Adding players via free agency is not the preferred way to build a team in the NHL. However, once clubs have built a nice foundation of players they have developed, adding a free agent here and there can put a team over the top. Through the early part of the 2009-10 NHL season here is a look at five NHL free agents who are paying off for the teams that signed them:
1. Marian Gaborik, New York Rangers- The Rangers gave Gaborik a five year 37.5 million dollar deal and so far they have been a perfect match. Gaborik seems to enjoy playing in Head Coach John Tortorella’s system. The Rangers are playing a high energy offensive system, and Gaborik is a high energy offensive kind of player. He seems to be having a lot of fun, and so far is producing. If he stays healthy he could score 40-50 goals this year.
2. Craig Anderson, Colorado Avalanche- Anderson signed a two year 3.6 million dollar deal with the Av’s and so far all he has done is elevated the team to first place in the Northwest standings. So far in the young season Anderson is 7-2-1 with a 2.25 GAA. Anderson has been waiting for to seize the number one net minder job for quite some time, and now that he has one he his doing the most with it.
3. Nik Antropov, Atlanta Thrashers- Even though he has yet to score, Nik is having a huge impact of this club. Fresh off signing a four year, 16 million dollar deal Antropov is doing a fine job centering a line for Ilya Kovalchuk. The simple fact here is that line is clicking and Antropov is averaging a point per game.
4. Mikael Samuleson, Vancouver Canucks- Three years at 7.5 million dollars is a small price to pay for the guy who is saving this team in the absence of Daniel Sedin. Of all the high profile guys who walked away from the Detroit Red Wings last summer, this may be the one they miss the most. Five goals and four assists in his first nine games is very impressive.
5. Adrian Aucoin, Phoenix Coyotes- one year and 2.25 million dollars is a small price to pay for a guy who adds a veteran presence to a pretty bad hockey club. His presence on the Coyote blue line and on the power play is the reason why the Coyotes are one of the best turn around stories of the young season.