NHL free-agent signings slow to trickle
"Nobody is in a rush today," says Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray
Buffalo Sabres general manager Tim Murray joked that he has run out of spending money two days into NHL free agency.
Most of his fellow executives appeared to be in the same boat Wednesday.
The frenzy of high-priced signings and big-name trades that took place to open the league's annual summer signing period Tuesday, slowed to a trickle a day later.
"I'm not surprised," Murray said, a day after he committed $46.38 million in salaries to sign four free agents. "Nobody's in a rush today because they're taking stock of what happened yesterday."
Nobody is in a rush today because they're taking stock of what happened yesterday- Sabres general manager Tim Murray
There were a few notable signings that took place on Wednesday.
The New York Islanders made the biggest splash by signing forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to four-year contracts. Grabovski's deal is worth $20 million, while Kulemin will make $16.75 million.
The Nashville Predators, who failed in a bid to land centre Jason Spezza in a trade with Ottawa, made an addition by signing veteran centre OlliJokinen to a one-year, $2.5-million deal.
"There's no doubt that the second day is a lot different than the first day," Predators GM David Poile said. "There were certainly, with all due respect to other teams out there, there were really no bargains [on the first day].
"I participated in that last year. You pay a lot to participate in the first day."
The Vancouver Canucks signed right wing Radim Vrbata to a two-year, $10-million deal. The 33-year-old Vrbata had 20 goals and 31 assists in 80 games last season for Arizona.
Forward Chris Bourque is back in the NHL after agreeing to a deal with the New York Rangers. The son of Hall of Fame defenceman Raymond Bourque, split last season playing in Russia and Switzerland.
And the New Jersey Devils re-signed fourth-line linemates, forwards Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta.
Just as notable was the list of players — many of them aging veterans — still on the market.
It's a group that included goalie Martin Brodeur, the league's career victory leader, forwards Dany Heatley, Mike Ribeiro, David Legwand, Ville Leino and Steve Ott.
Murray had considered bringing back Ott, Buffalo's former captain, who was traded to St. Louis in February. But Murray's interest waned after addressing the Sabres' leadership needs by signing former Canadiens captain Brian Gionta, and acquiring defenceman Josh Gorges in a trade with Montreal.
"I don't know if he's a possibility," said Murray, who spoke with Ott's agent on Tuesday night. "I said, 'There's still interest, but I can't certainly tell you not to pursue other things."'
Saku Koivu also is available, but the forward's future is uncertain after Anaheim decided not to re-sign him.
"Saku has not made a decision about his plans for next season, and is considering his options to continue his NHL career," Koivu's agent, Jeffrey Kowall, wrote in an email.
The Islanders were the busiest team Wednesday, as they also signed forward Cory Conacher, who split last season between Ottawa and Buffalo.
The 30-year-old Grabovski is a dependable two-way forward who had 13 goals and 22 assists in 58 games with Washington last season. The 27-year-old Kulemin had spent the previous six seasons with Toronto, where he had 84 goals and 111 assists in 421 NHL games.
In Nashville, Jokinen fills an immediate need on a team that has lacked offensive punch.
The 35-year-old is a seven-time 20-goal-scorer, who had 18 goals and 25 assists in 82 games for the Winnipeg Jets last season.
"Olli Jokinen is a proven veteran centre who will provide us with size, leadership and offensive ability in the tough Central Division and Western Conference," Poile said.
'Trying to get to the playoffs'
The Pittsburgh Penguins signed forward Steve Downie to a one-year, $1-million deal, a day after signing four players.
The Philadelphia Flyers signed defenceman Nick Schultz to a one-year deal. The 31-year-old had five assists in 69 games last season split between Edmonton and Columbus.
Dallas re-signed centre Vernon Fiddler to a two-year contract.
Carolina signed former Toronto centre Jay McClement to a one-year, $1-million deal.
And the San Jose Sharks added former Sabres enforcer John Scott, by signing the forward to a one-year contract.
In Buffalo, the Sabres focused their attention on formally welcoming Gionta, a day after he signed a three-year, $12.75 million deal. It's a homecoming for Gionta, who is from nearby Rochester. And he is part of a rebuilding plan in Buffalo (21-51-10), which is coming off a last-place finish.
"By no means am I going to come here and work miracles," the 35-year-old Gionta said. "The first step is trying to get to the playoffs.
"And I'm excited about being able to be part of that turnaround."