July 01, 2014 - 1:15 PM
TORONTO - NHL teams wasted little time shelling out almost half a billion dollars in the first few hours of free agency, and in the process the landscape shifted in a lot of cities.
In Vancouver, the Canucks took another step toward becoming contenders again by giving goaltender Ryan Miller three years and $18 million. In Ottawa, the Senators shifted toward the future by trading Jason Spezza to the Dallas Stars.
In getting Spezza and signing Ales Hemsky, the Stars have moved toward the top of a fiercely competitive Western Conference. They were joined there by the Minnesota Wild, who inked top free agent Thomas Vanek to a $19.5-million, three-year deal.
Paul Stastny got the biggest contract on Day 1: four years and $28 million from the St. Louis Blues, who were interested in Spezza and also keeping pace with the Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, Chicago Blackhawks and other teams at the top of the West.
Jarome Iginla, whom the Boston Bruins were unable to retain after a strong season, got a $16-million, three-year deal on his 37th birthday from the Colorado Avalanche.
Of course not all of Tuesday's spending spree came from Western playoff teams. The rebuilding Buffalo Sabres brought left-winger Matt Moulson for five years and $25 million and signing former Montreal Canadiens captain Brian Gionta to a $12.75-million, three-year contract.
Armed with plenty of salary-cap space and money to spend under new ownership, the Florida Panthers shelled it out in the form of $27.5 million over five years to former Toronto Maple Leafs centre Dave Bolland and $16 million over four years to forward Jussi Jokinen.
Tying Bolland for the second-richest deal of the day was defenceman Brooks Orpik, who got the same terms with the Washington Capitals at the age of 33.
Two days after clearing oodles of space with a handful of trades, the Tampa Bay Lightning began spending it by signing defenceman Anton Stralman to a $22.5-million, five-year deal.
A vast majority of the top players got signed early on. Defenceman Matt Niskanen, centres Brad Richards and Olli Jokinen and winger Radim Vrbata were a few still left four hours into free agency.
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News from © The Canadian Press, 2014