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.