The Chicago Blackhawks may have gone on to win multiple Stanley Cup championships during their incredible run in the early 2010’s, but it is highly unlikely that the team would have seen the sustained success they experienced without forward Marian Hossa.
Hossa, who signed a 12-year blockbuster contract with the Blackhawks prior to the 2009-10 season, was one of the league’s most dynamic offensive players when he signed with the team, scoring 40 goals in his lone season with the Detroit Red Wings prior to joining up with Chicago.
He had also gotten some acclaim for his defensive prowess, receiving Selke votes in four consecutive seasons prior to signing with Chicago.
It wasn’t until he arrived in Chicago, however, that he ultimately achieved his biggest dream: winning a Stanley Cup. Having fallen short in consecutive seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Red Wings, losing in the Cup Final in both years, he finally hoisted the historic chalice in 2010 as the Blackhawks snapped a 49-year championship drought.
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And what an impact Hossa made in that season. In addition to his incredible overtime-winning goal against the Nashville Predators in a pivotal Game 5, Hossa still managed to score 24 goals in 57 regular season games and notched 15 points in 22 postseason games to boot.
What’s more, Hossa continued to produce on both sides of the ice for the Blackhawks, honing his defensive game even as his offensive production began to slip in the later stages of his career in Chicago.
Through it all, he remained one of the most popular players on a team that ultimately won three Stanley Cup titles in six seasons, and he earned his spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame by racking up 525 career goals and 609 assists in 1,309 games.
With his legacy honored both in Toronto at the Hall of Fame, and soon in the rafters of the United Center, Hossa’s spot as the greatest free agent signing in the history of Chicago sports has also been firmly established.
Yes, there are plenty of contenders who could try to lay claim to that throne. Pitcher Jon Lester, similarly to Hossa, joined the Chicago Cubs right before the team’s greatest sustained run of success in its history, and helped them win the 2016 World Series title.
Jermaine Dye and AJ Pierzynski both helped the Chicago White Sox to end their championship drought in 2005, and José Abreu is still putting up eye-popping numbers and collecting awards during a distinguished career with the South Siders.
Even the Chicago Bulls could potentially put forward players who made big contributions to championships, including Ron Harper and Steve Kerr.
Even though all of those players certainly have arguments as the greatest free agent signings in the history of their respective clubs, they all ultimately fall short of the monumental impact that Hossa had on a team that won three Stanley Cups in six years and ushered in an era of success that few NHL teams have been able to match since the advent of the league’s salary cap.