COMMENTARY | The New Jersey Devils do not really dip into the free agent pool too often. General manager Lou Lamoriello has, instead, built teams through the draft and shrewd trading. As a result, it is actually somewhat difficult to come up with the franchise's five best free agent signings. With that said, here are the top five free agent signings in Devils history.
5. Petr Sykora: Sykora returned to New Jersey in 2011 and was reunited with former linemate Patrik Elias for most of the 2011-12 season. The veteran winger regained his scoring touch with the Devils as he put up 21 goals and 23 assists while playing in all 82 games.
4. Dainius Zubrus: Lamoriello signed Zubrus to a six year contract in 2007 and the big, versatile forward has been a productive player for the team throughout his stay in New Jersey. He is also a very good fit for coach Peter DeBoer's system as he excels on the forecheck.
3. David Clarkson: Clarkson was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and has been with the Devils since a late call up in 2007. The winger had a career year in 2011-12 when he scored 30 goals and is one of the top names in this year's free agent class.
2. John Madden: Madden went undrafted and played at the University of Michigan before being signed by the Devils at age 24. The center would go on to become an integral part of the team and was given the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2001 as the NHL's top defensive forward.
1. Brian Rafalski: Rafalski was playing in Europe before the Devils signed him in 1999. Like Madden, he was on two championship teams with New Jersey (2000, 2003). Rafalski was a very good offensive defenseman throughout his career and is one of the best defensemen in the franchise's history.
Free agent signings can come from anywhere as the above list shows. For example, the top three players on this list (Clarkson, Madden and Rafalski) all went undrafted and yet still managed to become very important NHL players. Free agency can be a bit of a gamble for NHL teams but these five are players who were worth it for the New Jersey Devils in the end.
Michael Pellegrini has followed the New Jersey Devils since the mid to late 1990s when they had players like Doug Gilmour and Dave Andreychuk in the later stages of their career.
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