Claude Giroux is set to enjoy a homecoming in Ottawa, the Washington Capitals landed Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper and the New York Rangers caused a stir by signing the all-round center Vincent Trocheck as NHL free agency opened in a rush on Wednesday.
All eyes were on where prized forward Johnny Gaudreau might land on a day that also included a major trade involving 2017 Norris Trophy-winning defenseman Brent Burns, who heads to the Carolina Hurricanes with San Jose Sharks forward Lane Pederson for two players and a third-round pick in 2023.
Giroux, who played his junior hockey across the river from Ottawa in Gatineau, Que., signed a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Senators, who added goaltender Cam Talbot in a trade with Minnesota a day earlier.
Kuemper left a championship team in Colorado to sign a five-year, $26.25 million deal with the Capitals, who are revamping their goalie this offseason. Kuemper, who had a career-high 37 wins last season, takes over after the Capitals left Iya Samsonov, did not make him a qualifying offer, and traded Vitek Vanecek to New Jersey.
Trocheck signed a seven-year, $39.375 contract as part of a move by Rangers to replace Andrew Copp, who signed a five-year, $28.125 million contract with Detroit. Trocheck, 29, has nine seasons of NHL experience, including the last two full years in Carolina, where he scored 39 goals and 96 points in 135 games with the Hurricanes.
Besides Kuemper, the offseason goaltending carousel continued to turn with Jack Campbell leaving Toronto to sign a five-year, $25 million deal with Edmonton. Campbell cashed in after a season in which he reached career highs with a record of 31-9-6, five shutouts and 47 starts.
The Oilers are reorganizing after veteran Mike Smith’s playoff inconsistencies contributed to the Oilers being outscored 22-13 in a sweep by Colorado in the Western Conference Finals.
Giroux, 34, brings a veteran leadership presence to Ottawa’s youth mix. He spent his first 14-plus seasons in Philadelphia, where he captained the Flyers, before being traded to Florida in March.
“I wouldn’t sign here if I didn’t think we had a chance to win the Cup,” Giroux told TSN of Canada. “I’m not saying we’re going to win the Cup this year, but the plan is to build on that and have baby steps for that.”
Giroux beat 20 goals nine times and finished second in NHL scoring with 102 points in 2017-18.
In addition to Gaudreau, Colorado forward Nazem Kadri and Dallas defenseman John Klingberg led one of the deepest free agent groups in recent history. And that’s after Evgeni Malkin of Pittsburgh and Evander Kane of Edmonton re-signed with their respective teams.
–The Anaheim Ducks signed forward Frank Vatrano to a three-year, $10.95 million contract with a cap of $3.65 million, according to a person with knowledge of the details who spoke with the AP undercover anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
–The Chicago Blackhawks have finally started adding players by signing forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Max Domi to one-year, $3 million deals, a person with direct knowledge of the undercover signings told the AP. anonymity, as the agreements had not been announced. The Blackhawks are in the midst of a rebuild after trading center Kirby Dach to Montreal and forward Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa.
– The Buffalo Sabers added some experienced goalie depth by signing Eric Comrie to a two-year contract. The former Winnipeg substitute will be on hand to play some game time with veteran Craig Anderson and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Buffalo also locked up one of its best offensive players by agreeing to re-sign Victor Olofsson to a two-year contract worth $9.5 million. Olofsson, who turns 26 next week, was a restricted free agent and scored 20 goals and a career-high 49 points last season.
— The New Jersey Devils traded forward Pavel Zacha to Boston for center Erik Haula. The move balances the Devils roster with New Jersey in the mix to land Gaudreau, who turned down an offer to re-sign with the Calgary Flames after finishing tied for second in the NHL scoring race with 115 stitches.
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