NHL free agents take high-priced hit

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - THE SECOND PAGE -

Aside from de­fense­men Kevin Shat­tenkirk and Karl Alzner at­tract­ing $20 mil­lion-plus con­tracts, NHL free agency isn’t what it used to be. Not in a stag­nant salary-cap era.

Though plenty of play­ers switched teams once the sign­ing pe­riod opened Satur­day, miss­ing were the high-priced, long-term con­tracts that were once the norm.

Shat­tenkirk, con­sid­ered the top free agent avail­able, signed a four-year, $26.6 mil­lion con­tract with the New York Rangers. And af­ter nine sea­sons in Wash­ing­ton, Alzner signed a five-year, $23.1 mil­lion deal with Mon­treal.

Shat­tenkirk noted he turned down a more lu­cra­tive of­fer to sign with the Rangers, in part for the op­por­tu­nity to play closer to his home­town of New Rochelle, N.Y. And Alzner noted he had few op­tions be­yond Mon­treal, which was the only city he vis­ited this past week.

The ex­pan­sion Ve­gas Golden Knights stayed busy by trad­ing de­fense­man Alexei Emelin to Nashville for a 2019 third-round draft pick. Ve­gas se­lected Emelin from Mon­treal in the ex­pan­sion draft last month. The Golden Knights also ad­dressed sec­ondary depth needs by sign­ing six free agents, in­clud­ing for­ward Ste­fan Mat­teau. He’s the son of Stephane Mat­teau, a mem­ber of the 1994 Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Rangers.

The most lu­cra­tive deals inked were a pair of con­tracts to re­tain young stars. San Jose Sharks locked up de­fense­man Marc-Edouard Vla­sic with an eight-year, $56 mil­lion con­tract, and Ana­heim signed de­fense­man Cam Fowler to an eight-year, $52 mil­lion deal. The Sharks also ex­tended the con­tract of goalie Martin Jones by sign­ing him to a six-year, $34.5 mil­lion deal.

That’s a dras­tic change from a year ago, when three free agents signed seven-year con­tracts, in­clud­ing ag­ing vet­eran Mi­lan Lu­cic’s $42 mil­lion deal with Ed­mon­ton.

“There’s a whole lot of fac­tors,” Detroit Red Wings Gen­eral Man­ager Ken Hol­land said, not­ing age was one and so were the moves by teams to sign their play­ers to ex­ten­sions well be­fore they might have hit the mar­ket.

As for a pri­mary fac­tor, Hol­land said: “The cap used to go up $4-5 mil­lion a year.”

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