Hossa on the move, again

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

The previous time Marian Hossa travelled the free-agency highway as a fast track to a Stanley Cup ring, it was a wreck.

So it is on from Hockeytown to the Windy City for the high-scoring winger, the blockbuster signing of yesterday's start to NHL free agency.

"We felt he was the best player on the market, an elite level, world-class player," Chicago Blackhawks general manager Dale Tallon said. "(We felt) he would be a tremendous asset to our young team and help lead us to the ultimate goal of winning the Stanley Cup."

Unlike his one-year deal with the Red Wings a year ago -- which subsequently blew up in his face after leaving Pittsburgh for what he felt was the leading Cup contender -- Hossa signed for a whopping $63.8 million US over 12 years.

After the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, signed with Vancouver before the noon start of the free-agent chase, Hossa became the big attraction. And Tallon believes the Slovak, who scored 40 goals this season, brings experience as well as flash to his developing team.

Hossa said that he didn't expect to return to the star-heavy Detroit lineup so opted for the youthful rival that is coming off a Western Conference final performance.

"I've come pretty close but I haven't won yet," Hossa, who was on the losing team in each of the past two Cup finals, said on a conference call. "We have a young team in Chicago that will go far and hopefully we can win it. If there was no salary cap, I'm sure I would still be in Detroit."

In another big move on a frantic day around the league, Tampa GM Brian Lawton also went for a veteran mentor. Less than two weeks after taking Swedish defenceman Victor Hedman with the second pick in the draft, Lawton signed former Canuck Mattias Ohlund to a seven-year, $26.25-million contract.

"This accomplished two primary goals for us," Lawton said of nabbing the 32-year-old Swede. "First, we have added (a top defenceman) and second we have found a leader and mentor for Victor Hedman."

One of the big names to cash in later in the day was Calgary forward Mike Cammalleri, the Richmond Hill native who was believed to be a target of Leafs general manager Brian Burke.

Instead, Cammalleri moved up the 401 to Montreal where he signed a five-year, $30-million deal, reaping the rewards of a career-high 39-goal season. That was just part of a busy day for Habs GM Bob Gainey, who later added former Devils forward Brian Gionta at $25 million over five years.

The Rangers made a late splash, acquiring big-time scorer Marian Gaborik, the oft-injured Minnesota Wild forward. The sticker price of $28.75 million over five years was expected to take the Blueshirts out of the mix as a possible destination for disgruntled Ottawa forward Dany Heatley.

The Wild later made their own splash by inking winger Martin Havlat to a six-year deal worth a reported $30 million.

The Oilers desperately were trying to pull off a deal with the Sens late last night with team officials meeting Heatley face-to-face at his Kelowna home to attempt to get him to agree to a swap.

He wasn't the biggest signing of the day, but Mike Knuble's two-year, $5.6-million deal with the Capitals may be among the most impactful next season. Knuble was signed to be the winger opposite Alex Ovechkin.

"I know what I do well, I complement players," said Knuble, who had 27 goals with the Flyers last season. "I've been able to be successful and they've been able to be successful."

"We needed someone to go to the net," Caps GM George McPhee added. "Mike's made his living there."

Two of the biggest deals came less than 24 hours before free agency officially began when the Sedins each signed for five years and $30.5 million to remain in Vancouver.


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