The Stanley Cup champions ponied up to keep the goaltender who backstopped them to their first title, and a handful of NHL teams shed salary to prepare for free agency.
The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed playoff hero goalie Adin Hill on Friday to a $9.8 million, two-year deal that carries an annual salary cap hit of $4.9 million through 2025. Hill is the second contributor to the Cup run to get a new deal in Vegas after Ivan Barbashev signed a $25 million, five-year contract earlier in the week.
Hill won 11 of his 14 starts after stepping into the crease as an injury replacement for Laurent Brossoit midway through the second round. The 27-year-old journeyman — who had not played in the NHL playoffs before — led all goalies with a .932 save percentage and two shutouts.
Other teams were busy offloading players on the eve of the start of free agency with some big-money buyouts.
The Nashville Predators led the way by buying out Matt Duchene. The 32-year-old center had three years left on his deal at an annual cap hit of $8 million.
Duchene is the latest veteran player to leave Nashville since former coach Barry Trotz took over as general manager, replacing longtime executive David Poile. The Predators also traded Ryan Johansen to Colorado, continuing the path of a rebuild started when Poile dealt away a handful of players before the deadline in March.
The Winnipeg Jets also put former captain Blake Wheeler on unconditional waivers to buy out the final year of his contract. The Boston Bruins did the same with defenseman Mike Reilly, and the Detroit Red Wings took the same step with Kailer Yamomoto a day after acquiring him from the Edmonton Oilers.
Edmonton continued the process of bringing back key players, re-signing forward Mattias Janmark to a $1 million contract for next season. Ken Holland, looking to help reigning MVP Connor McDavid win the Stanley Cup in what could be his final year as GM, has made it clear the Oilers are firmly in win-now mode, so this is likely not the end of their dealings.
“I’m looking to win,” Holland said Tuesday. “I don’t invest in green bananas at this stage of my life.”
Shifting into win-soon mode, the Chicago Blackhawks signed winger Corey Perry to a $4 million contract for next season, a day after acquiring his rights from Tampa Bay. That was the latest step in their plan to surround No. 1 pick Connor Bedard with experienced players, which began earlier this week with a trade with Boston for forwards Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno.
Friday was also the deadline for teams to tender qualifying offers to restricted free agents. Over 100 did not receive one, including Carolina’s Jesse Puljujarvi, Florida’s Colin White, Minnesota’s Sam Steel and a couple of players traded in recent days: Detroit’s Klim Kostin, San Jose’s Mackenzie Blackwood.
The New York Rangers tendered defenseman K’Andre Miller and 2020 top pick Alexis Lafrenière, among others. They did not qualify defenseman Libor Hajek, meaning he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
So will 21-goal scorer Daniel Sprong, who along with Morgan Geekie was not qualified by Seattle, despite having the best season of his NHL career. Also surprisingly not qualified were New Jersey forwards Michael McLeod and Nathan Bastian, though the Devils could still look to bring any or all of them back at a cheaper salary.
Wheeler won’t be back with Winnipeg and is hoping to land in the Eastern Conference after the expected end of his rocky tenure with the Jets. Incoming coach Rick Bowness stripped Wheeler of the captaincy last year in an attempt to fix the locker room culture around the Jets, and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had been looking to trade the speedy winger who turns 37 on Aug. 31.
Seattle re-signed goalie Joey Daccord to a $2.4 million, two-year deal, fresh off him helping the American Hockey League ‘s Coachella Valley Firebirds reach Game 7 of the Calder Cup Finals.
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