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Hossa's Cup quest leads him to Chicago

Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Dan Di Sciullo Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It's every NHL player's dream to win a Stanley Cup title, and Marian Hossa is certainly no exception.

Over the past few years, Hossa's travels have taken him from Atlanta to Pittsburgh to Detroit, and despite appearing in back-to-back Cup Finals, the Slovakian sniper has still yet to raise hockey's ultimate prize.

On the first day of NHL free agency, Hossa decided that his best chance at winning it all resided in Chicago and, unlike last summer, he was willing to make a long-term commitment in order to make that dream a reality.

Hossa's story has become legendary in hockey circles because it's a tale filled with irony, betrayal and even a whiff of tragedy in the Greek or Shakespearean sense. And it all boils down to a decision Hossa made 12 months ago, a choice that he may continue to agonize over.

It all started when Hossa was dealt from Atlanta to Pittsburgh prior to the 2007-08 trade deadline. He played a huge part in the Penguins' run to the Cup Finals that year, but Pittsburgh wound up losing in six games to Detroit. That, of course, is what led to Hossa's infamous decision, as just weeks after the Pens fell to the Red Wings, he opted to turn down a lucrative multi-year offer to stay in Pittsburgh and sign a one-year deal with Detroit instead.

Of course, we all know how that ended. The Penguins and Red Wings met again this year in the Cup Finals, and Pittsburgh claimed the Cup with a thrilling seven-game series win.

So now, Hossa has decided to take his immense talent and perceived bad mojo to the youthful Blackhawks, who were dispatched by Detroit in the Western Conference finals this past spring. The big question is whether Hossa will get to the promised land with Chicago, or whether his heartache will continue.

The mistake Hossa made last year was trying to back-door his way into a championship by signing the short-term deal with Detroit. The Red Wings were also counting on the same type of playoff production Hossa had provided for the Pens in 2008, but instead he had a very disappointing postseason, including a final round with just three assists.

This time around, Hossa has made a huge commitment to the Blackhawks and vice versa. Chicago signed the 30-year-old winger to a mammoth 12-year, $62.8 million deal.

While no one disagrees that a scorer of Hossa's caliber will certainly make the Blackhawks a better team, there has been concern that a contract of that size could hurt Chicago down the line in terms of getting under the salary cap. After all, the Hawks are a very young team and players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Kris Versteeg will be due big paydays in the coming years.

However, if Chicago is able to find a way to keep Hossa and that young core together, then the balance of power in the West may shift from Motown to the Windy City.

HABS, LEAFS GET BUSY

Canada's two most prominent NHL franchises were in the spotlight on Wednesday, as the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs made a series of moves on the first day of free agency.

The Canadiens had already made a splash by acquiring veteran center Scott Gomez on Tuesday in a seven-player trade with the New York Rangers. Montreal didn't stop there, as they also signed four players the following day, inking forwards Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta as well as defensemen Hal Gill and Jaroslav Spacek.

Toronto, meanwhile, traded Pavel Kubina and Tim Stapleton to Atlanta for Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart. The Leafs also added toughness by signing enforcer Colton Orr.

But the Maple Leafs' biggest move came when they signed defenseman Mike Komisarek away from Montreal. With youngster Luke Schenn blossoming on the blue line, Komisarek gives Toronto another big body to help in the defensive end. Not to mention, the five-year, $22.5 million price tag for Komisarek is palatable, and leaves general manager Brian Burke room to maneuver during this rebuilding process.

The Habs, on the other hand, seemed to commit a great deal of money to a handful of players without improving their team by all that much. Gomez is scheduled to make $8 million next year, while Gionta and Cammalleri were given an average of $5 million and $6 million, respectively, over the next five seasons.

Cammalleri did have a huge year with the Flames in 2008-09, registering career-highs in goals (39) and points (82), but that was while playing on a line with Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow. The rabid fans in Montreal will expect him to duplicate those numbers next year with the Habs, and it could get ugly if he fails to live up to last year's output.

To be fair to the Canadiens, they have made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and are not in full-blown rebuilding mode like the Maple Leafs, who have missed the postseason for four straight years. That, of course, makes it more difficult for Montreal to improve its club, and also makes it hard for the Leafs not to improve theirs.

There will be a slew of new faces when these clubs renew their fierce rivalry next season, but my guess is it won't take long for Habs and Leafs fans to memorize which players they are supposed to hate.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Dan Di Sciullo at ddisciullo@sportsnetwork.com.
Dan Di Sciullo