- NHL free agency opens noon ET on Wednesday.
- Forward Johnny Gaudreau is the top player available.
- The free agency class is deep on forwards and thin on defense and goalies.
The NHL free agency signing period officially opened at noon ET on Wednesday.
This year’s free agent class is deep at forward but a little thin on defense and goaltending.
Key players available at the opening buzzer were forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, Claude Giroux, Andrew Copp, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Strome and David Perron, defensemen John Klingberg and Nick Leddy, and goalie Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbell and Ilya Samsonov.
Kadri and Kuemper, plus Andre Burakovsky and a handful of other unrestricted free agents, played for the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
Follow along as USA TODAY Sports’ NHL staffers track and analyze the signings and trades that occur during the day:
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FREE AGENCY:A look at the Top 25 players testing the market
Darcy Kuemper signs with Capitals
The Stanley Cup-winning goaltender gets a five-year, $26.25 million deal. The Capitals were unhappy with their goaltending last season and traded Vitek Vanecek and didn’t qualify Ilya Samsonov. Kuemper had a career-best 37 wins last season and his .921 save percentage ranked fifth among league starters.
Ilya Mikheyev goes to Canucks
The forward signed a four-year, $19 million contract, agent Dan Milstein tweeted. He had 21 goals in 53 games last season with the Maple Leafs last season.
Lightning lock up three to eight-year extensions
The Lightning, who reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third year in a row, are keeping the core together. After giving defenseman Mikhail Sergachev an eight-year extension, Tampa Bay did the same to forward Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Erik Cernak. Sergachev averages $8.5 million, Cirelli $6.25 million and Cernak $5.2 million. Cirelli is the team’s shutdown center and Sergachev’s and Cernak’s role with grow after the trade of Ryan McDonagh.
Nick Leddy staying with Blues
The defenseman, acquired at the trade deadline, will get $16 million over four years. He was a good fit after arriving from Detroit. His 130 games of playoff experience make him valuable.
Mikhail Sergachev signs extension with Lightning
The 24-year-old defenseman had a year left with a $4.8 million cap hit ($7.2 million base salary), and now gets a long-term deal for eight years at $8.5 million per season. Sergachev has improved his point production (to 38) and ice time (to 22 minutes, 28 seconds) in each of the five seasons of his career. His role will only continue to expand. — Jimmy Hascup
Frank Vatrano joins Ducks
The deal is for three years, $3.65 million per year, according to HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman. Vatrano, a shrewd pickup by the Rangers at the trade deadline, showed in flashes his scoring potential in a secondary role. He will help a young forward group in Anaheim. — Jimmy Hascup
Jaroslav Halak signs with Rangers
New York was seeking a backup goalie after trading Alexandar Georgiev, who was a restricted free agent, to Colorado. Halak gets $1.55 million for one year. The Rangers are tight on the salary cap and have to still re-sign RFA Kaapo Kakko. — Jimmy Hascup
Hurricanes acquire Brent Burns from Sharks
The Hurricanes needed a right-shot defenseman after trading Tony DeAngelo to the Flyers. The Sharks needed to clear out cap space, and Burns had an $8 million cap hit. Burns had more points than DeAngelo last season, 54-51.
Andrew Copp to the Red Wings
The versatile forward is from Ann Arbor, Michigan. He’s a big addition for a team that’s still rebuilding. TSN reports that the five-year deal has a $5.625 million cap hit.
Vincent Trocheck to Rangers
The two-way center will fill the No. 2 center role that UFA Ryan Strome held last season.
Blues’ Robert Thomas extended
He’ll get $65 million over eight years, a nice bump from the $2.8 million he’ll make this season. He had a career-best 77 points and a 17-game point streak last season.
Ilya Samsonov to the Maple Leafs
Toronto says Samsonov gets a one-year, $1.8 million deal. Samsonov gets a prove-it deal after not being qualified by the Capitals. The Leafs’ tandem next season is Matt Murray and Samsonov.
Claude Giroux signed by Senators
Giroux’s offseason home is in the Ottawa area. He’s still seeking his first championship. Can the Senators accomplish that in three years? Maybe not. But they’re significantly better with Giroux and trade acquisitions Alex DeBrincat and Cam Talbot.
Jack Campbell heading to Edmonton
The goaltender will get $25 million over five years, according to TSN. The Oilers needed an upgrade in net and Campbell was an All-Star last season. This move means Darcy Kuemper is likely going to the Capitals.
And we’re off
It’s noon. Free agency signing period is officially under way.
Avalanche bring back Josh Manson
He’ll get $18 million over four years, according to The Athletic. Manson was a big pickup at the trade deadline, a solid defender who scored several key goals in the Stanley Cup run. He joins Valeri Nichushkin and Andrew Cogliano in re-signing. Reports say that Darren Helm also could be back.
Devils trade Pavel Zacha to Bruins
The move, reported by TSN, increases the Johnny Gaudreau-to-New Jersey speculation. Zacha is a left wing, like Gaudreau. He’s also a restricted free agent, and the Devils won’t need to re-sign him if they land Gaudreau. The move helps the Bruins, who have several forwards who’ll miss the beginning of the season with injuries. The reported return is forward Erik Haula.
Evgeni Malkin, Evander Kane sign extensions
The Penguins and the Russian star agreed to a four-year contract late Tuesday night worth $6.1 million annually that will keep Malkin in Pittsburgh after all. After also signing defenseman Kris Letang on July 7 to a six-year, $36.6 million deal, the Penguins have about $4 million in cap space.
Kane followed by announcing “I’m back,” in a post on his verified Twitter account in which he revealed agreeing to a $20.5 million, four-year contract with the Edmonton Oilers, where he put up 22 goals in 39 games after the team gave him a chance when the San Jose Sharks terminated the remainder of Kane’s contract for violating COVID-19 protocols while in the American Hockey League. — Jimmy Hascup
Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau heads to market
Flames general manager Brad Treliving, who had attempted to re-sign Gaudreau, said Tuesday night that the star forward was going to hit the open market. “It is my strong belief that this was a family decision and I respect that fully,” he said. “John has every right and we have nothing but respect for John the player and John the person.”
Why are so many Avalanche players unsigned?
So far, Valeri Nichushkin and Andrew Cogliano are the only Avs players who have been re-signed. That leaves less than $15 million in cap space for next season, and Artturi Lehkonen (two series-clinching goals) is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights. Plus, the Avalanche have to think of 2023-24 and beyond because star Nathan MacKinnon can sign a contract extension. His cap hit next season is $6.3 million and that will go up significantly starting the following season.
Who’s in the market for a goaltender?
The Washington Capitals have no NHL goaltenders under contract after trading Vitek Vanecek and not qualifying Ilya Samsonov. Goaltending was a weakness for the Edmonton Oilers on their run to the Western Conference final, plus backup Mikko Koskinen signed with the Swiss league. The Ottawa Senators, who traded Matt Murray to the Toronto Maple Leafs, upgraded their goaltending in a trade Tuesday, adding the Minnesota Wild’s Cam Talbot in exchange for Filip Gustavsson.
NHL draft recap
The NHL draft took place July 7-8. The first round saw projected No. 1 overall pick Shane Wright fall to No. 4 and the Seattle Kraken. Here’s a look at scouting reports of all the first-round picks, plus a look at the winners and losers of the draft. Wright said he’ll have a “chip on (his) shoulder” after falling, and he reiterated his “staredown” was not directed at the Montreal Canadiens, who picked first and selected Juraj Slafkovsky.