Smyth headlines avalanche of free-agent signings
Fans hoping to see veteran forward Ryan Smyth back in an Edmonton Oilers uniform received a rude awakening on Sunday night.
Smyth highlighted a flurry of free-agent signings by agreeing to a five-year $31.25-million US contract with the Colorado Avalanche.
Smyth was the fourth big free-agent catch of the day.
The New York Rangers locked up both Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, while speedster Daniel Brière signed a long-term contract with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Gomez signed a front-loaded deal worth $51.5 million that will see him earn $10 million next season. The Rangers will also pay Drury $35.35 million over the next five years, dishing out $7.1 million of the contract in each of thefirst two years.
Brière began the proceedings early Sunday by agreeing to an eight-year, $52-million contract with the Flyers.
The 31-year-old Smyth, who will average $6.25 million annually, strengthens a depleted Colorado team with his scoring production and hard work.
Smyth, a two-time Canadian Olympian, scored 36 goals and 32 assists in 71 games with the Edmonton Oilers and N.Y. Islanders last season. The rugged forward spent the first 11 seasons with the Oilers, but turned down a multi-year contract in February that would have paid him $5.4 million per season.
Unable to come to terms with Smyth, Edmonton traded him to the Islanders at the trade deadline for prospects, Ryan O'Marra, Robert Nilsson and New York's first-round pick in 2007.
The Oilers then used that pick to take defenceman Alex Plante at last month's entry draft in Columbus, Ohio.
Smyth let his agent, Don Meehan, inform Islanders general manager Garth Snow of his decision shortly before 11 p.m. ET on Sunday.
"It was obviously not what we wanted to hear, but I appreciated the call," said Snow, who made re-signing Smyth a top priority. "Don said we were right in it for Ryan's services until the very end and it was one of the hardest decisions he'd ever been a part of."
The signing of Gomez addresses a hole at centre on the Rangers second-line behind Brendan Shanahan. Gomez netted 13 goals and added 47 assists in 72 games for the New Jersey Devils last season.At just 27 years old, he has won two Stanley Cups in his seven seasons with the Devils.
In Drury, New York has found a replacement for departing free agent forward Michael Nylander on its top line.
Drury, 30, had a career season for the Sabres in 2007, scoring 37 goals and adding 32 assists in 77 games for the Buffalo Sabres. The eight-year veteran has also played for the Colorado Avalanche and Calgary Flames.
"It's pretty exciting," Rangers general manager Glen Sather said of his latest additions. "We ranked them both as number ones, and we never expected to get both of them."
Brière weighs options, chooses Flyers
Brière, 29, tallied a career-high 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) last season for the Buffalo Sabres.
Brière'scontract with the Flyers will pay the native of Gatineau, Que., an average of $6.5 million per season, with $10 million in the first year.
Sourcestold the Canadian Pressthat 10 teams made offers for the playmaker, and that it came down to a choice between Montreal and Philadelphia.
"Danny had many offers and lots of interest out there," said his agent, Pat Brisson. "He made sure to carefully look at his options. He is thrilled with the results."
In 483 career games with Phoenix and Buffalo, Brière has 376 points (162 goals, 214 assists).
Sunday's signing marked the latest effort by the Flyers to retool a roster that finished last season with an NHL-worst 56 points.
Two weeks ago, Philadelphiaacquired defenceman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell in a trade with the Nashville Predators, then signed both players to six-year deals: Timonen for $37.8 million and Hartnell for $25.2 million.
Last week, the Flyers chose winger James vanRiemsdyk of the U.S. junior development team with the second pick of the NHL draft.
Buffalo also has a pair of high-profile restricted free agents in 43-goal man Thomas Vanek and linemate Derek Roy.
With files from the Canadian Press and the Associated Press