Flurry of action in NHL free agency as Leafs lose O’Reilly, Sens sign Korpisalo

The Toronto Maple Leafs waved farewell to a number of familiar faces.

And added some big-time toughness up front along with skill on defence.

The Ottawa Senators, meanwhile, have a new No. 1 goaltender.

Ryan O’Reilly bolted Toronto as free agency opened Saturday, signing a four-year, US$18-million contract with the Nashville Predators after he was acquired via trade in February from the St. Louis Blues.

The Predators also plucked Luke Schenn from Toronto, inking the bruising defenceman to a three-year, $8.25-million deal. He had returned to the team that drafted him in 2008 from the Vancouver Canucks.

Michael Bunting then departed the Leafs for the Carolina Hurricanes on a three-year, $13.5-million contract. Toronto also lost defenceman Justin Holl to the Detroit Red Wings, who signed the polarizing blueliner to a three-year, $10.2-million deal.

The Penguins added centre Noel Acciari, who also came to Toronto in the O’Reilly deal, to a three-year, $6-million contract as Pittsburgh president of hockey operations Kyle Dubas — fired as Leafs general manager in May — made a series of splashes.

Toronto responded by adding hulking forward Ryan Reaves to a three-year term worth $4.05 million, while puck-moving defenceman John Klingberg heads to hockey’s biggest market for one season at $4.05 million.

The Leafs also lost Alexander Kerfoot to the Arizona Coyotes, who signed the forward to a two-year contract. Terms of the new agreement were not disclosed. Last season the 28-year-old recorded 10 goals and 22 assists in 82 games for Toronto.

“You need character in your team, and sometimes you need some characters,” Leafs GM general manager Brad Treliving said before later adding of Klingberg: “John would be probably the first one to tell you it didn’t go with exactly the way he wanted it to go last year, but he’s a really good player.”

The Senators, meanwhile, are hoping to have finally settled their long-term crease issues after inking Joonas Korpisalo to a five-year, $20-million contract.

“Goaltending was probably our biggest need,” Ottawa general manager Pierre Dorion said. “We feel we’ve addressed it.”

The Edmonton Oilers signed Connor Brown, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, re-uniting the forward with former junior teammate Connor McDavid.

The Vancouver Canucks added to their blue line by signing Carson Soucy to a three-year, $9.75-million contract, Ian Cole to a one-year pact worth $3 million, and Matt Irwin for one year at $775,000. The club also added forward Teddy Blueger on a one-year deal worth $1.9-million.

Oilers general manager Ken Holland said the market is tight for a number of teams because the salary cap again rose by just $1 million for 2023-24 as the league continues to recover from the financial hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s hard to hang onto your depth,” Holland said. “There’s an opportunity for players to go elsewhere and make more money.

“You can’t blame them.”

The big-money moves included defenceman Dmitry Orlov getting a two-year, $15.5-million deal with Carolina after the Bruins acquired him ahead of the deadline from the Washington Capitals.

Alex Killorn received a big pay day from the Anaheim Ducks with a four-year, $25-million deal after winning back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021.

Detroit signed centre J.T. Compher to a five-year, $25.5-million contract.

The Colorado Avalanche, who let Compher walk, inked Miles Wood for the next six years, and fellow forward Jonathan Drouin for one. Colorado also re-signed restricted free agent defenceman Bowen Byram for a combined $7.7 million over the next two seasons.

The Penguins re-signed goaltender Tristan Jarry to a five-year, $26.875-million contract, added defenceman Ryan Graves on a six-year deal worth $27 million, and inked forward Lars Eller for one year at $2.45 million.

The Coyotes also signed forward Jason Zucker from Pittsburgh for one year at a reported $5.3 million.

The Seattle Kraken inked defenceman Brian Dumoulin to a two-year, $6.3-million contract, and the Predators signed Gustav Nyquist to two-year, $6.37-million contract.

The Dallas Stars took advantage of the buyout market, signing centre Matt Duchene to a one-year, $3-million deal a day after Nashville cut him loose.

The Florida Panthers signed defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson for one year after the Vancouver Canucks bought out his contract, and added Dmitry Kulikov for the same length to bolster the blue line even further.

The New York Islanders signed Ilya Sorokin to an eight-year contract extension that starts in 2024-25 worth a reported $66 million. The club also re-signed forward Pierre Engvall and defenceman Scott Mayfield to seven-year deals, while netminder Semyon Varlamov is staying on four more seasons.

The Winnipeg Jets signed Vladislav Namestnikov to a two-year, $4-million contract, and are also bringing back goaltender Laurent Brossoit — in the Manitoba capital from 2018 to 2021 — for one year at $1.75 million.

And with the future of No. 1 option Connor Hellebuyck up in the air, the Jets added netminder Collin Delia for one year at $775,000.

Bought out by Winnipeg on Friday, former Jets captain Blake Wheeler signed a one-year deal with the New York Rangers for a reported $800,000.

Milan Lucic is heading back to Boston after signing a one-year, $1-million deal with the Bruins after departing the Calgary Flames. Boston also inked forward Morgan Geekie on a two-year deal worth $4 million, and defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk for one year at $1.05 million.

The Los Angeles Kings, who acquired Korpisalo prior to the trade deadline from the Columbus Blue Jackets, signed netminder Cam Talbot to a one-year, $1-million contract.

The Anaheim Ducks signed defenceman Radko Gudas from the Panthers, while the Buffalo Sabres picked up a pair of veteran blueliners Erik Johnson and Connor Clifton.

The Hurricanes re-signed netminders Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta. Andersen gets $6.8 million over two years, while Raanta will make $1.5 million in 2023-24.

The Tampa Bay Lightning signed forward Conor Sheary to a three-year, $6-million deal.

The Capitals signed forward Max Pacioretty, who’s coming off consecutive Achilles tendon injuries, to a one-year contract worth $2 million.

On the trade front, the Montreal Canadiens dealt defenceman Joel Edmundson to Washington for a seventh-round pick in 2024.

The annual free-agent bonanza returned to Canada Day for the first time since 2019 because of the pandemic’s impact on the league calendar since 2020, but issues with Twitter limited users to a capped number of posts that could be viewed on one of hockey’s busiest days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 1, 2023.


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