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Published: 11:58, July 15, 2022 | Updated: 11:58, July 15, 2022
Big names cash in during NHL free-agency frenzy
By Agencies Via Xinhua
Published:11:58, July 15, 2022 Updated:11:58, July 15, 2022 By Agencies Via Xinhua

Veteran forward Claude Giroux and goaltender Darcy Kuemper were among the biggest names to cash in as the NHL's free agency opened on Wednesday. Giroux joined the Ottawa Senators while Kuemper signed for the Washington Capitals. (PHOTO / AP)

On a hectic afternoon in which Claude Giroux looked ahead to a homecoming in Ottawa, the Washington Capitals landed Stanley Cup-winning goalie Darcy Kuemper and the New York Rangers spent big on center Vincent Trocheck, Jaromir Jagr even wondered whether he could get in on the action.

In a message to NHL GMs on Twitter, Jagr wrote that he is a little slow at 50 but has strong hands, before closing his note with "Call me anytime," followed by a winking emoji.

With all the moves and all the money being thrown Wednesday around in the opening hours of NHL free agency, it would be hard to blame Jagr for joking about the possibility of returning for a 25th NHL season.

The slight, $1 million rise of the NHL salary cap to $82.5 million, coupled with numerous teams dumping or buying out contracts to free up payroll space, led to a rush of action once teams were allowed to begin signing players.

"It was a little bit expected because teams have had time to recover from the COVID pandemic," said defenseman Ben Chiarot, who signed a $19 million, four-year contract with Detroit. "Players thought it would be better than in past years because teams are operating at a normal clip."

The Red Wings were among the busier teams in general manager Steve Yzerman's bid to end a six-year playoff drought. Detroit also signed center Andrew Copp to a $28.125 million, five-year contract and left winger Dominik Kubalik for $5 million over two years.

Washington GM Brian MacLellan took particular notice of the Red Wings being one of the teams with cap space that capitalized on it.

"Detroit was really busy," MacLellan said with a laugh. "It went real quick. I think you add another team and you got 32 teams competing for guys, it's a competitive environment."

Veteran forward Claude Giroux and goaltender Darcy Kuemper were among the biggest names to cash in as the NHL's free agency opened on Wednesday. Giroux joined the Ottawa Senators while Kuemper signed for the Washington Capitals. (PHOTO / AP)

The Capitals signed Kuemper to a $26.25 million, five-year contract. Kuemper, who had a career-best 37 wins last season, takes over after the Capitals moved on from llya Samsonov by not issuing him a qualifying offer and traded Vitek Vanecek to New Jersey.

Colorado also bid farewell to forward Andre Burakovsky, who signed a $27.5 million contract with the Seattle Kraken. The defending champions re-signed forward Artturi Lehkonen and defenseman Josh Manson to long-term contracts.

Despite all the moves, much of the focus remained on where prized winger Johnny Gaudreau might land, on a day that also included a major trade involving defenseman Brent Burns. The 2017 Norris Trophy winner is headed to the Carolina Hurricanes with Lane Pederson from the San Jose Sharks for two players and a 2023 third-round pick.

In addition to Gaudreau, who declined to re-sign with Calgary, Colorado's Nazem Kadri, and the top defenseman available, John Klingberg, were still available by Wednesday evening.

Giroux's signing in Ottawa was expected: General manager Pierre Dorion joked he couldn't escape Senators fans asking: "When are you signing Claude?" Giroux, who played his junior hockey across the river from Ottawa in Gatineau, Quebec, signed a $19.5 million, three-year contract.

The 34-year-old Giroux brings leadership to Ottawa's mix of youngsters. He spent his first 14-plus seasons in Philadelphia, where he served as the Flyers captain.

"I wouldn't sign here if I didn't think we had a chance to win the Cup," Giroux said. "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."

Trocheck signed a $39.375 million, seven-year contract with the Rangers following Copp's departure. The 29-year-old Trocheck has nine seasons of NHL experience, including two-plus years in Carolina, where he had 39 goals and 96 points in 135 games with the Hurricanes.

Trocheck is reunited with Rangers coach Gerard Gallant after the two were together in Florida.

"This was one of just a few teams that we really looked at and thought it was a good fit. So coming in, we knew that New York was probably our number one choice," he said.

Besides Kuemper, the offseason-long goalie carousel saw Jack Campbell leave Toronto for a five-year, $25 million contract with the Edmonton Oilers.

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