WORST FREE-AGENT SIGNING: Wade Redden, Rangers; July 1, 2008
The Blackhawks have multiple entries -- defenseman Brian Campbell, goalie Cristobal Huet, etc. -- but the Rangers edge them in this dubious area. Prior to the salary-cap era, there could not be a "worst" free agent because no matter how ill-advised the signing -- think Bobby Holik's $45 million deal with the Rangers in 2002 -- wealthy teams could bury mistakes. Now a toxic contract is the gift that keeps on giving, and Redden's six-year, $39 million deal in 2008 was Chernobyl. Although his play had dipped noticeably while he was in Ottawa, the Rangers still bestowed riches upon him. Unless coach John Tortorella can extract more than the faint glimmer of life that Redden showed in the 2009 playoffs, this will weigh heavily on the team (and GM Glen Sather's curriculum vitae) for another four-plus seasons.
BIGGEST DRAFT STEAL: Henrik Lundqvist, seventh-round pick (205th overall), by the Rangers in 2000
Notable players have been chosen lower -- 2009 Game 7 Stanley Cup hero Max Talbot by Pittsburgh at No. 234 in 2002; first-pair Islanders defenseman Mark Streit at No. 262 by Montreal in 2004 -- but there was no better late pick than Lundqvist. Generally teams don't find a No. 1 goalie deep in the draft, but New York got one who is now among the best five in the NHL. The King backstopped Sweden to the 2006 Olympic gold medal. He was also included in a People magazine list of the 100 Most Beautiful, although shockingly, his identical twin -- Stars defenseman Joel Lundqvist, picked 68th overall by Dallas the same year -- was not.