Breakup of Blue Jackets highlights start of NHL free agency

  • FILE - In this March 20, 2018, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Artemi Panarin (9) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal against the New York Rangers during the second period of an NHL hockey game in New York. The New York Rangers' rebuild just took a giant leap forward. Winger Artemi Panarin, the top free agent available this offseason, signed a seven-year, 81.5 million deal to join the Rangers, a person with knowledge of the signing told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team didn't announce terms of the deal Monday, July 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File) Julie Jacobson

  • FILE - In this March 31, 2019, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky looks on during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Buffalo Sabres, in Buffalo, N.Y. The Florida Panthers have signed goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to a seven-year contract. A person with knowledge of the signing says Bobrovsky's deal is worth 70 million for a salary-cap hit of 10 million per season. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Monday, July 1, 2019, because the team did not announce the terms of the contract. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File) Jeffrey T. Barnes

  • FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2019, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets' Matt Duchene skates during warmups before an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa. A person with direct knowledge of the agreement says the Nashville Predators have added free agent forward Matt Duchene after agreeing to terms on a seven-year contract worth 56 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal hasn't been officially announced. (Fred Chartrand/The Canadian Press via AP, File) Fred Chartrand

  • FILE - In this April 3, 2019, file photo, Ottawa Senators defenseman Cody Ceci (5) controls the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Cody Ceci, a 2020 third-round pick and minor leaguers Ben Harpur and Aaron Luchuk from the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, forward Connor Brown and minor leaguer Michael Carcone. The teams announced the trade early on Monday, July 1, 2019, roughly three and a half hours before the start of free agency. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File) Mary Altaffer

  • FILE - In this April 1, 2019, file photo, Toronto Maple Leafs' Nikita Zaitsev skates with the puck during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New York Islanders, in Uniondale, N.Y. The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Cody Ceci, a 2020 third-round pick and minor leaguers Ben Harpur and Aaron Luchuk from the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, forward Connor Brown and minor leaguer Michael Carcone. The teams announced the trade early on Monday, July 1, 2019, roughly three and a half hours before the start of free agency. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) Frank Franklin II

  • FILE - In this Oct. 9, 2018, file photo, Carolina Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho (20) gathers in the puck in front of Vancouver Canucks' Nikolay Goldobin (77) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C. The Montreal Canadiens have tendered an offer sheet to Carolina Hurricanes restricted free agent forward Sebastian Aho. The offer sheet is worth 42.27 million over five years, an annual salary cap hit of 8.54 million. If Carolina does not match it, the Canadiens must send a first-, second- and third-round pick to the Hurricanes. It's the first offer sheet in the NHL since 2013. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker, File) Karl B DeBlaker

  • FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2018, file photo, Toronto Maple Leafs' Connor Brown (28) skates against the Carolina Hurricanes during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C. The Toronto Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Cody Ceci, a 2020 third-round pick and minor leaguers Ben Harpur and Aaron Luchuk from the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, forward Connor Brown and minor leaguer Michael Carcone. The teams announced the trade early on Monday, July 1, 2019, roughly three and a half hours before the start of free agency. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome) Gerry Broome

  • FILE - In this Dec. 22, 2018, file photo, San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif. San Jose is up against the cap after re-signing defenseman Erik Karlsson to a long-term contract and have also lost captain Joe Pavelski to Dallas. The Stars signed Pavelski to a 21 million, three-year contract, adding another scoring threat to their leading duo of Tyler Seguin and captain Jamie Benn. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar, Fle) Tony Avelar

  • FILE - In this May 8, 2019, file photo, Carolina Hurricanes' Sebastian Aho faces reporters during a media availability in Boston. The Montreal Canadiens have tendered an offer sheet to Carolina Hurricanes restricted free agent forward Sebastian Aho. The offer sheet is worth 42.27 million over five years, an annual salary cap hit of 8.54 million. If Carolina does not match it, the Canadiens must send a first-, second- and third-round pick to the Hurricanes. It's the first offer sheet in the NHL since 2013. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) Steven Senne

Published: 7/1/2019 7:23:48 PM

Artemi Panarin is heading to the Big Apple, Matt Duchene to Music City and goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to South Beach as the expected breakup of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ star core of players became a reality Monday.

Add in veterans Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski signing with Dallas and provincial rivals Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators completing a multiplayer trade and there was plenty of buzz to open the NHL’s free agency signing period.

And once many of the big-name players were off the board, the Montreal Canadiens made the bold move of tendering an offer sheet to Carolina Hurricanes restricted free agent forward Sebastian Aho. The move leaves Carolina seven days to match the Canadiens’ five-year, $42.27 million offer or elect to receive Montreal’s first-, second- and third-round picks as compensation.

Hurricanes GM Don Waddell first joked he was surprised the offer wasn’t higher before adding the team will review the offer. Last week, Waddell said the team would match any offer to its third-year star, who had a career-best 30 goals and 83 points last season.

It is the first offer sheet in the NHL since 2013, when the Calgary Flames tried to acquire then-Avalanche center Ryan O’Reilly only to have Colorado match the contract. The last time a team didn’t match an offer sheet was in 2007, when Dustin Penner signed a five-year, $21.5 million offer from Edmonton and the Oilers sent first-, second- and third-round picks to Anaheim when the Ducks didn’t match it.

Panarin proved to be the biggest prize by signing a seven-year contract with the New York Rangers worth $81.5 million. The NHL’s 2016 rookie of the year has topped 20 goals in each of his four seasons and had a career-best 87 points (28 goals, 59 assists) last year.

Bobrovsky signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Florida Panthers, where he will take over the starting duties after Roberto Luongo retired last month. Duchene signed a seven-year, $56 million contract with the Nashville Predators, who are retooling their roster and freed up a significant chunk of salary-cap space by trading defenseman P.K. Subban to New Jersey.

The Blue Jackets came away as the losers in free agency. Columbus took the risk of adding Duchene and retaining Panarin and Bobrovsky at the trade deadline in February, all the while knowing they were in the final years of their contracts. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekäläinen expressed no regrets over making the decision, saying he wanted to keep his team’s core intact to spur a deep playoff run. Though the Blue Jackets won their first playoff series in franchise history, they were eliminated by Boston in the second round.

“If it happens, we’re not going to be shocked,” Kekäläinen said of the possibility of losing his three stars. “If it is the case, then we just move forward with what we have and start building other ways.”

The Blue Jackets began restocking their lineup by signing winger Gustav Nyquist to a four-year deal with an average salary of $5.5 million. Nyquist, 29, set a career high with 60 points last season split between Detroit and San Jose. Columbus also re-signed defenseman Ryan Murray to a two-year, $9.2 million contract and backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo, a former Springfield Falcon, to a one-year contract.

There was plenty of movement elsewhere.

Pavelski, the longtime San Jose captain, left to sign a three-year, $21 million contract with Dallas. He was joined by Perry, who signed with the Stars after having his contract bought out by Anaheim. The Sharks also lost winger Joonas Donskoi, who signed a four-year $15.6 million with Colorado. They were able to re-sign restricted free agent forward Timo Meier.

Dallas lost veteran forward Jason Spezza, who is heading to play in his hometown of Toronto after signing a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Maple Leafs.

The day began with two rivals helping each other out of a jam by way of a trade.

The Maple Leafs acquired defenseman Cody Ceci, a 2020 third-round pick and minor leaguers Ben Harpur and Aaron Luchuk from the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, forward Connor Brown and minor leaguer Michael Carcone. The teams announced the trade early Monday, roughly 3½ hours before the start of free agency.

The deal represents a much-needed change of scenery for Ceci, Zaitsev and Brown. Zaitsev had asked to be traded and waived his no-trade clause to complete the move across Ontario.

Toronto, which still needs to sign restricted free agent forward Mitch Marner to a new contract, clears $6.6 million in badly needed cap space. Ceci is a restricted free agent who needs a new contract and has arbitration rights, but the Maple Leafs likely need him on their thin blue line.

Zaitsev is signed for $4.5 million a season through 2023-24. Brown has one year left on his contract and should get more ice time in Ottawa than in Toronto with its glut of talented young forwards.

Aside from Bobrovsky, numerous goalies switched teams, including a free-agent swap in Alberta: Cam Talbot left Edmonton to sign a one-year, $2.75 million with Calgary. And Mike Smith left Flames to sign a one-year $2 million contract with the Oilers.

■ In Pittsburgh, the Penguins used some of their wiggle room under the salary cap created by trading Phil Kessel to Arizona to sign Winnipeg forward Brandon Tanev to a six-year deal with an average annual value of $3.5 million.

■ In Minnesota, the Wild signed free agent right wing Mats Zuccarello to a five-year, $30 million contract, and right wing Ryan Hartman on a two-year, $3.8 million contract.

■ In Detroit, the Red Wings signed center Valtteri Filppula to a two-year $6 million contract, reuniting him for a third time with former teammate and newly hired GM Steve Yzerman.




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