A handful of NHL teams spent Friday clearing out salary cap space with some big-money buyouts on the eve of free agency.
The Nashville Predators led the way by buying out Matt Duchene’s contract. The 32-year-old center had three years left on his deal at an annual cap hit of $8 million.
Duchene is the latest veteran player to leave Nashville since former coach Barry Trotz took over as general manager, replacing longtime executive David Poile. The Predators also traded Ryan Johansen to Colorado, continuing the path of a rebuild started when Poile dealt away a handful of players before the deadline in March.
The Winnipeg Jets also put former captain Blake Wheeler on unconditional waivers to buy out the final year of his contract. The Boston Bruins did the same with defenseman Mike Reilly and the Detroit Red Wings took the same step with Kailer Yamomoto a day after acquiring him from the Edmonton Oilers.
Edmonton continued the process of bringing back key players, re-signing forward Mattias Janmark to a $1 million contract for next season. Ken Holland, looking to help reigning MVP Connor McDavid win the Stanley Cup in what could be his final year as GM, has made it clear the Oilers are firmly in win-now mode, so this is likely not the end of their dealings.
“I’m looking to win,” Holland said Tuesday. “I don’t invest in green bananas at this stage of my life.”
Shifting into win soon mode, the Chicago Blackhawks signed winger Corey Perry to a $4 million contract for next season, a day after acquiring his rights from Tampa Bay. That was the latest step in their plan to surround No. 1 pick Connor Bedard with experienced players, which began earlier this week with a trade with Boston for forwards Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno.
Among other moves around the league, the New York Rangers tendered qualifying offers to defenseman K’Andre Miller and 2020 top pick Alexis Lafrenière, among others. They did not qualify defenseman Libor Hajek, meaning he’ll become an unrestricted free agent.
So will Wheeler, who looked to be on the outs in Winnipeg for some time. Incoming coach Rick Bowness stripped Wheeler of the captaincy last year in an attempt to fix the locker room culture around the Jets, and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had been looking to trade the speedy winger who turns 37 on Aug. 31.
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