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First day of free agency brings surprises, blockbuster trades
- Updated: July 1, 2015
Even though this year’s pool is widely considered one of the weakest free agent classes in recent history, the first day of NHL free agency didn’t lack in surprise moves and blockbuster trades.
Leading the headlines for the day was the major swap between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins, with goal scorer Phil Kessel at the center of the deal. After much trade speculation, Kessel was moved to the Penguins, along with forward Tyler Briggs and defenseman Tim Erixon. In exchange, the Penguin sent forwards Kasperi Kapanen and Nick Spaling, defenseman Scott Harrington and a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft to the Leafs. Additional draft picks, which are conditional upon the Penguins qualifying for the playoffs in 2015-16 or 2016-17, were also included in the deal.
Toronto will also retain $1.2 million of Kessel’s salary for the remainder of his contract.
“We set out this offseason to bring in more skill on the wing and some more speed,” said Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford. “I certainly think we covered that by adding Phil Kessel. We also liked to get some consistency of wingers for [Evgeni Malkin] and [Sidney Crosby].”
The 27-year-old Kessel will certainly help take Pittsburgh’s offense to another level, having scored 30 or more goals five times in his career. No Penguins player reached the 30-goal plateau last season.
While the Kessel trade certainly started the day off with a bang, a number of other notable transactions took place. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the big moves from day one of free agency:
- Mobile, offensive-minded defenseman Mike Green signed a three-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings for a reported $6 million per season, finally giving the Wings the coveted right-handed defenseman they’ve been searching for on the power play. The team also added veteran forward Brad Richards, who just won a Stanley Cup with Chicago, to a one-year deal worth $3 million.
- The Calgary Flames secured versatile forward Michael Frolik with a five-year, $21.5 million deal.
- Defenseman Paul Martin, who spent the past five seasons with the Penguins, signed a four-year contract with the San Jose Sharks for a manageable cap hit of $4.85 million per season.
- The Nashville Predators bolstered their lineup with a pair of moves. The team added defenseman Barret Jackman to a cap-friendly two-year deal worth $4 million. The team also added forward Cody Hodgson to a one-year $1.05 million contract. The Preds also re-signed forward Mike Ribiero right before free agency began at noon.
- Andrej Sekera signed a whopping six-year, $33 million deal with the Edmonton Oilers. The team certainly hopes Sekera will be a cornerstone defender as they look to address glaring deficiencies on their blue line.
- Perhaps no other player raised his free agency stock this past season more than 27-year-old forward Matt Belesky, who scored 22 goals during the regular season and added eight more during 16 postseason games.His reward was a five-year deal with the Boston Bruins worth $3.8 million per season—a strong move if Belesky can prove himself as more than just a one-season wonder.
- Anaheim made some strategic moves to add to their already dangerous lineup. The team added gritty defenseman Francois Beauchemin at $4.5 million annually for three years, and added scoring depth by bringing on Shawn Horcoff for one year.