The Chicago Blackhawks took the biggest plunge this summer by signing the 30-year-old former Detroit Red Wing to a mind-boggling 12-year, $62.8 million contract. It's heavily front-loaded so Hossa's new salary will be worth a cap-friendly $5.23 million per season. If Hossa, a former three-time 40 goal-scorer, plays at a high level over the next 5-7 years and helps the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup this could be well worth it although the older he gets the more of a drag on their payroll he'll be in the final years of this deal. But no one expects Hossa to still be playing by age 40 as he'll likely be retired well before then. Since he signed this contract well before his 35th birthday, it won't count against the Blackhawks cap when he finally does retire.
Best bargain: Mikael Samuelsson
Lost in the hype of the major signings on July 1 was the Vancouver Canucks inking the two-way forward Samuelsson to a three-year deal worth $2.5 million per season. That's an affordable contract for the 32-year-old former Red Wing who's had 40 or more points in three of the past four seasons, is a reliable playoff performer and has not only played for a Stanley Cup champion with Detroit but also on gold medal-winning Swedish teams in the Olympics and World championships. Samuelsson played with the talented Sedin twins on those Swedish clubs, which was obviously a factor in his signing with Vancouver. Still in his prime, his experience and two-way skills could play an important role in improving the Canucks.
Most overpaid: Brian Gionta
Other players signed more expensive contracts, but the five-year, $30 million deal Gionta signed with the Montreal Canadiens ranks atop the "most overpaid" list. He's a former 48-goal scorer, but that was four years ago with the New Jersey Devils. Since then, he's averaged between 20-25 goals over the past three seasons. Canadiens general manager Bob Gainey is gambling Gionta will rediscover his offensive chemistry with new Habs center Scott Gomez, with whom he had his best seasons when they were linemates on the Devils. It's a stretch to believe he'll reach the 40-goal heights again even with Gomez setting him up. The Canadiens aren't likely to get full value for their money.
Worst signing: Marian Gaborik
It was widely believed the oft-injured Gaborik would be lucky to get an expensive long-term contract this summer after spurning a rumored $8 million per season offer last fall from the Minnesota Wild. So it was shocking when the New York Rangers announced they'd inked Gaborik to a five-year contract worth $7.5 million per season. When healthy he's unquestionably a superstar forward, but injuries have hampered his performance and effectiveness. There's also concern over how he'll handle the pressure of playing in one of the league's top markets carrying the Rangers offense, and his playoff record has also been subject to criticism. GM Glen Sather earned kudos for trading away an overpaid Scott Gomez, but blew whatever chance he had to truly add affordable quality depth by signing the brittle Gaborik.
Biggest gamble: Martin Havlat
The Minnesota Wild rid themselves of one brittle, expensive right winger by not re-signing Marian Gaborik, but replaced him with another fragile winger in Havlat, paying him $5 million per season for the next six years. The 28-year-old Havlat had his best performance last season with Chicago, playing a career-best 81 games and notching 77 points. Unfortunately that's the most games in one season he's played since his 73-game debut in 2000-01 with Ottawa. In the three seasons prior to 2008-09, Havlat appeared in 18, 56 and 35 games respectively, an ominous sign for Wild fans counting on him to power their offense. If he has finally put his injury woes behind him Havlat could prove a worthwhile addition for Minnesota, but given he's never played a full season in his NHL career, Wild management is taking a big, expensive gamble with him.
Biggest potential steal: Craig Anderson
His NHL career thus far was spent in obscurity as a backup on mediocre teams in Chicago and Florida, but more than a few observers believe Anderson has what it takes to become a quality starting goalie in the NHL. Last season with the Panthers he had a respectable 15-7-5 record, with a .924 save percentage and three shutouts. That attracted the Colorado Avalanche, inking Anderson to a two-year contract at $1.8 million per season. The starting goaltender role with the Avs is Anderson's for the taking and if he can play up to his potential, the 28-year-old could emerge as perhaps the biggest steal in this summer's free-agent market.
Best re-signing: Sedin twins
Vancouver Canucks general manager Mike Gillis ensured two-thirds of his first line remained intact by re-signing forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin to identical five-year, $30.5 million contracts, worth $6.1 million per season. Gillis cut it close, re-signing the twins hours before the July 1 deadline for unrestricted free agency, even flying to Sweden days before to personally work out the details. It was well worth the long flight as the pair led the Canucks in scoring over the past three seasons, and at 28 the twins will be in their prime over the course of this contract. They'll continue to power Vancouver's offensive attack for the next five years.
Best player still available: Alex Tanguay
A season-shortening shoulder injury, a reputation as a talented but soft player and a rumored asking price of $5 million per season has left the 29-year-old winger still unsigned by late July. However, it's unlikely he'll remain available for much longer. Tanguay is a former four-time 70-point winger, a Stanley Cup winner with Colorado in 2001 and only two years removed from a career-best 81 points in 2006-07. His stick-handling and passing skills rank among the best in the league, making Tanguay attractive for teams either lacking offensive depth or seeking a quality set-up man. The Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning have been linked to Tanguay in the rumor mill. Spector