NHL free agency begins as Rangers pass on Prust

Brandon Prust.

The silly season has begun.
 
NHL free agent period kicked off Sunday as 56 players signed 96 years of contracts worth $192.150 million.
 
Yet the biggest names on the market are still up for the highest bidder as Zach Parise and Ryan Suter did not sign long-term deals yesterday. Both spent Canada Day receiving pitches from prospective employers. Nor were Rick Nash or Bobby Ryan traded. It is expected that both Parise and Suter will sign shortly which will jump-start the Nash and Ryan trade talks.   
 
Carolina made the day’s biggest splash with its announcement that Jordan Staal agreed to a 10-year, $60-million extension. The Hurricanes acquired Staal from Pittsburgh on the first day of the NHL Draft for Brandon Sutter, prospect defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 pick in the draft, which the Penguins used to select WHL Portland Winterhawks defenseman Derrick Pouliot.
 
“We are very pleased that Jordan has chosen to commit to the Hurricanes organization and to make North Carolina his home. At 23 years old he is just starting to come into his prime, and he now represents a cornerstone of our franchise for the long term,” Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford said in a statement.
 
Rutherford also announced that defenseman Joe Corvo (one year, $2 million) and goaltender Justin Peters (two years) signed with Carolina, while prospect forward Brett Sutter agreed to a one-year extension.
 
Peters’s deal calls for him to earn a guaranteed $250,000 next year, and he will make $525,000 or $105,000, dependent if he plays for the Hurricanes or their AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers, in 2012-13. He will make $550,000 in 2013-14. Sutter will make $550,000 (NHL) or $105,000 (AHL). He is guaranteed to earn $150,000.     
 
The 2012-13 season will mark Corvo’s third stint with the Hurricanes. In four years with Carolina, Corvo scored 36 goals and 111 points in 220 games. He has totaled 83 goals and 283 points in 643 NHL games.
 
“Joe and his family call Raleigh home,” Rutherford said. “He has had some of his best seasons while playing here. We are pleased to welcome him back and to add his veteran presence to our blue line.”
 
As the NHL’s 30 franchises waited for Parise’s and Suter’s decisions, most began the process of modifying their rosters for the 2012-13 season and beyond.
 
The Islanders signed right wing Brad Boyes (one year, $1 million) and defenseman Matt Carkner (three years, $4.5 million). Reportedly, the Islanders also agreed to a terms on a contract with Devils left wing Eric Boulton.      
 
“We’re extremely excited to add a player of Brad’s caliber to our team. He’s a gifted offensive player who will add a scoring touch to our lineup. We’re very happy to add Matt to our defensive core for the next three seasons. He brings good size and toughness to our blue line,” Islanders general manager Garth Snow said in separate statements.
 
The signing of Boyes ostensibly counteracts P.A. Parenteau agreeing to a four-year, $16-million contract with Colorado. Parenteau recorded 38 goals and 120 points in two seasons on the Island. He was incredibly durable as he played in 163 of 164 games with the Islanders.
 
“P.A. is a skilled winger who will instantly improve our offense. He’s a dynamic player who will help our power play and compliment our young centers,” Colorado general manager Greg Sherman said.
 
The Rangers re-signed defenseman Stu Bickel to a two-year, $1.5-million deal and Kris Newbury to a two-way, two-year deal. The Rangers also added right wing Arron Asham from Pittsburgh and Micheal Haley from the Islanders. Asham signed a two-year deal worth $2 million.
 
The signings of Bickel, Newbury, Asham and Haley are to offset the loss of Brandon Prust, who agreed to a four-year, $10-million contract with the Montreal Canadiens.

“I talked to [Rangers coach John Tortorella] today; I didn’t talk to [general manager Glen Sather]. My agent talked to Slats today,” Prust said. “Montreal showed a lot more interest.

“I thought there was a chance we could get [something] done [after the Rangers’ season ended]. I understand from the Rangers’ side it is a business. It was a sad, crazy, mixed emotion day.”

Montreal also agreed to terms with right wing Colby Armstrong (one year, $1 million) and defenseman Francis Bouillon (one year, $1.5 million). The Rangers also lost John Mitchell, who signed a two-year, $2.2-million deal with Colorado.
 
The Devils lost Alexei Ponikarovsky (one year, $1.8 million) to Winnipeg.

Follow NHL beat writer Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for all your breaking offseason free agency news.


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