It started out with so much promise.
When the Montreal Canadiens drafted Mike Komisarek in the first round, seventh overall, in 2001, the numbers alone were worth getting excited about: 6 foot 4, 245 pounds. The Canadiens hadn't had a defenceman of those proportions and that highly touted since, well, forever. The guy made Larry Robinson look like Skinny Minnie Miller.
Komisarek progressed up the hockey ladder from the University of Michigan Wolverines to the Hamilton Bulldogs on his way to becoming one half of the Canadiens' top defensive pairing, alongside Andrei Markov. He was a fearless shot blocker and a punishing body checker who drew favorable comparisons to Scott Stevens as the prototype physical defensive defenceman of his generation.
Then he ran afoul of Milan Lucic, and everything changed.
Komisarek hasn't been the same player since November 13, 2008 when he lost one of the most one-sided fights involving the Canadiens and Bruins since Stan Jonathan's epic mauling of Pierre Bouchard in 1978. Whether it was the lingering effects of a shoulder injury he suffered in the fight, shattered confidence, or a combination of the two, Komisarek struggled through the remainder of his final season with the Canadiens, and his departure as an unrestricted free agent last summer was met with little if any of the collective angst generated by the departures of Alex Kovalev and - to a lesser extent - Saku Koivu.
Komisarek got a nice deal in Toronto - 22.5 million dollars over five years - and as much as it's considered high treason in these parts to sign with the hated Leafs, I believe most reasonably-minded Canadiens fans probably wished him well, because he played hard for the Habs and is by all accounts a decent guy.
Sadly for Komisarek, things have gone from bad to worse. He is chief among the underachievers on a hugely disappointing Toronto team, and his misfortune peaked this week with the announcement that Komisarek will undergo season-ending surgery on that same shoulder that hasn't been right since he got his lunch handed to him by Lucic.
Hal Gill and Paul Mara might not be Bobby Orr and Paul Coffey, but they're relatively healthy (Mara's day-to-day - upper body), and the two of them combined don't represent as big a salary cap hit as Komisarek alone would have if the Canadiens had met his price.
Sometimes, the best free agent signings are the ones you DON'T make.