High-profile names and big-buck contracts are usually the attention grabbers when the free-agent market opens, but many teams help themselves with signings that go under the radar.
Here's a look at a dozen of those deals:
Ty Conklin, Detroit: With so much focus on Detroit's stunning signing of Marian Hossa, the other player the champs grabbed from Pittsburgh has been all but forgotten. But getting the former Penguins backup goalie for a one-year, $750,000 deal is a coup for Detroit. Conklin resurrected his career last season by keeping Pittsburgh alive for several months while Marc-Andre Fleury was hurt. With Dominik Hasek retired, Conklin will be the perfect complement to Chris Osgood, spelling the Red Wings starter at times and pushing him at others.
|Could it be? Satan shows that Pittsburgh can lure free agents, not just lose them. (Getty Images)|
Miroslav Satan, Pittsburgh: Last season was his worst since Satan established himself a decade ago, but you have to cut him some slack because he played for a miserable New York Islanders team. Thing is, Satan is still relatively young at 33 and a top six winger by anyone's definition. Consider him a poor man's version of Hossa, but Satan comes a lot cheaper at $3.5 million for one season. And playing on a line with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin means Satan's numbers should spike up dramatically. If they do, he'll be a serious bargain.
Kristian Huselius, Columbus: He didn't come cheap for Columbus at $19 million for four years, but considering some of the prices being paid these days, that's not a bad deal for someone who is entering his prime at age 29. Huselius is one of the most skilled players no one seems to know about, a result of him having spent his career so far in relative obscurity in Florida and, more recently, Calgary. His game can be a little soft some times, but he's an offensive force who will fit in well with Rick Nash and the impressively rebuilt Blue Jackets.
Bobby Holik, New Jersey: Holik struck it rich after leaving the Devils, but he had the best years of his career in New Jersey and is coming back to fill a role that suits him best. Holik is big, tough and mean, and has more offensive ability than most people realize, although he's best utilized as a third-line center and shutdown guy. The Devils' big offseason move was getting high-scoring Brian Rolston, but Holik will come in handy against the big centers in the East and he will cost the Devils only $2.5 million for one season.
Jason Smith, Ottawa: Everyone was looking for puck-moving defensemen this offseason, but the solid stay-at-home types are really just as valuable. And Smith was one of the best on the market. He's a big, physical player who loves to get his nose dirty and isn't afraid to put his body out there to block shots. Smith is a great leader as well, as you might expect from someone who has captained two teams. That's a quality that won't hurt the Senators, especially since they're paying him only $2.6 million for each of the next two seasons.
Dmitri Kalinin, N.Y. Rangers: The Rangers were pretty busy when free agency began, so signing the 27-year-old defenseman flew under the radar. Especially since Kalinin is coming off the worst season of his seven-year NHL career. However, injuries limited him to just 46 games. He doesn't put up a lot of points, but he can play in any situation and was a combined plus-33 in the two previous seasons. On a one-year contract at just under $2 million, he's a decent risk.
Radim Vrbata, Tampa Bay: Vrbata has bounced around since the Avalanche took him late in the 1999 draft, but he had a breakout year in Phoenix last season when he was given a chance to be a top-line forward. Good timing, too, because it was a contract year and Vrbata parlayed it into a three-year, $9 million deal with the Lightning. No team has been busier than Tampa Bay this summer so Vrbata's signing hasn't really stood out, but the Lightning have picked up a 27-year-old who is a legitimate offensive threat and at a decent price.
Kurt Sauer, Phoenix: When you consider what Toronto paid for his former Colorado teammate Jeff Finger, Sauer is an absolute steal for the Coyotes, who had several holes to fill along their blue line. Sauer will get $7 million over four seasons, half what Finger will earn for the same term. Sauer isn't flashy and is rarely on the score sheet, but he is big, rangy and can be a physical force at times. He can play either defense position as well.
Andrew Brunette, Minnesota: The Wild lost a lot of offense through free-agent defections this summer, but Brunette, signed for $7 million over three years, will help pick up some of the slack. He's in the back stretch of his career at 34, but Brunette still has solid offensive instincts and is both a play maker and a decent finisher. Plus he's in his second tour of duty here, so he won't have trouble adapting to coach Jacques Lemaire's system.
Adam Hall, Tampa Bay: The Lightning will be Hall's fourth team since the lockout, which can make you wonder whether there's something wrong with him, or if he is simply a player many teams desire. The latter seems more appropriate for this gritty forward, who shed his non-descript label with a solid effort for the Penguins in their run to the Finals. Hall isn't really a goal scorer, but he's versatile and has a great work ethic, which makes him a nice addition as a role player for Tampa Bay, especially at only $600,000 a season.
Anton Babchuk, Carolina: Babchuk was a disappointment in Chicago after being a first-round pick in 2002 and didn't impress many in Carolina after he was traded there. But he's 6-foot-5, has some very real offensive skills and he's only 25. Babchuk had the best season of his professional career last year in the Russian league, and the Hurricanes, who are revamping their blue line are taking another shot with him with a one-year commitment for only $1 million.