went.

Vancouver Canucks: Mark Messier

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    The Vancouver Canucks dished out $6 million per year for Mark Messier in 1997. They were 10 years too late on that one, and it predictably was a major flop.

Washington Capitals: Tomas Vokoun

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    After Ilya Bryzgalov signed his hefty contract, many thought Tomas Vokoun would follow suit. So, it's surprising that the Capitals were able to land the veteran on a short-term, $1.5 million deal.

Winnipeg Jets: TBA

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    The Winnipeg Jets have yet to make any shocking moves, which is probably a good thing. We'll have to wait and see with these guys.