By JOHN WAWROW and STEPHEN WHYNO
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 made a major splash by signing versatile center Vincent Trocheck as NHL free agency opened with 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 is headed to the Carolina Hurricanes with forward Lane Pederson from the San Jose Sharks for two players and a 2023 third-round pick.
Giroux, who played his junior hockey across the river from Ottawa in Gatineau, Quebec, signed a $19.5 million, three-year 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 $26.25 million, five-year contract with the Capitals, who are reshuffling their goaltending this offseason. Kuemper, who had a career-best 37 wins last season, takes over after the Capitals moved on from lya Samsonov, by not issuing him a qualifying offer, and traded Vitek Vanecek to New Jersey.
Trocheck signed a $39.375 seven-year contract in a move made by the Rangers to replace Andrew Copp, who signed a $28.125 million, five-year contract with Detroit. The 29-year-old Trocheck has nine seasons of NHL experience, including the past two full years in Carolina, where he had 39 goals and 96 points in 135 games with the Hurricanes.
Besides Kuemper, the offseason-long goalie carousel continued spinning with Jack Campbell leaving Toronto to sign a five-year, $25 million contract with Edmonton. Campbell cashed in after a season in which he had career highs in wins with a 31-9-6 record, five shutouts and 47 starts.
The Oilers are retooling after veteran Mike Smith’s playoff inconsistencies contributed to the Oilers being outscored 22-13 in a sweep by Colorado in the Western Conference Final.
The 34-year-old Giroux brings a veteran leadership presence to Ottawa’s mix of youngsters. He spent his first 14-plus seasons in Philadelphia, where he served as the Flyers captain, 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 Canada’s TSN. “I’m not saying we’re going to win the Cup this year, but the plan is to build on it and have baby steps for that.”
Giroux has topped 20 goals nine times, and finished second in the NHL scoring race with 102 points in 2017-18.
In addition to Gaudreau, Colorado forward Nazem Kadri and Dallas defenseman John Klingberg headlined one of the deepest groups of free agents in recent history. And that’s after Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin and Edmonton’s Evander Kane re-signed with their respective teams.
— The Anaheim Ducks signed forward Frank Vatrano to a $10.95 million, three-year deal with a $3.65 million cap hit, according to a person with knowledge of the details who spoke with the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
— The Chicago Blackhawks finally began adding players in signing forwards Andreas Athanasiou and Max Domi to one-year, $3 million contracts, a person with direct knowledge of the signings told the AP on condition of anonymity because the deals had not been announced. The Blackhawks are in a full rebuild after trading center Kirby Dach to Montreal and forward Alex DeBrincat to Ottawa.
— The Buffalo Sabres added experienced goaltending depth by signing Eric Comrie to a two-year deal. The former Winnipeg backup will be in the mix to compete for playing time with veteran Craig Anderson and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. Buffalo also locked up one of its top 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-best 49 points last season.
— The New Jersey Devils traded forward Pavel Zacha to Boston for center Erik Haula. The move balances out the Devils’ lineup 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 points.
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