Gallery: Top NHL free agent signings

In arguably the best free agent signing of all time, the Boston Bruins signed big defenceman Zdeno Chara to a five-year deal in the summer of 2006. Considered by many to be the best blue liner on the planet right now, he captained the B’s to the Cup in the 2011. (AP/Elise Amendola)

In arguably the best free agent signing of all time, the Boston Bruins signed big defenceman Zdeno Chara to a five-year deal in the summer of 2006. Considered by many to be the best blue liner on the planet right now, he captained the B’s to the Cup in the 2011. (AP/Elise Amendola)

In arguably the best free agent signing of all time, the Boston Bruins signed big defenceman Zdeno Chara to a five-year deal in the summer of 2006. Considered by many to be the best blue liner on the planet right now, he captained the B’s to the Cup in the 2011. (AP/Elise Amendola)

After years of success with the New Jersey Devils, Scott Niedermayer elected to sign with the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks in 2005 to join his younger brother Rob – and it turned out great. The silky smooth defender put up big points, won a Norris Trophy and then led the club to a Stanley Cup in 2007. (AP/Christine Cotter)

After years of success with the New Jersey Devils, Scott Niedermayer elected to sign with the Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks in 2005 to join his younger brother Rob – and it turned out great. The silky smooth defender put up big points, won a Norris Trophy and then led the club to a Stanley Cup in 2007. (AP/Christine Cotter)

Brett Hull could make the list twice as his signing in 1998 did much to propel the Dallas Stars to the Cup the next season (scoring the series-clinching), while his signing by the Detroit Red Wings in 2001 had the same exact outcome. (AP/Bill Janscha)

Brett Hull could make the list twice as his signing in 1998 did much to propel the Dallas Stars to the Cup the next season (scoring the series-clinching), while his signing by the Detroit Red Wings in 2001 had the same exact outcome. (AP/Bill Janscha)

Brett Hull could make the list twice as his signing in 1998 did much to propel the Dallas Stars to the Cup the next season (scoring the series-clinching), while his signing by the Detroit Red Wings in 2001 had the same exact outcome. (AP/Bill Janscha)

Brett Hull could make the list twice as his signing in 1998 did much to propel the Dallas Stars to the Cup the next season (scoring the series-clinching), while his signing by the Detroit Red Wings in 2001 had the same exact outcome. (AP/Bill Janscha)

The Carolina Hurricanes signing of Ron Francis in the summer of 1998 solidified the clubs’ leadership group as he helped lead the ‘Canes to a surprise run to the final in 2002. His offensive production and experience were vital, creating a culture on the team that eventually led to a Cup in 2004 (though he was dealt to the Maple Leafs during that same season). (CP/Adrian Wyld)

The Carolina Hurricanes signing of Ron Francis in the summer of 1998 solidified the clubs’ leadership group as he helped lead the ‘Canes to a surprise run to the final in 2002. His offensive production and experience were vital, creating a culture on the team that eventually led to a Cup in 2004 (though he was dealt to the Maple Leafs during that same season). (CP/Adrian Wyld)

Sergei Gonchar was the perfect offensive catalyst from the blue line for Pittsburgh as the Penguins were looking toward the near future with young stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ready to blossom. Gonchar also took the ultra-talented Malkin under his wing, but his production during the Pens’ two runs to the Cup final in 2008 and 2009 were vital. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)

Sergei Gonchar was the perfect offensive catalyst from the blue line for Pittsburgh as the Penguins were looking toward the near future with young stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin ready to blossom. Gonchar also took the ultra-talented Malkin under his wing, but his production during the Pens’ two runs to the Cup final in 2008 and 2009 were vital. (AP/Gene J. Puskar)

The big Slovak Marian Hossa has been on three teams since 2008, and has been in the Stanley Cup final in all but two years in that span. In 2009, he signed with the Detroit Red Wings, the very team that had beaten his Pittsburgh Penguins the year before in the final, and then lost for a second year in a row. Then as a free agent again, he was picked up by the Chicago Blackhawks and has been a part of their two champions since then. (AP/LM Otero)

The big Slovak Marian Hossa has been on three teams since 2008, and has been in the Stanley Cup final in all but two years in that span. In 2009, he signed with the Detroit Red Wings, the very team that had beaten his Pittsburgh Penguins the year before in the final, and then lost for a second year in a row. Then as a free agent again, he was picked up by the Chicago Blackhawks and has been a part of their two champions since then. (AP/LM Otero)

CURTIS JOSEPH

The Toronto Maple Leafs had not settled on an established number one goaltender since Felix Potvin when Curtis Joseph was brought into the fold in 1998. His signing paid off immediately as he won 30-plus-games for three straight years and led the Buds to the Conference Final twice. (CP/Ryan Remiorz)

The Toronto Maple Leafs had not settled on an established number one goaltender since Felix Potvin when Curtis Joseph was brought into the fold in 1998. His signing paid off immediately as he won 30-plus-games for three straight years and led the Buds to the Conference Final twice. (CP/Ryan Remiorz)

Teemu Selanne signed on with the Anaheim Ducks just after the 2005 lockout ended and he rewarded them right away with a 40-goal, 90-point season. The next season he put up 94 points and helped the California club to its first Stanley Cup championship. (AP/Jae C. Hong)

Teemu Selanne signed on with the Anaheim Ducks just after the 2005 lockout ended and he rewarded them right away with a 40-goal, 90-point season. The next season he put up 94 points and helped the California club to its first Stanley Cup championship. (AP/Jae C. Hong)

Brian Rafalski was inked by the Detroit Red Wings in 2007 and the rest was history. He was enormous in their 2008 championship, and remained a solid contributor from the back end until injuries force him to call it a career. (AP/Paul Sancya)

Brian Rafalski was inked by the Detroit Red Wings in 2007 and the rest was history. He was enormous in their 2008 championship, and remained a solid contributor from the back end until injuries force him to call it a career. (AP/Paul Sancya)

Ed Belfour’s 1997 signing with the Dallas Stars made that club an instant cup contender. The team won the President’s Trophy in his first year between the Dallas pipes, and then went on to win it all two years later. (AP/Bill Janscha)

Ed Belfour’s 1997 signing with the Dallas Stars made that club an instant cup contender. The team won the President’s Trophy in his first year between the Dallas pipes, and then went on to win it all two years later. (AP/Bill Janscha)

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