Daniel Alfredsson bolted from the Ottawa Senators to sign with the Detroit Red Wings, sensing that was the best move he could make in his drive to win a championship before his career ends.
“It’s all about trying to get the Stanley Cup,” he said.
It is for Jarome Iginla, too.
Iginla signed a one-year deal with the Eastern Conference champion Boston Bruins on Friday night. The longtime Calgary Flames and short-time Pittsburg Penguins forward will make $1.8 million guaranteed and can make up to $6 million with Boston.
The Senators, refusing to settle after losing Alfredsson, responded with a bold move to acquire Bobby Ryan from the Anaheim Ducks.
NHL teams made a big splash on the first day of free agency with a slew of signings and some trades.
Less than a year after the league’s latest lockout, many teams spent big bucks on free agents despite knowing they will have to deal with a smaller salary cap next season.
Ilya Bryzgalov and Jaromir Jagr were among the notable names hoping teams whiffed on other free agents signed them soon.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were among the big spenders, signing Nathan Horton to a $37.1 million, seven-year contract.
Detroit, like Columbus, is heading to the Eastern Conference next season. The Red Wings made moves to try to extend their postseason streak to 23 and reach the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 2009.
Soon after adding Alfredsson, the Red Wings agreed to terms on a $24.5 million, five-year contract with 30-year-old center Stephen Weiss.
The Toronto Maple Leafs, coming off their first postseason appearance since 2004, also made a statement by signing New Jersey Devils forward David Clarkson to a $36.75 million, seven-year deal and keeping first-line center Tyler Bozak with a $21 million, five-year deal.
Tampa Bay, which cleared salary cap by buying out 33-year-old Vincent Lecavalier, agreed to a $25 million, five-year deal with 29-year-old center Valtteri Filppula to essentially replace its captain.
While the Red Wings were ready to lose Filppula, Ottawa wasn’t expecting Alfredsson to tell the front office he wanted to play elsewhere.
“It was a devastating conversation, a disappointing one, hard to swallow,” Senators general manager Bryan Murray acknowledged. “But I understand a veteran player that hasn’t won and wants to win and sees a better opportunity.”
The Senators, though, got younger and perhaps better up front by acquiring Ryan. Ottawa sent forwards Jakob Silfverbeg, Stefan Noesen and its first-round pick in next year’s draft to the Ducks for the four-time 30-goal scorer. The 26-year-old Ryan has two years left on a five-year, $25 million contract.
Philadelphia Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren was one of the many NHL executives to talk to the Ducks about acquiring Ryan in recent years.
“We had conversations, but nothing that really ever made sense for us,” Holmgren said. “I think Anaheim made a good deal. I think both teams made a good deal.
“Ottawa obviously lost Alfredsson, and they were able to get Bobby Ryan. But they gave up one real good young player off their team, another good young player that I believe is going to play right away, and a first-round pick.
“I don’t want to say it’s a steep price, but for us to get in and weigh what it would have cost us, in my mind, that’s a lot.”
A lot of other teams also made moves to jockey for position in the parity-filled league:
— The Phoenix Coyotes, with a new owner, signed forward Mike Ribeiro to a $22 million, four-year contract.
— The New Jersey Devils signed forward Ryane Clowe to a five-year, $24.25 million contract, and forward Michael Ryder to a two-year, $7 million deal.
— The Philadelphia Flyers gave captain Claude Giroux an eight-year extension worth over $64 million and signed Chicago’s backup goalie Ray Emery to a one-year deal.
— The Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks re-signed defenseman Michal Rozsival, forward Michal Handzus and gave 40-year goalie Nikolai Khabibulin a one-year deal to replace Emery.
— The Nashville Predators signed Chicago forward Viktor Stalberg to a $12 million, four-year deal.
— The Edmonton Oilers signed former Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference to a $13 million, four-year contract.
— The Pittsburgh Penguins reunited with defenseman Rob Scuderi by giving him a $13.5 million, four-year deal.
— The Minnesota Wild, a year after signing the prizes of the free agent class, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, inked defenseman Keith Ballard to a $3 million, two-year deal and re-signed defenseman Jared Spurgeon to a three-year, $8 million contract.
— The Dallas Stars, making a significant trade for a second straight day, acquired Edmonton Oilers center Shawn Horcoff for defenseman Philip Larsen and a 2016 seventh-round draft pick.