Kes­sel deal tops free-agency day


Free-agency day felt like trad­edead­line day, with all seven Cana­dian teams get­ting in on the ac­tion.

The Toronto Maple Leafs made by far the big­gest splash Wed­nes­day, deal­ing Phil Kes­sel to the Pittsburgh Pen­guins in a six-player, three-pick block­buster. That came on the heels of the Pen­guins miss­ing out on Pittsburgh na­tive Bran­don Saad, whom the Chicago Black­hawks traded to the Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets on Tues­day.

“Ev­ery move in the league shakes loose some­thing that some­how af­fects your team, and that’s what hap­pened to­day,” Leafs as­sis­tant gen­eral man­ager Kyle Dubas said.

Pen­guins GM Jim Rutherford called Kes­sel his “top tar­get,” but Saad go­ing to Colum­bus may have been the fi­nal domino to fall.

For the past sev­eral days the free-agent and trade mar­kets in­ter­sected, lead­ing to plenty of Canada fire­works.

Be­yond Kes­sel to the Leafs, the Mon­treal Cana­di­ens traded Bran­don Prust to the Van­cou­ver Canucks for Zack Kas­sian, and the Bos­ton Bru­ins got Jimmy Hayes from the Florida Pan­thers for Reilly Smith and the con­tract of in­jured for­ward Marc Savard.

The Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers signed the big­gest July 1 con­tract, giv­ing de­fence­man An­drej Sek­era US$33 mil­lion over six years. Af­ter al­ready trad­ing Grif­fin Rein­hart at the draft, the Oil­ers made a dras­tic im­prove­ment to their blue line in the wake of draft­ing Con­nor McDavid.

“He’s a re­ally ver­sa­tile D, very strong he can play on our top pair if need be,” Oil­ers gen­eral man­ager Peter Chiarelli said in Ed­mon­ton. “(We have) a lot of op­tions with him.”

The Cal­gary Flames kept the Bat­tle of Al­berta arms race go­ing by bring­ing back goal­tender Karri Ramo on a $3.8-mil­lion, one-year deal and sign­ing winger Michael Fro­lik away from the Win­nipeg Jets for five years and $21.5 mil­lion.

The Jets were smart­ing af­ter los­ing Fro­lik but brought back for­ward Alexan­der Bur­mistrov from the KHL on a two-year deal and signed de­fence­man Adam Pardy and for­ward Matt Halis­chuk to one-year con­tracts.

Those were steps for­ward af­ter re-sign­ing winger Drew Stafford Tues­day night to an $8.7-mil­lion, two-year deal.

Be­yond the Kes­sel trade that got them prospects Kasperi Ka­pa­nen and Scott Har­ring­ton, winger Nick Spal­ing and two draft picks, the Leafs were ac­tive in free agency.

They brought back winger Daniel Win­nik for two years, signed winger Pierre-Alexan­dre Par­enteau and cen­tre Mark Ar­co­bello for one each and de­fence­man Matt Hun­wick for two.

Mon­treal, Ot­tawa and Van­cou­ver made a hand­ful of smaller moves, too. Most no­tably the Canucks re-signed de­fence­man Yan­nick We­ber af­ter trad­ing Kevin Bieksa to the Ana­heim Ducks.

The San Jose Sharks get­ting ex-Pen­guins de­fence­man Paul Martin for $19.4 mil­lion over four years and the Bru­ins sign­ing winger Matt Be­leskey for $19 mil­lion over five years.


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