Ryan Suter became the first player to sign a new contract when NHL free agency began Wednesday, joining the Dallas Stars on a $14.6 million, four-year deal, and the expansion Seattle Kraken made a splash by signing goalie Philipp Grubauer.
Grubauer was among the top players on the market, and was signed to a six-year, $35.4 million contract.
Grubauer leaves Colorado after three seasons, and following a year in which he finished second in the NHL with 30 wins and was third in the Vezina Trophy vote as the league’s top goalie. In Seattle, he begins shoring up a Krakens roster that remains a work in progress in the two weeks since the expansion draft.
Suter, meantime, will count $3.65 million against the salary cap. Dallas also signed 2016 Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Braden Holtby for $2 million for next season after he was bought out by Vancouver.
Suter, a 36-year-old U.S.-born defenseman, was recently bought out by the Minnesota Wild.
“Ryan is a true professional and will be a great fit in our top four,” general manager Jim Nill said. “He has a huge influence on the game with his ability to defuse plays, which injects a sense of calmness into his teammates. He is able to play in every situation and as a veteran of 16 NHL seasons, his wealth of experience will be a great addition to our dressing room.”
Back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Blake Coleman was among the other top free agents to sign in the opening minutes of free agency. The gritty forward got $29.4 million over six years from the Calgary Flames. His old team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, were expected to make minor moves in free agency with limited cap space.
Defenseman David Savard became the latest player to depart Tampa Bay after signing a four-year, $14 million contract with Montreal, the team the Lightning defeated in the Stanley Cup Final. Savard fills a major hole at the Canadiens’ blue line with captain Shea Weber’s career uncertain due to a series of injuries.
The Canadiens lost defensive-checking center Phillip Danault to free agency after he signed a six-year, $33 million deal with the Los Angeles Kings.
Among the other moves around the league, Vegas re-signed defenseman Alec Martinez for $15.75 million over three years, the Edmonton Oilers were active, the New York Rangers added defenseman Patrik Nemeth and the goalie carousel continued spinning.
Forward Zach Hyman signed a seven-year, $38.5 million contract with the Oilers, who also traded Ethan Bear to Carolina for Warren Foegele. The Hurricanes were expected to sign multiple goaltenders in free agency after trading Alex Nedeljkovic to Detroit and letting Petr Mrazek leave.
Goalie Jonathan Bernier, who was dealt by Detroit to Carolina for Nedeljkovic, was allowed to become a free agent and signed a two-year, $8.25 million contact with New Jersey.
The Golden Knights continued shaking up their roster by acquiring forward Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa for defenseman Nick Holden and 2022 third-rounder.
Another defenseman was on the move, with the Blackhawks trading Nikita Zadorov to Calgary for a 2022 third-round pick.
New Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury continued to make New York bigger and tougher by signing defensemen Patrik Nemeth for three years and Jarred Tinordi for two. Nemeth is 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, and Tinordi is 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds.
Philipp Grubauer was among the top goaltenders available in free agency, along with Mrazek, James Reimer, Frederik Andersen and Antti Raanta.
The morning after re-signing with Colorado on a $56 million, eight-year deal, Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said he hoped Grubauer would return.
“At the end of the day that’s his decision, and, yeah, we’d love to have Grubi back, believe me,” Landeskog said. “He was the backbone of our team and a huge part of our success this past season, but at the end of the day I’m not going to tell Grubi what to do just like he didn’t try to tell me what to do.”