Friday's NHL: Buyouts turn teams into free-agent buyers

Associated Press
Blue Jackets forward Scott Hartnell is among several players who have had their contracts bought out to free up cap space ahead of NHL free agency.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon was already talking about getting aggressive in the free-agent market.

Now he has some extra room to do that.

Florida was one of several teams to buy out a player in the last chance this offseason, clearing salary-cap space for the start of free agency Saturday.

The Panthers save $2.67 million by buying out forward Jussi Jokinen, the New Jersey Devils save almost $4.5 million by buying out forwards Michael Cammalleri and Devante Smith-Pelly, the Boston Bruins save $1.73 million by buying out forward Jimmy Hayes, the Winnipeg Jets save $1.17 million by buying out defenseman Mark Stuart and the Calgary Flames almost $2 million by buying out forward Lance Bouma and defenseman Ryan Murphy.

Add this to the Edmonton Oilers clearing space with the buyout of Benoit Pouliot, the New York Rangers with Dan Girardi and the Columbus Blue Jackets with Scott Hartnell and more than a few teams are ready to throw money around on the always-expensive July 1.

“We’ve identified the guys who we think are important as far as our future is concerned, and the right fit, and we’ll go attack that on July 1,” Tallon said.

With Jokinen off the books and after trading Reilly Smith to expansion Vegas, Florida will be shopping for wingers. The Panthers have more than $22 million in cap space now with which to lure free agents.

The Devils — who took Swiss center Nico Hischier with the top pick in the draft last week — are looking for just about everything. New Jersey won’t spend all of its $27 million in cap space, but defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, center Martin Hanzal and others could be a good fit.

Boston is also looking for a defenseman like Shattenkirk and lost Colin Miller in the expansion draft. The Bruins were big players in free agency a year ago signing forward David Backes and have $14 million to spend, minus whatever restricted free agent David Pastrnak costs.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney said he’s in “patient mode,” but needs could dictate how fast he changes that tune.

“Supply and demand a lot of the time dictates that,” Sweeney said Friday. “I’ve certainly explored some of these (players’) situations, but not anxious or overly anxious to jump the gun.”

Carolina, which cleared some space by trading goaltender Eddie Lack to Calgary on Thursday night, could jump the gun with $25 million to spend even after acquiring a new starter in Scott Darling. Hurricanes GM Ron Francis told reporters in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Friday that he has had conversations about bringing back veteran winger Justin Williams and seems poised to make the next moves to move into contender status.

“I’d say we’re looking at everything,” Francis said. “I’ve run different scenarios by (owner Peter Karmanos). Some of them certainly aren’t cheap options, and every time I’ve talked to Pete, he’s said, ‘If you think it makes our team better, you have my blessing to go ahead and do it.’”

Ice chips

The Sabres acquired defenseman Marco Scandella and former Sabres captain Jason Pominville from the Wild for forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno. The teams also swapped 2018 draft picks, with Minnesota picking up a third-round selection for a fourth-round pick.

... The Capitals re-signed defenseman Dmitry Orlov to a $30.6 million, six-year deal.

... Flyers No. 2 overall pick Nolan Patrick had a second abdominal surgery prior to being drafted and is expected to return to full activity in four to six weeks.

... The Flames signed defenseman Michael Stone to a three-year deal reportedly worth $10.5 million. The Flames acquired Stone from Arizona before last season’s trade deadline.