By JOHN WAWROW and STEPHEN WHYNO
AP Hockey Writers
A day after the New Jersey Devils missed out on the top prize in NHL free agency, they landed two-time Stanley Cup champion Ondrej Palat on Thursday.
The Washington Capitals, meanwhile, continued their busy offseason by agreeing to terms with former Chicago Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome, according to a person with knowledge of the move who person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deal had not been announced.
The Devils signed Palat to a $30 million, five-year contract. The left-winger had 52 points in 71 games during Tampa Bay’s three consecutive trips to the Cup Final. He finished sixth in Conn Smythe Trophy voting as playoff MVP this year.
Tampa Bay attempted to keep the 31-year-old from Czechia and defenseman Jan Rutta, who signed with Pittsburgh, but couldn’t make the salary cap numbers work. Instead, general manager Julien BriseBois signed defensemen Mikhail Sergachev and Erik Cernak and center Anthony Cirelli to eight-year extensions through 2031.
The Devils landed Palat after losing the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gaudreau signed a $68.25 million, eight-year contract with Columbus after deciding to leave Calgary. His decision came after an initial frenzy of signings, including the Washington Capitals getting Cup-winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper and Giroux leaving Florida for Ottawa.
Strome is Washington’s latest addition after Chicago decided against a qualifying offer to keep him around. The 25-year-old scored a career-high 22 goals last season and added 26 assists in 69 games.
The Capitals previously signed Darcy Kuemper to be their starting goaltender and Charlie Lindgren to be their backup, re-signed winger Marcus Johansson and defenseman Matt Irwin, and replaced Justin Schultz on the blue line with another Blackhawks castoff, Erik Gustafsson. They acquired winger Connor Brown from the Ottawa Senators for a 2024 second-round pick.
Ottawa also stayed busy, following up on signing former Flyers captain Claude Giroux by locking up third-year center Josh Norris through the 2029-30 season with a $63.3 million, eight-year deal.
The spree of signings that occurred during the first day of free agency slowed to a trickle on Thursday, with forward Nazem Kadri and defenseman John Klingberg the most notable names still on the market.
The reigning champion Colorado Avalanche have said they would like to bring back Kadri, who helped them win it all. The Dallas Stars all but ruled out keeping Klingberg, who could still sign one of the biggest contracts of the offseason.
The Senators continued building on what could be the most promising offseason in the franchise’s 30-year history with Norris’ signing.
Selected 19th in the 2017 draft, the 23-year-old from Michigan is considered a key fixture on a young, developing team. He’s coming off a season in which he scored a team-leading 35 goals and 55 points in 66 games.
Norris’ signing comes on the heels of the the Senators landing Giroux in a move that brings the 34-year-old former Flyers captain back to the region where he played junior hockey. Ottawa also acquired winger winger Alex DeBrincat and goaltender Cam Talbot in trades over the past week in signaling the team is prepared to take the next step toward contending in the Eastern Conference.
— The Vegas Golden Knights made two bargain signings, adding forwards Sakari Manninen and Spencer Foo on one-year deals each worth $750,000. Manninen was Finland’s leading goal-scorer on the way to winning gold at the Beijing Olympics, while Foo played for host China.
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