Welcome to LWOS Hockey’s summer series. After the historic 2016 NHL Free Agency period, it’s a good time to look at the best free agent signing in the history of all 30 NHL franchises. Up next: The all-time best Columbus Blue Jackets free agent signing.
Make sure to check out the previous articles in our 2016 summer series here.
The All-Time Best Columbus Blue Jackets Free Agent Signing
2000 – David Vyborny: Two years, $1.25 million
When looking at the list of free agents over the years for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it was a fairly easy choice to go with David Vyborny. For a franchise not well-known for their ability to sign decent free agents, he stands above the rest. Having originally signed with Columbus in 2000, Vyborny played in 543 games for the Blue Jackets and accumulated 317 points in the process.
Vyborny took an interesting path in his career after being drafted in the second round by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1992 NHL Entry Draft. Despite being drafted in 1993, he wouldn’t touch the ice in the NHL until the 2000-2001 season with the Blue Jackets, something that blossomed into a good deal for both player and franchise.
Before he came over to the NHL in 2000-01, he spent five seasons in the Czech league with Sparta Praha, one with MODO Hockey Ornskoldsvik in Sweden, and a singular season in the AHL with the Cape Breton Oilers. During his one season in the AHL with Cape Breton he played in 76 games for the Oilers, where he had a very respectable stat-line of 23 goals and 61 points. The other singular season he spent outside of the NHL and the Czech league was with Modo, where he played in 45 games and had 16 goals and 37 points.
The place where he made his name borderline legendary, outside of being a cult hero in Columbus, was with Sparta Praha, where he experienced the best years of his professional career. He played in 520 games for Sparta over a span of 12 seasons where he scored 116 goals and had a total of 441 points. To say the least, he made a great name for himself at Sparta. He also played his final three seasons of professional hockey with Mlada Boleslav BK in the same league as Sparta, where he played in 142 games for Mlada, scoring 27 goals and accumulating 94 total points.
As the Blue Jackets were going into their inaugural season in the NHL, they were looking for someone who could provide some serious offensive ability for the new organization. Looking back on the original deal with Vyborny, it was nothing short of a steal on the part of the Blue Jackets. And, for a player who went on to play in 543 games for Columbus, as cement his name as a cult hero, it was undeniably the best free agent signing this franchise has had in its young history.
The Columbus Blue Jackets brought Vyborny in prior to the 2000-01 season, their first season in the NHL as an expansion franchise. It seems as though their initial choices of free agents would be their only class of signings that would make any sort of impact on the organization, with Vyborny being the crown jewel of this class.
Vyborny would go on to have a very memorable career with the Blue Jackets, and is still remembered fondly for much of what he did for hockey in the state of Ohio. During his rookie season he became the first rookie in NHL history to score on two penalty shots in a single season, netting them on October 15th, 2000, against the Chicago Blackhawks and on March 19th, 2001, against the Nashville Predators. Along with that, he also scored the game-winning goal against the Detroit Red Wings on February 8th, 2002, giving the Blue Jackets their first win at Joe Louis Arena.