Sports NHL / Ducks

Paul Stastny, Thomas Vanek find new homes via NHL free agency

Anaheim signs 29-year-old defenseman Clayton Stoner to a four-year, $13-million deal
Teams make 70-plus signings worth more than $500 million at the start of NHL free agency
Paul Stastny, Thomas Vanek and Matt Niskanen among those who find new homes on first day of NHL free agency

So what does half a billion dollars buy these days?

For starters, the answer might cover the first day of NHL free agency. It was an unprecedented rush of frenzied spending, soaring past $500 million and 70-plus signings before dinner time Tuesday … and still going.

The previous first-day high, according to the Canadian cable network TSN, was $384 million in 2009. It was clear that mark would be taken down early on, despite concerns about a slightly lower salary cap for teams this upcoming season, $69 million.

Colorado center Paul Stastny, Montreal forward Thomas Vanek, Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen, St. Louis goalie Ryan Miller and Boston forward Jarome Iginla were among the headliners.

Stastny, who signed a four-year, $28-million deal with the St. Louis Blues, came away with the highest annual average value, $7 million per year. Vanek's deal with the Minnesota Wild was for three years and $19.5 million.

Niskanen, who had a career year with the Pittsburgh Penguins this past season with 10 goals and 46 points, came away with the most guaranteed money, signing a seven-year deal worth $40.25 million with the Washington Capitals.

Miller signed a three-year deal worth $18 million with the Vancouver Canucks and Iginla signed a three-year, $16-million deal with the Avalanche.

Before the free-agency period officially started, disgruntled center Jason Spezza was traded from the Ottawa Senators to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul and Alex Guptill, as well as a second-round pick in 2015.

The Ducks were fairly active Tuesday and the Stanley Cup champion Kings much less so, mostly having taken care of their to-do list. Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, who won the Cup twice in Los Angeles, found a new home, signing a two-year, $8.5-million deal with the Florida Panthers, joining his former Canucks teammate, goalie Roberto Luongo.

Anaheim signed free-agent, 29-year-old defenseman Clayton Stoner, a big physical presence, who spent his entire NHL career with the Minnesota Wild. The Ducks, looking for additional depth, also signed much-traveled goalie Jason LaBarbera to a one-year deal worth $750,000. The Kings acquired two unrestricted forwards, journeymen right wing Adam Cracknell (St. Louis) and left wing David Van der Gulik (Colorado), signing both to one-year deals.

Stoner's deal was somewhat surprising — a four-year, $13-million agreement. The 6-foot-4, 216-pounder was on the Wild's third-defense pair this past regular season, recorded 84 penalty minutes in 63 games and was highly effective in the postseason.

"You develop a relationship with the organization, a lot of roots here in Minnesota," Stoner said in a conference call. "But I just felt like it was time for a change. I think it'll be a better move for me to go to a team like Anaheim where I might be needed more and relied upon.

"A chance to win the Stanley Cup is going to be exciting for me. That's not to say there's anything wrong with Minnesota, but my opportunity here was just running out."

A trio of Ducks players landed elsewhere. Goalie Jonas Hiller signed with the Calgary Flames, center Mathieu Perreault landed in Winnipeg for three years and $9 million, and defenseman Stephane Robidas reached a three-year, $9-million agreement with Toronto.

"It's a hockey city. Being from Canada, you always dream of playing for a Canadian team," Perreault said on a conference call.

Hiller, who had lost the No. 1 job in Anaheim, will have the chance to be the starter in Calgary. His deal was for two years and $9 million. It should be noted that Calgary's president of hockey operations, Brian Burke, signed Hiller to his first contract when Burke was the Ducks' general manager.

"It's definitely going to be a little change from California," Hiller said in a telephone interview. "I'm sure it's going to make me feel more like Switzerland. It's probably going to take some time to adjust, especially off the ice. At the same time, it's probably better to be able to start a new chapter.

"It's something new, coming to a city where people are really about hockey, not like California where they just care … it's a thing to go to at the moment."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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