Don't let the relatively thin crop of UFAs fool you. Salary cap concerns have the NHL in the throes of a massive roster upheaval, setting July 1 up to be the most frenzied opening to free agency to date.
Among the day's top catches will be defensemen Mike Green, Andrej Sekera, Christian Ehrhoff and Johnny Oduya and forwards Antoine Vermette, Justin Williams, Michael Frolik and Matt Beleskey.
Here's a running blog of the day's rumors and confirmed deals, along with our insight on what it all means.
• 6:25 p.m. No one in Boston is ready to forgive him just yet, but GM Don Sweeney appears to have reversed his losing streak with a pair of solid deals on Wednesday. The latest: the signing of free-agent winger Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $19 million. The term is a bit of an anchor, but the $3.9 million AAV is much easier on the team’s cap than the $6 million owed to the player he’s ostensibly replacing: Milan Lucic. It’s also slightly less than what the Ducks offered Beleskey to stay in Anaheim: reportedly four years and $16 million. The extra year of security was clearly Beleskey’s priority in the wake of his career-best 22-goal season.
5 yrs, $19 mil total for Beleskey in Boston. Aav of $3.8 mil. No move clause in first two years.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2015
• 6:20 p.m. The wheels are turning slowly but it looks like Beleskey to Boston is a done deal. The five-year term is discouraging, but if they can keep the hit at or below $4 million, especially after scraping Marc Savard’s salary from the books, it won’t be too painful.
Beleskey to Boston for 5 yrs at a shade under $4 mil per.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2015
• 6:00 p.m. Multiple sources now confirming that Boston has sent Reilly Smith and the contract of injured veteran Marc Savard to Florida in exchange for Jimmy Hayes. Surprisingly, this one seems like a clear win for GM Don Sweeney. Smith, a big part of the “bounty” received from Dallas in the Tyler Seguin trade, had 13 goals last season and the team was frustrated with his inconsistent effort. Hayes, a Boston native, scored 19 times for the Panthers and while there are questions about his skating and his upside, there's no denying the appeal of his 6' 6", 225-pound frame.
Smith is under contract for two more seasons at $3.425 million each while Hayes is an RFA coming off a one-year deal that paid him $925,000 last season. He could triple his salary and still save the Bruins money. And getting Savard’s $4 million cap hit through 2016-17 off the books is a bit of wizardry by Sweeney.
• 5:53 p.m. Darren Dreger says the Bruins are close to a five-year deal with Matt Beleskey. There’s likely to be a lot of Boston fans who will need to be talked off the ledge if that happens.
• 5:50 p.m. Something going on in Sunrise? A trade with Boston is rumored.
• 5:30 p.m. Note to agents: Stop calling Ken Holland.
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland after signing D Mike Green & F Brad Richards. "We're done."— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 1, 2015
• 5:25 p.m. Update on the Brad Richards signing: Detroit is giving the veteran center $3 million on a one-year deal. Less appealing than the originally rumored $1.5 million obviously, but a reasonable investment in a top-nine center who can bring a veteran presence to a lineup that is expected to skew younger next season. Also nice to have him on hand with the health/availability of Pavel Datsyuk for the start of the season in question.
• 5:15 p.m. Not much happening on the Matt Beleskey front yet today, likely because teams aren’t willing to commit term to a player coming off the one solid year of his career. Darren Dreger though says the Bruins are circling the soon-to-be former Anaheim winger.
Boston believed to be among teams working on Beleskey. Teams are trying to restructure term. Right now very much a moving target.— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2015
• 4:25 p.m. Have the Red Wings struck again? A report from TVA suggests Detroit has signed Brad Richards to a one-year deal for $1.5 million. The 35-year-old struggled under Joel Quenneville’s system in Chicago during the first half of the season but looked focused and fast down the stretch and into the playoffs where he proved his value. Sounds like a low-risk add for the Wings, who needed a center to fill in for the bought-out Stephen Weiss. A solid opportunity for Richards.
Cannot confirm yet..but TSN's Darren Dreger saying Red Wings are close to signing Brad Richards to a 1-year deal...— Ted Kulfan (@tkulfan) July 1, 2015
• 4:20 p.m. Johnny Oduya has at least one offer on the table but the three-time Stanley Cup winner is willing to play the waiting game to see what else might be out there for him.
Johnny Oduya sitting on a very good offer but veteran defenseman will be patient in his decision-making today.— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) July 1, 2015
• 4:08 p.m. Multiple sources now saying that defenseman Keith Yandle won't be made available by the New York Rangers.
• 4:01 p.m. Given the impressive show of restraint we’ve seen so far today from the league’s GMs, it’s hard to believe that any of the big names left on the board (Matt Beleskey, Johnny Oduya, Antoine Vermette) will get anything more than three years on the deals they eventually sign.
• 3:50 p.m. Bob McKenzie is reporting that the Detroit Red Wings have signed Mike Green to a three-year deal with an AAV of $6 million per year.
You have to believe that the 29-year-old Green was looking for a longer term but the Wings wisely limited their exposure in exchange for a higher AAV than they might otherwise have liked. Let's face it: $6 million is way too much to pay for a blueliner who'll probably spend most of his time on their third pair. Still, this is a reasonable deal for Detroit, which finally snags the right-handed, offensive-minded defenseman the Wings have been chasing for years. He'll bolster a power play that finished second last season at 23.8%, but the real key for Detroit is his ability to create offense at five-on-five.
Sure, there's a defensive risk involved any time Green is on the ice, but he should see heavily sheltered minutes early on with a chance to take on more responsibility as he becomes more comfortable with Jeff Blashill's system.
In the end, we know his contract fits under the cap and there's a chance for him to make a significant contribution to the Wings. Seems like a good deal.
• 3:36 p.m. Which Anders Lindback with the Arizona Coyotes get? The one who looked like Bambi on skates in Dallas, or the one who posted a .924 save percentage down the stretch in Buffalo? It's a low-risk move either way (one year at $875,000) but there's a chance he becomes a movable asset next season much the same way Devan Dubnyk was for the Yotes in 2014-15.
• 3:33 p.m. Pierre Lebrun of TSN reports that the Bruins and Red Wings are in hot pursuit of Mike Green. Have to think that signing would be better received in Detroit than in Boston.
• 3:26 p.m. We have the details on the Alex Burmistrov contract. Pretty sweet deal for the Jets.
• 2:59 p.m. The dark ages have officially come to an end in Buffalo. Jack Eichel has signed his entry-level deal and will turn pro with the Sabres next season. Tough break for Boston University but the right move for Eichel, who has nothing left to prove at the amateur level. Look for him to play a second-line role behind Ryan O'Reilly.
• 2:42 p.m. Just when you thought that Toronto's end of the Phil Kessel trade couldn't look any worse ... well, now there's a chance that first rounder will become a second. Brutal.
• 2:40 p.m. Maple Leafs find their Kessel replacement (well, sort of) in P-A Parenteau. The former Canadiens winger signs on at a bargain rate of $1.5 million for one-year. Despite his steadily declining production, this is as close to a no-risk move as anyone will make today. Low term, low dough. If he chips in 15 goals, this deal is a winner.
• 2:00 p.m. Glen Sather has stepped down as general manager of the New York Rangers. He'll be replaced by assistant Jeff Gorton. Rumors are swirling that Gorton is ready to kick off his first day on the job by trading defenseman Keith Yandle.
• 1:58 p.m. Three years after they were involved in the most controversial deal of the 2012 trade deadline, both Zack Kassian and Cody Hodgson have been cast aside by the teams that acquired them. Hodgson was bought out by the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday and reportedly is on the verge of signing with the Nashville Predators. Kassian was dealt on Wednesday to the Montreal Canadiens along with a fifth-round pick for Brandon Prust.
For the Canucks, Prust will fill the physical void created with the trade of Kevin Bieksa to the Ducks. Meanwhile Kassian (who'll probably be in the market for a new jersey number) looks like he's entered the last-chance phase of his career. The talent is there but the focus and the consistency haven't followed. Hard to believe that's going to change in Montreal, but at least he'll save the Habs $750,000 against the cap.
• 1:55 p.m. Let's put together all the pieces of the massive Pittsburgh-Toronto deal in one spot, shall we? The Penguins get Phil Kessel, Tyler Biggs, Tim Erixon and a 2016 second rounder that was originally their own. Toronto gets Scott Harrington, Kasperi Kapanen, Nick Spaling, a first and a third in 2016. The Leafs also retain 15% of Kessel's $8 million annual salary.
• 1:52 p.m. The Lightning have signed former Senators forward Erik Condra. The 28-year-old winger has a long personal relationship with Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, and could be a good fit on the fourth line, replacing veteran Brenden Morrow, as well as chipping in on the penalty kill. The deal is three years at an AAV of $1.25 million.
• 1:35 p.m. Another angle to the Penguins-Leafs deal? Darren Dreger is reporting that two more bodies are heading to Pittsburgh from Toronto. Tyler Biggs was a massive draft miscalculation, one of just three players from the class of 2010 who has yet to appear in the NHL. The big-bodied winger has little-to-no potential. Tim Erixon is another warm body who likely is ticketed for the AHL. With this deal he moves on to his sixth NHL organization since being selected 23rd in 2009, a testament both to his obvious physical talent and a give-a-crap meter that rarely moves above zero.
Biggs and Tim Erixson to Pens as well— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) July 1, 2015
• 1:30 p.m. The prodigal son has returned to Winnipeg. Alex Burmistrov, who bolted for the KHL after a running disagreement with former coach Claude Noel, has signed a two-year deal with the Jets. The eighth pick in the 2010 draft is best suited to play center but may get a chance to replace Michael Frolik on the wing alongside Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little on the top line.
• 1:20 p.m. The Kings have signed Jhonas Enroth for one year at $1.25 million to serve as their back-up to Jonathan Quick. He was really hoping to land somewhere that would give him a chance to start, but his sluggish finish to the season in Dallas pretty much killed that off. The short term of this deal ensures he'll get another chance next summer.
• 1:15 p.m. Elliotte Friedman reporting that another Pittsburgh-Toronto deal is in the works that would help the Pens create some cap space. Nick Spaling and a second-round pick could be involved. Friedman also reports that Barret Jackman has signed with the Nashville Predators for two years at $2 million per. Jackman is painfully slow and extremely limited with the puck on his stick, but he can kill penalties and provide an element of physical play. More important, he'll provide veteran insurance at a reasonable price for a team that's looking to take another step forward this spring.
• 12:57 p.m. Chris Johnston reports that former Winnipeg Jet Michael Frolik has signed with the Calgary Flames.
• 12:52 p.m. Nick Kypreos reports that Phil Kessel has been traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The return is rumored to be 2014 first rounder Kasperi Kapanen, defense prospect Scott Harrington and a draft pick.
If this is the deal, it looks like a huge win for the Pens. They get a gamebreaking goal scorer in Kessel, who can slide into a support role alongside Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin and re-energize an offense that struggled down the stretch this season.
For the Leafs, this return appears to be much less than was anticipated. Harrington is a bona fide prospect but he doesn't project to be a difference maker. Guys like him who can play steady, defensive-minded bottom-four minutes have value but nowhere what a Derick Pouliot or Olli Maatta bring. Kasperi Kapanen is an intriguing forward, but he's all potential at this point. And even if the pick is a first rounder, it's likely to be late in the round. Outside of getting his contract off the books and his corrosive personality out of the room, it's hard to see how the Leafs got value here.
• 12:48 p.m. The Flyers have landed their back-up to Steve Mason, signing Michal Neuvirth to a two-year deal with an AAV of $1.625 million, or about half of what he made last season. Seems like an excellent value for a 27-year-old keeper with aspirations of becoming a No. 1. That's another win for Philly GM Ron Hextall, who apparently sat on a horseshoe sometime in the past two weeks.
• 12:44 p.m. The Oilers have snared their top target, signing defenseman Andrej Sekera to a six-year deal with a $5.5 million AAV. For a player likely to play on their top pair, the cap hit is reasonable. The term might seem onerous, but Sekera is just 29 so the meat of this deal will take him through his prime years.
• 12:40 p.m. San Jose GM Doug Wilson makes his second big move in two days, signing defenseman Paul Martin to a four-year deal. It's an odd signing. The 34-year-old is big and mobile and can log huge minutes, but he struggles against physical opponents ... which is exactly what he's going to be fed on a daily basis playing in the West.
• 12:35 p.m. Multiple sources have the Boston Bruins in discussions with Chicago about winger Bryan Bickell. It's 1996 all over again in Boston.
• 12:33 p.m. Buzz is building that a Western Conference team has joined the bidding for Toronto sniper Phil Kessel. The betting here? It'll be the Nashville Predators. They have the assets in the system, the cap space and the desire to add a potent offensive weapon.
• 12:30 p.m. Ryan Kennedy is reporting that Chicago has won the bidding for Russian free agent Viktor Tikhonov.
• 12:25 p.m. Things are getting interesting in Edmonton. Mark Letestu can fill that bottom-six center role that opened up when the Oilers traded Boyd Gordon to Arizona on Tuesday. He's smart, versatile and the sort of player whose work ethic will set a great example for the kids on that team.
• 12:17 p.m. The first noteworthy defenseman is off the board. Former Duck Francois Beauchemin signs with the Avalanche, three years with an AAV of $4.45 million. Nice player but he looked out of gas late in the season/throughout the playoffs. Hard to understand then why the Avs were willing to lock him up through age 37. They better get a lot of value out of this first year because the last two could be very sketchy.
• 12:15 p.m. Thomas Greiss signs a two-year, $3 million deal to back-up Jaroslav Halak with the New York Islanders.
• 12:10 p.m. Toronto signs former Rangers No. 7 blueliner Matt Hunwick to a two-year, $2.4 million deal. He'll likely provide a veteran presence on their third pair. He can play either side, but he'll likely be used on the right.
• 12:02 p.m. That sound you hear is hearts breaking in Boston. Lots of buzz out of Buffalo about the imminent signing of No. 2 pick Jack Eichel, who would then leave college to turn pro.
• 12:01 p.m. KHL free agent Viktor Tikhonov is drawing plenty of attention. A 2008 first round pick of the Coyotes, he's a top-nine type who can bring some offensive punch. Keep an eye on the Penguins here. The 27-year-old C/RW played with Sergei Plotnikoff, who recently signed with Pittsburgh, on the Russian National Team and might be a comfortable fit alongside Evgeni Malkin.
Chicago, Tampa and Calgary all in the running for Viktor Tikhonov— Ryan Kennedy (@THNRyanKennedy) July 1, 2015
• 12 noon Veteran winger Eric Fehr is in high demand. Has the scoring touch and defensive reliablity to fit nicely on any of Edmonton's top three lines. Never has figured out how to take full advantage of his size, though.
Oilers one of many teams who have inquired about Eric Fehr.— Ryan Rishaug (@TSNRyanRishaug) July 1, 2015
• 11:56 a.m. Goalie Karri Ramo re-signs with the Flames. One year, $3.8 million.
• 11:55 a.m. The San Jose Sharks have reportedly cooled on Paul Martin and shifted their focus to Cody Franson. Franson likely will cost more, but is better in transition and has a higher offensive upside.
• 11:45 a.m. The Penguins are reportedly interested in winger Alexander Semin, who was bought out on Tuesday by the Carolina Hurricanes. Remember, Pittsburgh's Jim Rutherford was the GM who signed Semin to the contract that the Canes couldn't wait to dump yesterday.
• 11:40 a.m. Nick Kypreos says Phil Kessel could be moved as soon as today and the Penguins are in hot pursuit. Any deal likely would involve at least one of Pittsburgh's young, NHL-ready blueliners like Derick Pouiliot or Olli Maatta as the centerpiece, with a first-round pick and at least two other assets moving to Toronto in return.
• 11:30 a.m. Multiple reports coming in that the Blues are close to re-signing RFA forward Vladimir Tarasenko. No surprise there. Unlike Boston and Chicago, St. Louis had plenty of room under the cap to get a deal done so they weren't vulnerable to a predatory offer sheet. Once they make that commitment though, will they move one of their other core forwards (David Backes, T.J. Oshie) in order to shake up a group that might be a bit stale? Once GM Doug Armstrong committed to another year with coach Ken Hitchcock, he set the table for at least one significant player move. Stay tuned.
• 10:45 a.m. The Mike Ribeiro deal is done. Nashville has agreed to a two-year deal with the 35-year-old center with an AAV of $3.5 million. Good term and a very reasonable cap hit for a No. 1 center for the Preds and a nice fit for Ribeiro. You also have to believe that GM David Poile has done his due diligence on the sexual assault suit facing Ribeiro and he feels comfortable dealing with whatever fallout, if any, is coming.
• 10:35 a.m. Mike Heika is reporting that the Dallas Stars are close to signing Patrick Eaves to a one-year extension. The veteran winger struggled with injuries last season, but his versatility made him a valuable top-nine option when he was healthy.
• 10:30 a.m. Darren Dreger on TSN 1290: "The Leafs are in on everything." Tyler Bozak to Arizona makes a lot of sense as an option.
• 10:10 a.m. New Blue Jacket Brandon Saad, speaking about a possible contract extension on what may be the most comically inept teleconference ever: "My agent's talking to them and I'm just waiting to hear from him."
• 10 a.m. It's worth noting that Artem Anisimov's contract extension kicks in for the 2016-17 season. He'll be paid $3.283 million next season. The Hawks have about $1.4 million worth of cap space available with 17 players under contract.
• 9:35 a.m. Another player expected to re-sign long-term today: new Blackhawk Artem Anisimov. The 27-year-old center, acquired Tuesday in the shocking Brandon Saad deal, is expected to sign a five-year extension with an AAV of $4.55 million per Mark Lazerus. That's a significant investment considering the impact on the team's salary structure.
• 9:30 a.m. Keep in mind that today is the first day that players in the final year of their current contract can be re-signed to extensions. That means we could hear about new, long-term deals for players like Steven Stamkos, Ryan O'Reilly, Anze Kopitar, Mark Giordano, Ryan Kesler, David Backes and others. Of those, O'Reilly is the most likely to come to an agreement today.
• 9:15 a.m. Darren Dreger reporting that the Ducks and newly acquired defenseman Kevin Bieksa are on the verge of signing a two-year extension. It's tough to justify a $4 million AAV for his regular season play, but he'll earn his keep during the playoffs.
• 9:10 a.m. Keep an eye on former Sharks netminder Thomas Greiss. With several teams in the market for a backup, including Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, the Islanders and the Rangers, he could be in demand later today.
• 8:00 a.m. Louis Jean of TVA is reporting the Predators are on the verge of re-signing Mike Ribeiro. They're getting a talented player, but with a sexual assault allegation hanging over his head they're buying a whole lot of distraction as well.