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The door was opened to the offseason free agent frenzy yesterday at noon ET, and it didn’t take long before several teams made impact moves across the league.
Locally, while our Bruins made no major moves, GM Peter Chiarelli was able to lock up two forwards yesterday for next season… one young and one old, one new face and one familiar one.
Fourth line forward Byron Bitz will return to the B’s, as the restricted free agent signed a two-year deal yesterday. Bitz, who made his debut with the Black & Gold this past season, saw a good amount of ice time as the season went along. Terms of his deal were not disclosed.
Bitz will likely be joined on the fourth line by newly acquired centerman Steve Begin, a well-traveled veteran who has spent most of his career in the bleu, blanc, et rouge of Montreal. Begin, 31, spent last season split between the Canadiens and Dallas Stars, traded to Dallas last February. In a combined 62 games last season, he posted a 7-5-12 stat line, with a -6 plus/minus mark. Begin inked a 1-year, $850K deal, according to TSN.
Also rejoining the Bruins farm system is blue-liner Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk, who made his NHL debut with the B’s this past season, spent much of the season in Providence. Boychuk has an outside shot of making the big boy squad for this coming year.
Elsewhere, teams league-wide went on spending sprees to improve their clubs. Focusing first on the Northeast Division, here’s a quick look at some of the bigger deals made on Day 1 of free agency…
Starting with the rivals from the great white North, Montreal made a few acquisitions yesterday to give their squad a much needed boost. The Habs added two blue-liners and two forwards to their arsenal, inking former Bruin big boy Hal Gill and veteran defenseman Jaroslav Spacek to new multi-year deals, while also adding forward Mike Cammalleri and former Devil Brian Gionta, both signing on with five-year contracts.
The other busy team in the division was the Toronto Maple Leafs. GM Brian Burke was able to swipe defenseman Mike Komisarek from the Habs, inking the 27-year-old to a new five-year deal worth $22.5m. Also, the Leafs added bruiser Colton Orr another former Bruin, to a four-year contract worth $1m annually.
The Sabres & Senators were smaller players in the free agent market yesterday, each only making one move. Buffalo’s only addition yesterday was a Bruins subtraction, as the Sabres lock up defenseman Steve Montador to a 2-year, $3.1 million deal. Montador joined the B’s at last season’s trade deadline. In Ottawa, familiar face Chris Neil will return to the Sens for the next four seasons, at $2m per year.
Other notable signings in the Eastern Conference yesterday… Marion Gaborik to the Rangers with a 5-yr, $37.5m deal… long-time Canuck defenseman Mattias Ohlund heads south to join the Lightning for the next seven years, at $3.75m annually… and former Bruin Mike Knuble, who spent the past four seasons in Philly, joins the Capitals on a new two-year deal.
Out West, several major signings highlighted free agency’s opening day. The Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik, re-signed with matching 5-year, $30.5m deals, keeping the pair of forwards in Vancouver. Also in the Canadian Northwest, the Flames bolstered their blue-line presence, inking former Florida Panther Jay Bouwmeester to a new five-year deal, earning him $6.68m per year. And the Western Conference champion Red Wings lost one of their heavy hitters to a division rival, as winger Marian Hossa inked an astounding 12-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks, worth a total of $62.8 million, by far the richest deal signed yesterday. While Detroit wasn’t able to hold onto Hossa, they were able to re-sign another one of their own, inking Swedish forward Johan Franzen to a new 11-year contract.
While many of the big name free agents are now off the market after a busy opening day to free agency, several players remain unemployed and available for the taking… most notably, a trio of former Canadiens, Alex Kovalev, Alex Tanguay, and long-time Montreal captain Saku Koivu.
Of course, getting back to the hometown squad, the main focus for the B’s front office remains on restricted free agents Phil Kessel and Matt Hunwick. Boston has roughly $7 million remaining under the salary cap to spend, and hope that both Kessel and Hunwick will fit into their future plans.