July 1, 2006

Teams snap up free agents

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Boston Bruins made a major splash
on the opening day of the National Hockey League's free agency
period Saturday, signing defenseman Zdeno Chara and forward
Marc Savard.

Chara, formerly with the Ottawa Senators, was one of the
most highly sought defensemen available but didn't wait long to
sign a five-year, $37.5 million deal with the Bruins.

The 6ft 9ins (2.057 meter) Chara, the tallest player in the
NHL, had a career best 43 points with the Senators last season,
his fourth with the club.

"Zdeno is one of the premier defensemen in the National
Hockey League and we are thrilled that he will be in a Boston
uniform for the next five years," Bruins interim general
manager Jeff Gorton said in a release.

Shortly after that signing was announced, the Bruins said
they had signed Savard from the Atlanta Thrashers.

Savard, 28, had a career best 28 goals and 97 points for
the Thrashers last season. He signed a four-year deal, with
financial terms not released by the club.

"Marc is one of the top playmaking centers in the game
today," Gorton said in another release.


"He will fit in well with the skill players we have on our
team and the direction in which we are headed."

Another sought-after defenseman didn't last long on the
open market, as Ed Jovanovski left the Vancouver Canucks to
sign a five-year, $32.5 million contract with the Phoenix

"He was the player we wanted," Coyotes managing partner and
head coach Wayne Gretzky said in a statement. "This is huge for
our franchise."

The Canucks answered that loss a few hours later by signing
former Minnesota Wild rearguard Willie Mitchell for four years
at $14 million.

The Ottawa Senators meanwhile will not be bringing Dominik
Hasek back to the fold as they signed free agent goalie Martin
Gerber from the Carolina Hurricanes, giving him a multi-year

Ottawa also inked former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Joe
Corvo to a four-year contract worth $10.5 million.

Meanwhile this year's Stanley Cup finalists were also busy
as champion Carolina Hurricanes re-signed forward Eric Staal
and finalist Edmonton Oilers did the same with goalie Dwayne


Staal, 21, got a three-year deal worth $13.5-million and
Roloson agreed to a new three-year $11-million contract.

The Oilers also re-signed forward Fernando Pisani for four
years at $10 million.

Veteran defenseman Rob Blake left the Colorado Avalanche
and signed a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Kings, the team
he spent most of his 12-year career with before joining the
Avalanche. Financial terms were not announced.

Buffalo Sabres defenseman Jay McKee left the Sabres for the
St. Louis Blues, who offered him a four-year, $16 million deal.

The New Jersey Devils locked up one of their own players
when they agreed to a new five-year $14 million deal with
forward Jamie Langenbrunner.

Also busy on Saturday were the Toronto Maple Leafs who
snagged a pair of unrestricted free-agent defenseman.

Toronto signed former Tampa Bay rearguard Pavel Kabina for
four years at $20 million and former Boston Bruins defenseman
Hall Gill for three years at $6.3 million.

The NHL's salary cap increased from last year's high of $39
million to $44 million this season, so teams are expected to
sign a number of free agents this summer.

The minimum payroll also moved up to $28 million from $21.5
million last year.