Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, John Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we take a look at the Chicago Blackhawks free agents history.
Chicago Blackhawks Free Agent Hits and Misses
Best Signing: Marian Hossa
On July 1st, 2009, the Chicago Blackhawks made a big splash in the free agency market. Announcing they had signed 30 year old Marian Hossa to a 12-year, $62.8 Million contract carrying a cap hit of $5.233 Million per year. While signing a 30 year old to a 12 year contract may not have been the best look, Hossa was a huge part of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup Championships. His cap hit of $5.233 was also a very reasonable value for Chicago.
Hossa had been coming off of back to back Stanley Cup Finals appearances, albeit on the losing side of both. Playing with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2007-08 Hossa would help the Penguins reach the final before losing out to the Detroit Red Wings. He then signed a 1 year deal with Detroit and would reach the finals again this time losing to his former Pittsburgh Penguins.
In his first season with Chicago, Hossa would make his 3rd consecutive Stanley Cup Finals appearance. This time more successful than the previous two, the Blackhawks we’re named the 2010 Stanley Cup champions. Hossa went on to win two more Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks.
Suiting up for 534 regular season games, Hossa would score 186 goals and 229 assists totaling 415 points. He would amass a whopping +133 with the Blackhawks. His playoff stats with the team were also very impressive posting 72 points in 103 post season game with the club.
Hossa’s tenure with the Hawks would come to end as the right winger announced on May 19, 2018 that he would not play again due to health issues.
In being a huge factor in the clubs Stanley Cup Championship, Hossa goes down as one of the Chicago Blackhawks Best Free Agent Signings in the salary cap era.
𝐉𝐮𝐥𝐲 𝟏, 𝟐𝟎𝟎𝟗
The #Blackhawks sign Marian Hossa to a 12-year/$62.8 million contract.
Turned out to be a decent signing pic.twitter.com/57UofNrYka
— This Day in Chicago Sports (@ChiSportsDay) July 1, 2022
Best Signing Honourable Mentions
On May 1, 2015 Chicago announced the had signed KHL stand out Artemi Panarin. His entry contract came with a yearly cap hit of $812,500. The two-year deal came with performance bonuses of up to $5,375,000.
In Panarin’s rookie season with the Blackhawks he would win the Calder trophy as the leagues top rookie. Panarin found instant chemistry with Chicago superstar Patrick Kane, posting 77 points in his rookie season. The following season Panarin would out up 74 points with the hawks.
Panarin would sign a two year $12 Million contract extension with the hawks before being subsequently traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Taking a gamble on the KHL star was none the less a great move as Panarin is still a premier offensive threat, now playing with the New York Rangers.
Back in 2008 Brian Campbell was one of the biggest names on the free agent market. Chicago would end up landing the highly sought after defender. Chicago announced they signed Campbell to an 8 year, $57.12 Million contract carrying a cap hit of $7.14M/year.
Campbell would remain with the team for 3 years helping the Blackhawks to their 2010 Stanley Cup Championship. However, with the emergence of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook the Hawks would trade Campbell to the Florida Panthers.
Overall with Campbell being one of the biggest names in free agency and winning a Stanley Cup this also make the list as one of the best Chicago Blackhawks Free Agent Signings of all time.
Worst Signing: Cristobal Huet
On the same day Chicago had landed Campbell they also announced they had signed goaltender Cristobal Huet. Unfortunately they could not see into a crystal ball for this one. Huet was signed to a 4 year, $22.8 M deal. The contract carried a cap hit of $5,625,000 per year.
Huet would play only two seasons of the big contract. In his second season he posted a poor .895 Save Percentage and a 2.50 GAA. Following the second season of the contract, the Blackhawks would loan Huet to the Swiss National League A. Chicago took a big gamble on a mediocre goaltender and in this case is did not pay off.
Worst Signing Honourable Mentions
After winning the 2004 Stanley Cup Championship with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Khabibulin got paid big with the Blackhawks. He would sign a 4 year, $27 million deal. The contract carried an annual cap hit of $6.75M per season.
“The Bulin Wall” was never able to replicate his prior success after signing the hefty contract. His numbers with Chicago nowhere close to his numbers with Tampa Bay. He would post a .902 SV% and a 2.84 GAA in his time with Chicago.
Although Khabibulin wasn’t great in his first stint with Chicago is was his second stint that was truly a bad signing by the team. On July 5, 2013, the hawks brought back Khabibulin on a one-year deal.
In his last season Khabibulin would post the worst numbers of his career. He had a .811 SV% and GAA 5.01 in 4 appearances. Khabibulin would wind up on the injured reserve and that season would mark the end of his career.