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NHL - US Sports: Biggest free agency deals to date

The NHL's free agency window opened on 13th July and there has been much movement already.

Nazem Kadri and John Klingberg top the names remaining on the market, but many stars have already been snapped up. We take a look at the headlines so far:

Gaudreau shocks the hockey world

Johnny Gaudreau's move from the Calgary Flames to the Columbus Blue Jackets isn't just the biggest free agency signing of 2022 but also one of the most jaw dropping of all-time. 

Following a desire to play closer to his East Coast home, the 28-year-old ended an eight-year stay with the Calgary Flames to sign a seven-year, ¢68.25-million contract with the Blue Jackets, who announced the deal out of nowhere. 

Gaudreau finished second of all players for points in the NHL last season (115; 40 goals, 75 assists) and so his decision to move to one of the more unfashionable markets in the league came as a huge surprise.

Sold on the city to bring up his first born, and the franchises project by General Manager Jarmo Kekäläinen, Columbus's acquisition of Gaudreau is a huge coup and one of many big stories in free agency. 

Goalie carousel

Several teams will begin the NHL season with a new face between the pipes. Stanley Cup Champion Darcy Kuemper signed the largest deal in free agency moving from the Colorado Avalanche to the Washington Capitals.

The 32-year-old agreed to a five-year, $26.25-million contract with the Capitals after the Avalanche traded for New York Rangers' Alexandar Georgiev on a cheaper deal in consideration of the cap.

Washington, 30/1 for the Stanley Cup, moved Vitek Vanecek to the New Jersey Devils and Ilya Samsonov signed for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who also traded for Matt Murray from the Ottawa Senators. 

A two-time Stanley Cup Champion with the Penguins, Murray has struggled with form and fitness in recent seasons and is seen as a risky acquisition by the Leafs who allowed Jack Campbell to sign with the Edmonton Oilers on a five-year, $25-million contract.

Senators much improved

After acquiring top-scoring forward Alex DeBrincat from the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2022 NHL draft, the Senators made a further statement by snapping up veteran Claude Giroux who spent the end of last season with the Florida Panthers. 

The 34-year-old recorded 65 points (21 goals, 44 assists) in 75 games last season with the Panthers and Philadelphia Flyers who he had previously spent his whole NHL career with. 

His addition on a three-year, $19.5-million contract shows serious intent for a team which has been in long-time re-build mode.

Ottawa's re-signing of forward Josh Norrish to an eight-year, $63.6-million contract was also key to their future aspirations, with them 50/1 for the Stanley Cup. 

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Penguins get band back together

Despite heavy rumours to the contrary, the 22/1 Pittsburgh Penguins were able to agree deals with veteran defenceman Kris Letang (six-year, $36.6-million contract) and forward Evgeni Malkin (four-year, $24.4-million).

Whilst negotiations took longer than either player would have hoped for, the pair decided that one last opportunity to try and win a fourth Stanley Cup together, and with Captain Sidney Crosby, was too good to turn down. 

The influential trio will also have Rickard Rakell on side after the winger signed a six-year, $30-million contract to remain with the team who acquired him from the Anaheim Ducks last season. 

Kane returns to Oil country 

The Edmonton Oilers took a chance on 30-year-old Evander Kane after his contract was ripped up by the San Jose Sharks last season. 

He repaid their faith by amassing 39 points (22 goals, 17 assists) in 43 regular season games before he scored the joint-most goals of any player in the Stanley Cup playoffs with 13. 

His goal-scoring form helped the Oilers reach the Western Conference Final and he has been rewarded with a four-year, $20.5-million contract extension. 

DeAngelo is a Flyer

Speaking of controversial players who proved themselves worthy of a big contract in free agency, on the back of a successful season with the Carolina Hurricanes, 26-year-old Tony DeAngelo was signed by the Philadelphia Flyers on a two-year, $10-million contract.

DeAngelo had his contract bought out by the New York Rangers in 2020/21 but bounced back with the Hurricanes last season scoring 51 points (10 goals, 41 assists) in 64 games, plus 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in 14 playoff games. 

Hurricanes making moves 

DeAngelo is just one of several Hurricanes to depart in free agency.  

Most notably, centreman Vincent Trocheck left for a seven-year, $39.375-million deal with the New York Rangers, and Max Domi took a one year, $3-million offer from the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Carolina quickly replenished their line-up though acquiring popular offensive blue-liner Brent Burns from the San Jose Sharks and high-scoring forward Max Pacioretty from the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Hurricanes, 11/1 for the Stanley Cup, also signed depth forward Ondrej Kase from the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

Avalanche retain depth 

Colorado's in-season depth acquisitions proved key to their winning of the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001, and they have managed to retain the more important pieces in free agency. 

Rugged defenceman Josh Manson signed a four-year, $18-million contract and veterans Andrew Cogliano and Darren Helm agreed to one-year deals worth $1.25-million.

Championship winning goal-scorer Artturi Lehkonen committed to a five-year, $22.5-million contract on top of Valeri Nichushkin who has been an Av since 2019, signing for eight years on a whopping $49-million offer.

Staal brothers 

Finally, one of the more fun stories from free agency saw the Presidents' Trophy holding Florida Panthers give the long-time NHL Staal brothers opportunity to play together once again.

Defenceman Marc signed a one-year, $750,000 contract, while centre Eric agreed a professional try-out deal. 

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