Monday June 29th, 2015

The NHL draft is over and now it's time to focus on free agency and trade season.

With the newest NHL rookie class assigned to the league's 30 teams, free agency is beginning to move into high gear. Though the unrestricted crop is thin, some high-profile players, including Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green, Nashville Predators forward Mike Ribeiro, and New York Rangers winger Martin St. Louis could be on the move.

What's the latest? Check back often as we update below with all the latest scoops, including transactions, news and rumors.

MORE: Top free agents | East draft grades | West draft grades | Trade tracker

• Louis Jean of TVA is reporting Wednesday morning the Predators are on the verge of re-signing Mike Ribeiro. They're getting a talented player, but they're buying a whole lot of distraction as well.

• The fear of the offer sheet is real. How else to explain the decision of Chicago GM Stan Bowman to trade Brandon Saad to the Columbus Blue Jackets? Just days after telling Saad that their recent championship was the "second of many we're going to win together," Bowman shipped the outstanding young forward to C'Bus along with defenseman Michael Paliotta and Alex Broadhurst in exchange for Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, Corey Tropp, Jeremy Morin and a fourth-round pick in 2016.

There's decent value in the deal for the Hawks. Anisimov is a 27-year-old center with size (6-4, 202) and some skill (22 goals in 2013-14) who slots in on Chicago's second line. Dano, the 27th pick in 2013, is a flashy winger with top-six upside. With a Cup to defend, Bowman clearly preferred birds in hand to whatever he might acquire via a handful of compensatory draft picks.

He did well under the circumstances, but this was purely a defensive move.

Meanwhile, Columbus takes one large step closer to Stanley Cup contention with this bold and decisive move. In Saad, they now have a new-era power forward, a first-line player who blends high-end mobility and offensive potential with a healthy dose of pugnacity.

Sure, they paid a price. But any way you slice it, it's a massive win for GM Jarmo Kekalainen and the Jackets.

• Kevin Bieksa is finally on the move, but it'll be to SoCal not San Jose. Days after a deal fell apart with the Sharks, the Canucks dealt the veteran defender to Anaheim for a 2016 second-round pick. Bieksa is another big, bruising body for the Ducks, who are trying to keep pace with the arms race in the West. It also likely means that Anaheim GM Bob Murray has given up on re-signing Francois Beachemin. The veteran will head to free agency tomorrow.

• With sexual assault allegations hanging over his head, Mike Ribeiro had virtually no value on the free agent market. It appears though that the Predators might be willing to forgive and forget. Nashville GM David Poile reportedly has done his due diligence and offered the crafty center a new deal and a deadline of today to re-sign...or else he'll permanently cut ties. If Mickey Ribs knows what's good for him, he'll take whatever deal Poile is offering and be grateful for it.

• The good folks over at The Hockey News are reporting that the Blackhawks and RFA forward Brandon Saad don’t quite see eye to eye yet on a new contract.

• The Winnipeg Jets have confirmed their signing of winger Drew Stafford to a two-year deal with average annual value of $4.35 million. After arriving from Buffalo in the Evander Kane blockbuster, Stafford was a solid contributor (9-10-19, +6 in 26 games) to the Jets’s playoff drive. The deal's a tad pricey perhaps, but Stafford's mix of size, physicality and skill make him a good fit on this team.

• Maple Leafs and Ducks free agent winger Matt Beleskey kicking each other's tires:

• Put away those offer sheets, folks: The Calgary Flames have signed recently acquired defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a six-year extension with an annual cap hit of $5.75 million. That will give him plenty of time to alienate his new teammates with his uppity attitude.

• Odds were 50/50 that newly acquired center Sam Gagner would be bought out by the Flyers today. Looks like he'll get his chance to wear orange after all. Not a bad move. Gagner has the skill (remember that eight-point game?). It's just a matter of finding the right fit for his particular talents.

• The Bruins have traded goalie Martin Jones, acquired on Saturday from Los Angeles in the Milan Lucic deal, to the San Jose Sharks. In return, the Bruins get San Jose's 2016 first rounder plus Sean Kuraly, an unsigned 2011 fifth-rounder who will captain Miami University next season. Kuraly had 19 goals last season but is viewed as bottom-six pro prospect. Overall then, the return on the Lucic trade is two firsts and two prospects (Colin Miller from the Kings and Kuraly). A very solid haul, assuming the B's make something out of those picks, but nowhere near enough to erase the damage caused by GM Don Sweeney's other recent moves and certainly nothing that will help this team next season. It also means Sweeney probably shouldn't expect a Christmas card from Dean Lombardi. The Kings GM didn't want to trade Jones within the Western Conference. Now the promising young goalie will be in the same division.

• Possibly building on their efforts to tank the season, the Bruins are reportedly interested in acquiring winger Bryan Bickell from the Chicago Blackhawks. Hard to see how that would work salary-wise, but high salary/low production seems to fit Boston's model going forward.

• The Predators are buying out the final two years of Viktor Stalberg's contract. Also looks like the grand Alex Semin gamble in Raleigh is over. The Hurricanes signed the talented but maddeningly inconsistent winger to a five-year, $35 million deal in 2013. Didn't exactly get their money’s worth.

• The great Grapes weighs in on the Leafs:

• Bruins GM Don Sweeney said in a media conference call that he’s in contract discussions with newly-acquired goaltender Martin Jones and is also “exploring every trade opportunity.” Defenseman Matt Bartkowski will be heading to unrestricted free agency.

• Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is reporting that the Penguins are not interested in an aging future Hall of Famer:

• According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, the Lightning has signed defenseman Andrej Sustr. The 6' 8", 220-pound blueliner was a reliable mainstay of the Bolts' D corps last season, appearing in a career-high 72 regular season and 26 postseason games. The team is also expected to ink restricted free agents Vladislav Namestnikov and Luke Witkowski.

• The Anaheim Ducks have made qualifying offers to winger Jakob Silfverberg and newly-acquired forward Carl Hagelin as well as centers Chris Wagner and Michael Sgarbossa. The offers enable the Ducks to retain each player's rights while they continue to work on new contracts. All four will be restricted free agents as of Wed. July 1. The team's goal is to sign Silfverberg and Wagner to multi-year deals. 

• In a surprising move, the Arizona Coyotes chose not to extend qualifying offers to Mark Arcobello, John Moore, Mark Visentin and four others, setting them up as unrestricted free agents on July 1. Arcobello picked up 16 points in 27 games with the Coyotes and was expected to re-sign. Moore was acquired as part of the return in the Keith Yandle trade. Visentin was passed by Louis Domingue on the team's goaltending depth chart but was still seen as a viable prospect. A sign perhaps that the Coyotes are serious about cleaning house. 

• Boston GM Don Sweeney had his lunch money stolen again, this time by Philadelphia's Ron Hextall, who plied a 2017 third rounder out of the struggling rookie exec in exchange for fringe winger Zac Rinaldo. Harry Sinden's not looking so bad these days, is he?

• The reason for the Kings' termination of Mike Richards' contract remains shrouded in mystery, but as SI.com's Allan Muir writes, the fact that 29 teams passed on him does not bode well for the veteran center's NHL future. There is talk that Richards had an as-yet unspecified off-ice incident that led to GM Dean Lombardi's decision to cut ties. Apparently a trade with Edmonton involving Richards was in the works at the time.

• Dogged forward Jay Beagle has been given a new three-year, $5.25 million contract by the Washington Capitals. The 6' 3", 212-pound Beagle reached career-highs in goals (10), assists (10) and points (20) last season while appearing in 62 games. Interestingly, the Caps are undefeated in regulation which he scores a goal: 17-0-4 all time including 15-0-1 last season when he recorded a point.

• The Dallas Stars have signed recently acquired netminder Antti Niemi to a three-year deal with an average annual value of $4.45 million and a limited no-trade clause. Dallas now has has more than $10 million committed to Niemi and Kari Lehtonen through the 2017-18 season. The two ranked 21st and 28th, respectively, for save percentage among starting goalies.  

• Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya plans to explore free agency and has heard from several teams, reports ESPN.com. 

• The Buffalo Sabres have placed Cody Hodgson on waivers for the purpose of buying him out. With $17 million due him during the next four seasons, the unproductive forward (six goals, 13 points in 78 games) is too rich for the Sabres' blood as they try to accelerated their rebuild.

• The Los Angeles Kings have reportedly placed veteran forward Mike Richards on unconditional waivers and intend to buy out his contract. Richards has five years left on a $69 million, 12-year contract signed in 2007. Richards's contract carries a $5.75 million annual salary cap hit. UPDATE: It's official. Richards’ contract has been terminated according to the team.

[tweet: https://twitter.com/LAKings/status/615588942839185408]

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• Montreal Canadiens forward P.A Parenteau and Anaheim Ducks defenseman Mark Fistric also were placed on unconditional waivers ahead of the free agent period.

• The San Jose Sharks signed defenseman Brenden Dillon, who was acquired from Dallas last November, to a five-year deal worth a reported $16.35 million, with an average annual value of $3.27 million. The signing left San Jose with four blueliners under contract for at least the next two seasons.

• Defenseman Ian Cole of the Pittsburgh Penguins has signed a three-year, $6.3 million deal with the team.

• The Ottawa Senators agreed to terms with defenseman Chris Wideman on a one-year, two-way contract.

• The Minnesota Wild agreed to terms on six-year, $26.6 million deal with goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

• The Carolina Hurricanes agreed to terms with forward Andrej Nestrasil on a two-year contract. Nestrasil will make $875,000 next season and $950,000 in 2016–17.

• Winnipeg forward Andrew Ladd may be signed to a new long-term deal as early as this week, reports the Winnipeg Free Press. Ladd, who had 38 assists and 62 points last season, has one year left on his contract and is set to make $4.5 million next season.

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