The Washington Capitals made a couple of bold moves, bolstering the blue line behind superstar Alex Ovechkin and giving defensive-minded coach Barry Trotz the pieces he sought to build a winner.
Washington signed defenseman Matt Niskanen to a seven-year, $40.25 million contract soon after sealing a $27.5 million, five-year deal with defenseman Brooks Orpik on Tuesday in the opening hours of NHL free agency.
When the market opened Tuesday, a flurry of moves were made as teams tried to make a splash to improve their rosters and fire up their fans.
Some franchises, though, stayed out of the fray and allowed other teams to perhaps overpay for the best players available.
Colorado veteran Paul Stastny cashed in on being available, signing a $28 million, four-year contract with the St. Louis Blues, a Central Division rival.
The Minnesota Wild signed forward Thomas Vanek to a $19.5 million, three-year deal, two summers after investing a lot in free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
The Vancouver Canucks gave goaltender Ryan Miller a three-year deal worth $18 million, hoping he will provide stability after trading away Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider.
Dallas got a jump on the competition before free agency began, acquiring high-scoring forward Jason Spezza in a trade with Ottawa, taking advantage of having space under the salary cap.
"A lot of the teams that are up against the cap, they can’t do anything," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. "We had lots of room. This worked out well for us. I look forward to Jason Spezza being a Dallas Star for many years."
The 31-year-old Spezza, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent next summer, had asked for a trade and previously turned down a deal that would have sent him to Nashville.
Before the sun set on Day 1 of free agency, more than 10 teams had handed out contracts worth more than $4 million a season.
The Buffalo Sabres, who had the fewest points in the NHL last season, and Florida Panthers, who were barely better, were very aggressive.
Florida invested tens of millions on free agents, adding centers Dave Bolland ($27.7 million, five years) and Jussi Jokinen ($16 million, four years) along with Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Willie Mitchell ($8.5 million, two years).
Buffalo infused its roster with veteran talent, giving forward Matt Moulson $25 million over five years and forward Brian Gionta a $12.75 million, three-year contract.
Sabres general manager Tim Murray said he was "excited," about the number of quality players interested in signing with the franchise.
"I’ve thought that all along, but you’re never sure until the clock hits 12," Murray said.
San Jose and Carolina were among the franchises hoping that drafting and developing players will help them more than offering big contracts to free agents.
"One of the more desperate days of the hockey season," Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos said. "A lot of our brethren are out running around trying to see how much money they can spend and when the dust settles they’ll figure out whether or not they have a hockey team."
Columbus, Toronto and Detroit invested a lot one year ago in some of the top free agents — Nathan Horton, David Clarkson and Stephen Weiss, respectively — and each team probably wishes it had spent that money on other players.Next Page >
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.