NHL teams overcome flat cap to make splashes in free agency

NHL teams combined for a series of splashes in free agency, managing to make major moves despite the salary cap staying flat for a third straight year.

Over the first 12 hours of the signing period Wednesday, teams in the league signed 160-plus players to contracts worth more than $783 million.

Five players were given contracts for six or seven years and another dozen unrestricted free agents landed deals that were four or five years long.

Here’s a look at the biggest deals on Day 1:

PHILIPP GRUBAUER

The expansion Seattle Kraken pulled off the biggest surprise, signing Grubauer to $35.4 million, six-year deal. The 29-year-old Grubauer had an NHL-high seven shutouts last season for the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Colorado Avalanche. He was 30-9-1 last season with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage.

DOUGIE HAMILTON

Desperate to make the playoffs for the second time in a decade, the New Jersey Devils made a big investment to shoot for a turnaround. Hamilton made the most of his opportunity as one of the best players available by signing a $63 million, seven-year deal. The 28-year-old defenseman had 42 points in 55 games with Carolina last season and has 341 career points with Boston, Calgary and the Hurricanes.

BRAYDEN POINT

The salary cap prevented Tampa Bay from keeping its team together this summer, but the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions secured a key player for the rest of the decade. Point, the Lightning’s top center, signed a $76 million, eight-year extension that keeps him under contract through 2030.

ZACH HYMAN

Edmonton’s quest to surround two-time NHL MVP Connor McDavid with talent took a big step in the right direction. Toronto could not afford to keep the 29-year-old forward and the Oilers took advantage, signing him to a seven-year deal with an average annual value of $5.5 million. Hyman has experience setting up a superstar, playing with Auston Matthews the past five years.

PHILLIP DANAULT

The Los Angeles Kings signed Danault to a a $33 million, six-year deal. The two-way forward should help a franchise that has made the playoffs just twice since winning the Stanley Cup in 2014, failing to advance both times.

BLAKE COLEMAN

The Lightning had to let the gritty forward go and Calgary made adding him a priority, hoping he can help the Flames bounce back from their first losing season in five years. Coleman was afforded some long-term stability, getting a six-year deal worth $29.4 million.

RYAN SUTER

The Dallas Stars, shooting to rebound from a disappointing season after playing for the Stanley Cup in 2020, apparently believe the 36-year-old defenseman can help them now and in the future. And clearly, they were not alone in the pursuit of Suter. He was able to command a four-year contract worth $14.6 million and was the first player to sign a new deal when the market opened.

JADEN SCHWARTZ

Seattle chose to make subtle moves in the expansion draft, adding role players instead of spending a lot of money on bigger names. The expansion franchise spent a chunk of its cap space by signing Grubauer, but had money left to improve up front and on the back end with a pair of five-year contracts. Schwartz signed for $27.5 million and the Kraken are banking on him scoring 20-plus goals as he has four times in his career.

ALEXANDER WENNBERG

With an average value of $4.5 million, Seattle seems to believe his career-high 17 goals last season with Florida was more indicative of his potential. Wennberg had six underwhelming seasons of production previously with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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