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Kraken land Grubauer; Lightning breakup continues

There was a method to the Seattle Kraken’s approach to preserve salary cap space while making their expansion draft selections.

Two weeks later, it led to the Kraken making one of the biggest splashes in free agency by signing goalie Philipp Grubauer to a six-year $35.4 million contract Wednesday. Seattle’s roster is suddenly beginning to take form with the addition of one of the top players on the market.

The 29-year-old Grubauer, who finished second in the NHL with 30 wins and third in the Vezina Trophy voting following his third season in Colorado, presents a significant upgrade over the three goalies the Kraken plucked off 30 teams’ rosters.

His signing also dealt a blow to the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Avalanche, who had difficulty squeezing him under their salary cap after re-signing captain Gabriel Landeskog a day earlier.

“He was the backbone of our team and a huge part of our success this past season,” Landeskog said after signing an eight-year, $56 million extension. “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.”

In Tampa Bay, the much anticipated breakup of the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning continued.

Forward Blake Coleman left to sign a six-year, $29.4 million deal with Calgary. And defenseman David Savard signed a four-year, $14 million contract with Montreal — the team the Lightning defeated in the Stanley Cup Final three weeks ago.

“We all knew it was going to happen,” Savard said of the Lightning’s breakup. “I think everybody in that dressing room knew a lot of guys were going to be leaving this summer, so I know it’s going to be a different team next year. But it was fun. Knowing everybody was going to leave after that run, we made it so special.”

Savard immediately steps in to fill the hole left on the Canadiens’ blue line with captain Shea Weber’s career uncertain due to a series of injuries.

Tampa Bay did shore up its long-term future by extending No. 1 center Brayden Point eight years through 2030 for $76 million. The Lightning made a handful of other moves, including bringing back 2020 Cup-winning defenseman Zach Bogosian on a three-year deal and adding Brian Elliott as a new backup goalie.

“I always knew in the back of my mind that I probably always wanted to play for Tampa again,” Bogosian said. “I didn’t know when that would be, but to have the opportunity come up, it was nice to jump on it.”

A flat salary cap — staying at $81.5 million for a third consecutive season as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — didn’t stop teams from transforming their rosters with a series of moves. It just means teams had to be more creative in clearing space in the days leading up to free agency before completing a combined 60 signings worth a whopping $405 million in the first two hours Wednesday.

Ryan Suter became the first player to sign a new contract when free agency began, joining the Dallas Stars on a $14.6 million, four-year deal. 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.”

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.

Of the higher profile players on the market, Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton and Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri remained unsigned, as was center Zach Parise, who was also bought out by the Wild.

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.

Goaltender 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. Among other goalie moves, Toronto signed Mrazek, Philadelphia added Martin Jones fresh off his buyout from San Jose, the Sharks signed James Reimer and the Canucks brought in Jaroslav Halak to replace Holtby.

The Golden Knights continued shaking up their roster by acquiring forward Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa for defenseman Nick Holden and a 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.

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