As soon as the clock struck noon on July 1, the names started coming off the board and some of them were big. However, a bulk of the summer signings came and went off the transactions page with little fanfare, even though they all could be key acquisitions.
With that in mind, we offer you NHL.com's Top 10 list of the most underrated signings of 2009.
1. Mike Knuble, Washington
-- The Capitals learned during their seven-game series against Pittsburgh that they were lacking a net-front presence. Knuble gives them exactly that. Look for him on the right side of Nicklas Backstrom
and Alex Ovechkin
this season, especially on the power play. That could be a lethal line, with Knuble's grit serving as the perfect complement to the European flair of Ovechkin and Backstrom.
2. Rob Scuderi, Los Angeles
-- Every team that wants to compete for a playoff berth needs a gritty, gutsy, reliable, stay-at-home defender, which is exactly what Scuderi is. That he won the Stanley Cup last season with Pittsburgh and was on the ice in the final minute of Game 7 only adds to his value. Young defensemen Jack Johnson
and Drew Doughty
will benefit from Scuderi's presence on the ice and in the locker room.
3. John Madden, Chicago
-- The Blackhawks lost checking center Samuel Pahlsson
to Columbus, so they quickly went out and lured Madden, a former Selke Trophy winner and two-time Stanley Cup winner with New Jersey, to the Windy City. Madden wins faceoffs, kills penalties and plays against the opposition's top lines. He is the ideal replacement for Pahlsson.
4. Samuel Pahlsson, Columbus
-- Speaking of Pahlsson, the Blue Jackets did the smart thing by gobbling him up to be their third-line center behind Antoine Vermette
and Derick Brassard
. Pahlsson's presence will allow Vermette to play a more offensive role, ideally alongside R.J. Umberger
and perhaps Nikita Filatov
. Brassard could play between Rick Nash
and Kristian Huselius
. Pahlsson gives the Jackets more depth at center than they had last season and a reliable two-way guy to play against the opposition's top line.
5. Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron, New York Islanders --
Last season the Islanders were forced to go with Joey MacDonald
and Yann Danis
in goal as Rick DiPietro
sat injured. The pair played admirably, but Roloson and Biron provide the ideal veteran support the Isles and DiPietro need. Now if DiPietro's health continues to be an issue, coach Scott Gordon
doesn't have to worry about the state of his net.
6. Matt Walker, Tampa Bay --
The Lightning needed to remodel their defense and landed a big score with Mattias Ohlund
, but don't underestimate Walker. He's a rugged defender, something the Lightning lacked, and gained playoff experience last season while playing 17 games with the Blackhawks.
7. Mikael Samuelsson, Vancouver --
Samuelsson signed because he believes he'll be given a more offensive role in the Canucks' top-six forwards, ideally playing with the Sedin twins, Henrik and Daniel. They will help Samuelsson provide offense in 5-on-5 situations, and his shot from the point on the power play will be a huge lift for a team that was 17th in that department last season.
8. Jay McKee, Pittsburgh --
What do you do when you lose stalwart, stay-at-home defenders like Scuderi and Hal Gill
? If you're Penguins General Manager Ray Shero
, you go out and sign McKee. The Blues bought out the final year of McKee's contract, making him a free agent. He's not going to wow anybody in the Steel City with his offensive skills, but he'll help make up for the losses of Gill and Scuderi.
9. Paul Mara, Montreal --
The Canadiens underwent a major roster overhaul with Scott Gomez
, Brian Gionta
, Mike Cammalleri
, Jaroslav Spacek
and Hal Gill
coming aboard. The most underrated addition, though, could be Mara. He's a reliable defender with a heavy shot. He's also a likeable guy who will get along well with teammates and will become a favorite with the Montreal media. That's an underrated skill.
10. Fredrik Sjostrom, Calgary --
Sjostrom is a durable fourth-liner who is adept at killing penalties and playing a starring role in the shootout -- he scored three times, including a pair of game-winners for the Rangers last season. Sjostrom's speed allows him to pressure opponents on the penalty kill. He's also good at blocking shots and clogging passing lanes. He'll give the Flames 12 solid minutes per game.
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org