Well over $400million was dealt yesterday as the 2016 NHL Free Agency window opened at noon. The marquee names were quick to go in the first couple of hours, but details on additional signings kept coming in throughout the rest of the day as teams looked to fill out rosters, add depth and sign backups.
The Buffalo Sabres went big right in the first hour, signing winger Kyle Okposo for 7 years, $42M. Buffalo was involved in talks for backup goalie Jeff Zatkoff who played for the Penguins last season, but he somewhat controversially led Tim Murray on before signing for the Kings. The Sabres also added two depth defensemen, Taylor Fedun for the Amerks and Justin Falk on a two-way contract.
Within the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning could be considered to have the best day even without signing a single free agent. Having already signed Steven Stamkos earlier, they extended defenseman and cornerstone Victor Hedman as well as goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Other division rivals also beefed up, with the Boston Bruins adding David Backes while Toronto Maple Leafs got Matt Martin. The Florida Panthers added goalie James Reimer on a 5-yr contract to solidify the position, though they do have a lot of money invested between the sticks.
The Canadien’s moves seem to be the most boom-or-bust, with adding potential firecracker Alexander Radulov to follow-up on the Shea Weber trade for PK Subban. The Red Wings chose to add some experience, with extending Darren Helm, and a pair of ex-Sabres in Thomas Vanek and Steve Ott, along with Frans Nielsen. Ottawa Senators, strangely enough, chose to sit pat and do very little, making no free agent signings at all, not even to replace players like Patrick Wiercioch that they lost.
Among the biggest names of the day, Milan Lucic went to the Edmonton Oilers for similar money and term as Okposo. Brian Campbell went back to the Chicago Blackhawks, Andrew Ladd to the Islanders, David Perron stayed with the Blues, and Louie Eriksson to the Canucks.
The Minnesota Wild continue to be stuck in a time warp, adding Eric Staal and Chris Stewart while the Flames inked former Sabres backup goalie Chad Johnson and Troy Brouwer. Later in the day, the Sharks made a good signing with the speed of Mikkel Boedker.
Western New York native and the definition of NHL journeyman Lee Stempniak went to yet another team, this time signing a one-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes. This will be his tenth NHL team in eleven years. His realtor is going to be even sadder than Stempniak will be when he finally retires.
Plenty of former Sabres were on the move yesterday too:
Brian Campbell - Chicago Blackhawks (1 year, $2M)
Chad Johnson - Calgary Flames (1 year, $1.7M)
Chris Stewart - Minnesota Wild (2 years, $2.3M total)
Jamie McGinn - Arizona Coyotes (3 years, $10M total)
Nathan Gerbe - New York Rangers (1 year, $600K total)
Thomas Vanek - Detroit Red Wings (1 year, $2.6M)
Steve Ott - Detroit Red Wings (1 year, $800K)