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NHL notebook

NHL notes: Wild start to free agency

The Montreal Canadiens were busy on the opening day of NHL free agency.

The Canadiens acquired defenseman Tom Gilbert and center Manny Malhotra and traded Josh Gorges to the Sabres on Tuesday.

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General manager Marc Bergevin also signed Czech prospect Jiri Sekac and re-signed free agent defenseman Mike Weaver.

The Canadiens also saw captain Brian Gionta leave as an unrestricted free agent for Buffalo on a three-year contract, as well as Thomas Vanek, a playoff run acquisition who signed with the Wild.

The moves come a day after the Canadiens acquired forward P.A. Parenteau from Colorado for veteran Danny Briere.

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Bergevin had said after the Canadiens were eliminated in the Eastern Conference final that the team’s leadership had shifted to younger players such as P.K. Subban, Max Pacioretty, Carey Price, and Brandan Gallagher.

Seeing off Gorges and Gionta made it official.

‘‘We felt that with our performance during the playoffs, our young core was ready to take a bigger role when it comes to leadership,’’ said Bergevin. ‘‘Eventually you need to give your young players a chance to take over that role.’’

The surprise move involved Gorges, who has been a part of the Montreal defense since 2006 who used his limited no-trade clause over the weekend to reject a move to Toronto.

‘‘It’s been a tough couple of days and now things are looking bright again,’’ Gorges said on a conference call. ‘‘You know where you’re going and that’s a good feeling.’’

Bergevin was looking to move Gorges’s contract, which had been signed with the previous management and has another four seasons at $3.9 million per year.

He reportedly made a bid to keep Gionta, but at a much reduced salary.

The Rochester, N.Y., native ended up signing with Buffalo for three years at $4.2 million per season.

‘‘You’re losing great people,’’ Bergevin said. ‘‘Sometimes you make decisions that are not popular. But I'm not here to be popular, I'm here to make decisions.’’

Gorges’s place on the right side of the defense will likely be taken by Gilbert, an unrestricted free agent who signed a two-year deal worth $2.8 million.

The 31-year-old defenseman, who was bought out of the final two years of a contract with Minnesota in 2012, played for Florida on a one-year deal last season.

Gilbert had three goals and 25 assists in 73 games for the Panthers.

The Canadiens also opted to bring back 36-year-old Weaver, who did well on right defense in the playoffs after he was acquired from Florida on March 4. He signed a one-year deal worth $1.75 million.

The moves on defense should allow coach Michel Therrien to move Alexei Emelin to the left side where he will be more comfortable.

Malhotra signed a one-year deal worth $850,000.

The 34-year-old center, who has come back from a career-threatening eye injury suffered in 2011, had seven goals and six assists in 69 games with the Hurricanes last season. While he still has reduced vision in his left eye, Malhotra was praised for his leadership and his ability to win faceoffs.

Malhotra started last season on a tryout with AHL Charlotte and signed with the Hurricanes on Oct. 31.

The much-sought after Sekac, a 6-foot 175-pound Czech, inked a two-year, two-way deal with Montreal after reportedly talking to more than 15 NHL teams.

‘‘He’s a kid that has top-three line skill that can help at some point in the future,’’ Bergevin said. ‘‘I won’t be able to tell you until he’s here at camp and he shows us what he can do. We felt it was a calculated risk to bring him to Montreal.’’

Wild sign Vanek

Vanek, who has scored at least 20 goals each of his nine seasons in thr NHL, agreed to a three-year, $19.5 million contract with the Wild shortly after free agency officially began.

The left wing will get a chance to settle in after playing for three teams (Sabres, Islanders, Canadiens) last season.

‘‘To be a part of the Wild now and go after the big prize and having a chance to do it in Minnesota is beyond my wildest dreams,’’ Vanek said.

The Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter two years ago. This wasn’t quite as big of a buzz, with Vanek long assumed to be interested in signing with Minnesota, where he has a summer home, but he gives the Wild more star power after their breakthrough season that ended with a six-game loss to Chicago in the Western Conference semifinals.

Vanek has 277 goals in 663 games, the type of potentially prolific scorer the Wild could use to supplement an attack led by Parise, Jason Pominville, Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu, and Mikael Granlund.

The 30-year-old Vanek, a native of Austria, played two standout seasons at the University of Minnesota before turning pro with Buffalo in 2005. Vanek scored 40 goals for the Sabres in 2008 and last season totaled 27 goals over 78 games. He was traded twice, first to the Islanders and then to Montreal. In the playoffs with the Canadiens, he had five goals and five assists in 17 games.

Buffalo took him with the fifth overall pick in 2003.

Defenseman Clayton Stoner was the first unrestricted free agent to depart the Wild, joining the Ducks on a four-year contract. Stoner had a goal and four assists, plus 84 penalty minutes in 63 games last season.

Capitals raid rivals

Moving swiftly to give Alex Ovechkin help at the defensive end while raiding a rival, new Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan signed Penguins free agents Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik to deals totaling more than $65 million.

Penguins' Brooks Orpik will be manning the blue line in Washington this season.

AP

Penguins' Brooks Orpik will be manning the blue line in Washington this season.

The 27-year-old Niskanen, the more offensive-minded of the pair of defensemen joining the Capitals, got a $40.25 million, seven-year contract.

‘‘It’s a very big commitment from Washington. That’s no small thing. You’re talking a seven-year commitment for a very substantial amount of money,’’ said Niskanen, who got married Saturday. ‘‘I'm excited for that challenge.’’

The 33-year-old Orpik, more of a stay-at-home blue liner who had spent his entire career with the Penguins, was given a $27.5 million, five-year package.

‘‘I've got to be honest: Up until this year, I never really envisioned myself leaving Pittsburgh. As everyone knows, there’s been a lot of changes there. It really was a perfect time,’’ Orpik said. ‘‘The past year, there was such strong expectations for the team, both internally and externally, and I think we had a really tough time handling those expectations.’’

The Capitals got off to a fast start on the first day of free agency, also adding Hurricanes goaltender Justin Peters on a $1.9 million, two-year deal, while re-signing center Michael Latta to a $1.15 million, two-year contract.

And in one more Penguins-to-Capitals transaction: Washington signed right wing Chris Conner to a one-year, two-way contract. He has 22 goals and 28 assists in 178 NHL games, including 19 with Pittsburgh last season.

Last season, the Capitals missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years, leading ownership to make changes. George McPhee’s contract was not renewed after he spent 17 seasons as the team’s GM, while Adam Oates was fired with a year left on his three-season deal.

MacLellan was promoted from assistant general manager to replace McPhee, while Barry Trotz was hired as the coach.

Washington also has added assistant coach Todd Reirden, who was hired by the Capitals after the Penguins fired him last week.

‘‘He’s been huge,’’ Niskanen said. ‘‘Todd helps young defensemen get better.’’

Niskanen led NHL defensemen with a plus-33 rating last season, when he set career highs with 10 goals and 36 assists. The 6-foot, 209-pound defenseman has 35 goals, 132 assists, and 266 penalty minutes in 491 games for Pittsburgh and Dallas.

The 6-2, 219-pound Orpik has 13 goals, 119 assists, and 734 penalty minutes in 703 career games. He is a two-time US Olympian and was an alternate captain for the Penguins since 2008.

Peters, 27, went 7-9-4 with a 2.50 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage last season.

‘‘When the head coach on the team looks you in the eye and tell you he wants you to be there, that goes a long way,’’ Peters said.

He said that he wasn’t told how he'll be used with the Capitals — strictly as a No. 2 behind Braden Holtby, or splitting time in the top goalie spot — but added that he thinks it will ‘‘work itself out.’’

Stastny comes home

The Blues lured Paul Stastny away from Colorado, signing the veteran center to a four-year, $28 million deal.

Stastny has spent his entire career with the Avalanche after being picked in the second round of the 2005 draft.

He thrived under first-year coach Patrick Roy last season, scoring 25 goals as he helped the Avalanche overtake St. Louis for the Central Division crown and into the postseason for the first time since 2009-10.

The 28-year-old Stastny is a St. Louis native. His father, Hall of Famer Peter Stastny, and brother, Yan Stastny, are former Blues players.

‘‘It’s a tough decision, [but] I was in a good position,’’ Stastny told the Blues’ website. ‘‘You almost have to take a step back and take all the emotions out of it and try to realize what’s best for me hockey-wise. Not just next year, but two or three or four years down the road.’’

Canucks nab Miller

The Canucks acquired a starting goaltender, signing Ryan Miller to a three-year deal worth $18 million.

‘‘I like to think that this team can get its mojo back, have a good attitude and push forward,’’ said Miller, 33. ‘‘From the top down I think they have the right attitude in place. I think it’s going to be exciting to play hockey here.’’

Ryan Miller (left) poses with Canucks general manager Jim Benning after the goalie signed a three-year, $18 million contract. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

Ryan Miller poses with Canucks general manager Jim Benning after the goalie signed a three-year, $18 million contract.

The Canucks needed a proven goalie after trading Cory Schneider and Roberto Luongo in the past 13 months and missing the playoffs this past season. Miller was seen as the best goalie on the market.

‘‘I felt it was important to get a goalie with experience,’’ Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. ‘‘Over the years he’s played a lot of games. He gives us that experience that we need.’’

Benning is familiar with the Miller, having worked in Buffalo’s scouting department when the Sabres drafted the player in 1999.

‘‘He’s intense and focused,’’ Benning said. ‘‘Our younger players are going to see the way he works in practice, how hard be practices. It’s going to make them better players.’’

The Blues acquired Miller from Buffalo in February, hoping he could lead them deep into the playoffs. But the club was eliminated by the Blackhawks in the first round after Miller allowed 19 goals and had a .897 save percentage.

He was 25-30-4 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .918 save percentage this past season. He has 294 wins, a 2.59 GAA with a .915 save percentage in 559 career games.

Despite his experience, Miller said he always sees himself as a work in progress.

‘‘I think I'm still developing into the best player I can be,’’ he said. ‘‘I take that part of hockey seriously, finding new things to add my game and taking consideration and coaching from other people.’’

Spezza joins Hemsky

Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky are going to find out if what they started in Ottawa can lead to something special in Dallas.

Briefly teammates with the Senators last season, both forwards were acquired by the Stars — Spezza in a trade just before free agency opened and Hemsky on a three-year contract after deals could be done.

The Senators traded their captain to the Stars for forward Alex Chiasson, prospects Alex Guptill and Nicholas Paul, and a second-round pick in next year’s draft. Dallas also receives forward Ludwig Karlsson.

‘‘I talked with Dallas even before Jason got traded, but I talked to Jason a lot last couple weeks,’’ said Hemsky, whose deal is reportedly worth $12 million. ‘‘It wasn’t a huge factor because they told me I could play with a lot of good players, but now it’s even better that Jason got traded there.’’

The Stars also signed goalie Anders Lindback and forward Patrick Eaves to one-year contracts.

Spezza, who agreed to the Dallas deal a few days after using his no-trade clause to turn down a proposal from Nashville, was on a teleconference when one of the reporters told him Hemsky might be joining him again.

‘‘I'm thrilled because we had great chemistry at the end of the year,’’ said Spezza, who will become a free agent next year unless he signs an extension.

Spezza was a first-time captain for what turned out to a rough year in Ottawa, the last of 11 straight seasons with the Senators to start the 31-year-old’s career. Ottawa missed the playoffs after going to the second round in 2013, and Spezza asked for a trade after the season.

General manager Bryan Murray had a deal with the Predators during the draft last weekend, but Spezza held out for a trade that will make him and 22-year-old Tyler Seguin the top two centers on a team that includes high-scoring winger Jamie Benn.

He’s also reunited with Stars coach Lindy Ruff, who has coached him on Canadian national teams.

‘‘It wasn’t so much a ‘no’ to the teams,’’ said Spezza, who was Ottawa’s top-scoring forward with 23 goals and 43 assists last season and has 687 points, including 251 goals, in 686 career games. ‘‘I think the young group they have is an envy of a lot of the league, and I think I could fit in with helping out with depth at center.’’

And maybe Hemsky will be a linemate again. The 30-year-old spent his first 10 seasons with Edmonton before a midseason trade to the Senators in March. The Czech winger has 146 goals and 348 assists in 672 games.

By trading Spezza, the Senators cleared $7 million in salary cap space, taking back only $900,000 for Chiasson. But Spezza will only count $4 million against the Dallas cap in the final year of the deal.

Chiasson, a 23-year-old Boston University product, became the seventh player since 1943-44 with nine or more goals in his first 10 games when he carried over a hot start from 2012-13 into last season. He has 19 goals and 23 assists in 86 career games.

Panthers spend big

The Panthers got a little bit of everything: Scoring, toughness, goaltending, and someone whose fingerprints just happened to be on the Stanley Cup a couple weeks ago.

At day’s end, it was $60 million spent on about six players. And that might be a small price to pay if the franchise’s fortunes wind up turning around.

The Panthers wasted no time to get deals done, signing four forwards, a defenseman, and a goaltender. Centers Dave Bolland and Jussi Jokinen were the costliest additions, with Bolland getting a five-year deal worth $27.5 million and Jokinen agreeing to a four-year pact worth $16 million.

Jokinen had 21 goals and 36 assists for 57 points with Pittsburgh last season — which would have made him Florida’s top scorer by a wide margin.

Bolland, who once was with the Blackhawks when Tallon was the GM there, played in just 23 games for Toronto this past season because of a severed tendon in his left ankle.

Willie Mitchell, a two-time Cup-winning defenseman with the Kings, signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal.

Mitchell was a plus-10 in 18 postseason games with the Kings on their run to the Stanley Cup this past season.

Left wing Shawn Thornton — a proven enforcer with the Bruins — agreed to a $2.4 million, two-year deal, while center Derek MacKenzie got a three-year, $3.9 million deal. MacKenzie had been with Columbus since 2007.

The addition of Stralman, Boyle, and Nabokov bolsters a roster that many felt would lose Callahan to free agency because his asking price might be too high. Instead, the veteran right wing obtained in the trade that sent Martin St. Louis to the Rangers late last season signed a six-year, $34.8 million to remain in Tampa Bay.

Yzerman also announced the signing of right wing Mike Blunden, who appeared in seven games for the Canadiens last season. Forward Mike Angelidis was re-signed to a one-year, two-way contract.

Depth in Chicago

The Blackhawks were searching for another proven commodity at center, and Brad Richards was looking for an opportunity to chase a second Stanley Cup title.

Mix in a couple important conversations, and the deal was done.

The Blackhawks filled their biggest offseason need when they signed Richards to a one-year contract, bolstering their group of centers with an experienced scorer who could fit in quite nicely on their talented lines.

Richards had 20 goals and 31 assists in 82 games for the Rangers last season, and then had 12 points in the playoffs to help his team make it to the Stanley Cup finals. Richards, 34, has 276 goals and 591 assists in 982 games for Tampa Bay, Dallas, and New York.

The Rangers bought out his contract last month. He had six years remaining on the nine-year, $60 million deal he signed in 2011.

‘‘He brings so many things to the table for us,’’ Chicago general manager Stan Bowman said. ‘‘He’s certainly got the experience and his leadership and I think his character off the ice is something that sometimes gets overlooked as the importance for us, but it’s really the whole package that we’re excited about.’’

Sabres looking up

The Sabres have made some moves to spark a turnaround from the bottom of the NHL, adding a pair of forwards in Gionta and Matt Moulson.

Gionta, 35, had 18 goals and 40 points last season in Montreal. He has 249 goals and 485 points over seven seasons with the Devils and five with the Canadiens.

Moulson, 30, had 23 goals and 51 points last season, playing for the Islanders, Buffalo, and Minnesota. He has 141 goals and 275 points over seven seasons.

Buffalo also signed forward Marcus Foligno to a two-year deal. The native of Buffalo and son of Mike Foligno had 19 points in 74 games last season.

On Sunday, the Sabres has jettisoned Christian Ehrhoff, by buying bought out the final seven seasons of the defenseman’s 10-year contract. On Tuesday, he signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Penguins. The German-born Ehrhoff has 69 goals and 313 points in 692 games.

Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, who lost six players in the first day of free agency, also signed forward Blake Comeau and goaltender Thomas Greiss to one-year deals, and retained forward Marcel Goc.

‘‘We don’t necessarily have to have our team all set for a playoff run in September,’’ he said.

Flames on point

Flames general manager Brad Treliving said last week he was looking for a defenseman with a right-handed shot. He got one, along with added insurance in net and some offense to replace Mike Cammalleri.

Calgary came to terms with tough defenseman Deryk Engelland, who received a significant pay raise in a three-year deal worth $8.7 million. Engelland’s salary with Pittsburgh last season was $575,000.

The Flames also signed Mason Raymond to a three-year, $9.5 million deal and Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller to a two-year, $9 million contract.

‘‘The term was very important for us,’’ Treliving said Tuesday. ‘‘We wanted to keep things three years and under, which we've done on all these contracts.

‘‘Term in a cap system is what strangles you. You see a lot of long-term deals bought out.’’

Calgary has money to spend under the salary cap and closed in on the cap floor of $51 million Tuesday; the maximum is set at $69 million. The Flames have missed the playoffs five straight seasons.

The 32-year-old Cammalleri didn’t re-sign with the Flames, despite Calgary’s efforts to keep him. Treliving said the Flames offered the forward ‘‘significant dollars’’, but the term ‘‘was probably not going to work.’’

Cammalleri entered the market and quickly emerged with a five-year, $25 million deal with the Devils.

Cammalleri had a team-high 26 goals and 19 assists in 63 games for the Flames in 2013-14. He'll provide much needed scoring punch to the Devils.

‘‘The real decision-making was, the hard decision was leaving Calgary the way I had been treated there and their efforts to keep me around,’’ Cammalleri said during a conference call.

Raymond had 19 goals, 26 assists, and 22 penalty minutes in 82 games for Toronto. He also received a sizable raise from the Flames after making $1 million on a one-year deal with the Maple Leafs.

Hiller’s salary with the Flames remains the same with a cap hit of $4.5 million annually.

Stuart to Colorado

The Avalanche acquired defenseman Brad Stuart from the Sharks for a second-round pick in 2016 and a sixth-rounder in 2017. Stuart, 34, will help bolster the Avalanche’s blue line after a season in which he skated in 61 games for the Sharks. He was third on the team in blocked shots (114) and hits (122).

The Sharks also lost defenseman Dan Boyle to the Rangers. Detroit and Tampa Bay were among the many teams expressing interest in the player with poise on the blue line and a right-handed shot from the point even though he turns 38 later this month. Boyle had 12 goals and 36 points for the Sharks last season and led the team in playing time, matching up with top-line opponents for 21-plus minutes a game. Boyle has 144 goals and 561 points in 954 games with the Sharks, Lightning, and Panthers.

The Rangers reached the Stanley Cup finals this past season for the first time in two decades.

Jets ink Perreault

The Jets signed forward Mathieu Perreault to a three-year, $9 million contract, a deal he earned by tallying 18 goals and 25 assists last seaosn with the Ducks.

Hurricanes make moves

The Hurricanes added one forward, kept another one, and brought on an upper-level executive.

The Hurricanes agreed to a two-year deal with center Brad Malone and gave Jiri Tlusty a one-year contract. They also hired former Thrashers general manager Don Waddell as the president of Gale Force Sports and Entertainment, which operates both the team and its arena.

Jim Rutherford had served as both the team’s general manager and president of Gale Force before he stepped aside in April to allow Ron Francis to slide into the GM’s spot.

Rutherford was hired last month as the Penguins’ GM, and now Waddell will run the team’s business-related operations while the hockey matters will fall to Francis.

Malone, 25, will make $600,000 this season and $700,000 in 2015-16 and projects as a fourth-line center. Francis called him ‘‘a big, physical forward’’ who ‘‘helps improve our team’s depth up front.’’ He had three goals and two assists in 32 games with Colorado last season.

Tlusty, 26 and a restricted free agent, had 16 goals and 14 assists in 68 games last season. He will make $2.95 million.

Senators hang on

The Senators have kept Milan Michalek off the market.

The Czech winger is staying with a $12 million, three-year deal. Michalek, 29, was an unrestricted free agent coming off a season in which he scored 17 goals and had 39 points. He has 187 goals and 394 points in his career with the Senators and the Sharks.

Moves in Toronto

The Maple Leafs continued their revamp by signing defenseman Stephane Robidas (three years, $9 million) and forward Leo Komarov, who returned to Toronto after a year in Russia’s KHL to sign an $11.8 million, four-year deal.

Robidas broke his leg during the playoffs while playing for the Ducks.

Earlier Tuesday, the Leafs reacquired forward Matt Frattin by trading winger Jerry D'Amigo to the Blue Jackets.

Toronto traded Frattin to the Kings in June 2013 as part of the deal for goaltender Jonathan Bernier. The Kings sent him to Columbus at the 2014 deadline as part of the deal that got them Marian Gaborik.

Frattin has 17 goals and 18 assists in 126 games. The Leafs also got a conditional seventh-round pick in 2015 as part of the trade.

Oilers open pockets

The Oilers signed defenseman Mark Fayne (four years, $14.5 million) and forward Benoit Pouliot (five years, $20 million). Pouliot had his best statistical season with the Rangers, scoring 15 goals and adding 21 assists in 80 games.

The Oilers also signed defenseman Keith Aulie to a one-year contract.

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