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Capitals, Hawks add centres while Habs find Souray's replacement in Hamrlik

Veteran Michael Nylander signed a US$19.5 million, four-year contract with the Caps, giving star winger Alexander Ovechkin the set-up centre he hasn't had in his two NHL seasons.

The second day of free agency wasn't as chaotic but still provided some key signings. Montreal reeled in defenceman Roman Hamrlik, Chicago landed centre Robert Lang, Los Angeles signed blue-liner Tom Preissing and Pittsburgh acquired both winger Petr Sykora and defencemen Darryl Sydor.

In other moves Tuesday:

-The Vancouver Canucks re-signed defenceman Lukas Krajicek, 24, to a $2.2-million, two-year deal.

-The Toronto Maple Leafs re-signed winger Bates Battaglia, 31, to a $1.3-million, two-year contract.

-The Nashville Predators signed unrestricted free-agent forward Jed Ortmeyer to a $1.5-million, two-year contract.

-The New York Rangers re-signed 31-year-old defenceman Jason Strudwick.

-The Minnesota Wild signed centre Steve Kelly.

But Nylander was the big signing of the day, a 34-year-old Swede who set career highs in goals (26), assists (57) and points (83) with the New York Rangers last season. The Edmonton Oilers were believed to also be in on the bidding for the unrestricted free agent, but the veteran chose Washington.

The Caps also added defenceman Tom Poti and centre Viktor Kozlov on Sunday, bolstering a lineup that needed bolstering.

The Canadiens lost out after making serious bids on Briere and Ryan Smyth on Sunday but GM Bob Gainey did connect with Hamrlik, signing the 33-year-old unrestricted free agent to a $22-million, four-year deal.

Hamrlik, who will $5.5 million a year, had 38 points (7-31) and a plus-22 rating in 75 regular-season games with the Calgary Flames last season. The six-foot-two, 210-pounder is a three-time NHL all-star who has 505 career points (131-374) in 999 games.

"My priority was to play in Canada," Hamrlik said on a conference call. "Unfortunately I didn't re-sign with the Calgary Flames. But I talked to my agent and said I'd love to play in Canada. It's like playing soccer in England or something like that.

"And especially for the Montreal Canadiens, such a big team."

The Ottawa Senators lost Preissing to the Kings, who signed the U.S.-born blue-liner to an $11-million, four-year contract. The 28-year-old unrestricted free agent had 38 points (7-31) in 80 regular-season games with the Senators last season while posting a staggering plus-40 rating. He added seven points (2-5) in 20 playoff games.

Preissing will earn $2.75 million a season, a huge raise over the $600,000 he made last season in Ottawa.

The Blackhawks signed the unrestricted free agent Lang to an $8-million, two-year contract. The 36-year-old had 52 points (19-33) in 81 games with the Detroit Red Wings last season.

"He wants to play with (Martin) Havlat and he'll get the chance," Hawks GM Dale Tallon told The Canadian Press. "He wanted to be here. This was a good signing right off the bat."

The Penguins were busy, reigning in a pair of veterans in Sykora and Sydor - both to $5-million, two-year deals. The Penguins also brought back backup goaltender Dany Sabourin after he spent part of last season with Vancouver, and re-signed defenceman Rob Scuderi.

Sykora, 30, had 53 points (22-31) in 82 games with Edmonton last season while Sydor, 35, had 21 points (5-16) and a minus-4 rating in 74 games with Dallas, where he has spent most of his career.



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