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NHL Free Agency Opens

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

The start of NHL free agency 2015 has been unusually busy for the San Jose Sharks. Just after the draft, they acquired goaltender Martin Jones (3 years at $3m AAV). On Day One of free agency, they signed veteran defenseman Paul Martin (4 years at $4.85m AAV). They have re-signed defenseman Brenden Dillon (5 years at $3.75m AAV). Defenseman Matt Irwin has not been re-signed and seems to be testing the free agent market. As reported by Elliotte Friedman, the Sharks also hired Johan Hedberg as goalie coach.

Over 13 seasons, Hedberg played in 396 NHL games in regular season and playoffs. He played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Dallas Stars, the Vancouver Canucks, the Atlanta Thrashers and most recently the New Jersey Devils. His last NHL game was April 27, 2013. Such a career suggests that he has seen a good number of changes in goaltending and has worked with a number of goalie coaches, including Warren Strelow. After retirement, he worked as a scout for the Devils in 2013-14, and spent last season as goaltending coach for the Albany Devils of the AHL. He should be a good addition to the Sharks coaching staff.

The Sharks have also signed John McCarthy and Bryan Lerg to one year two-way contracts. McCarthy was drafted by the Sharks in the seventh round of the 2006 draft. He spent last season with the St. Louis Blues organization. He was moved in an AHL trade to the Worcester Sharks but was unable to play in the Calder Cup playoffs due to injury. The Sharks also re-signed Bryan Lerg to a one year two-way deal. He played two games with the Sharks, and 68 games with the Worcester Sharks, earning 41 points last season.

Other moves around the NHL:

Former Los Angeles King forward Justin Williams, noted for his success in playoff game sevens, will be leaving the West for the Washington Capitals. Short of adding him to their own roster, this had to be the best outcome for teams in the Western Conference.

One high profile move was Pittsburgh’s acquisition of formidable goal scorer Phil Kessel from the Toronto Maples Leafs. While the move will certainly impact the Penguins, presumably for the better, it is only significant for the Sharks because it means Kessel is not coming west.

The Chicago Blackhawks are in the situation everyone knew they would be in, having to shed salary to meet cap requirements. They were unable to come to terms with Brandon Saad and traded him to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They also let Brad Richards walk, and he walked to Detroit. They did sign Viktor Tikhonov, who has returned from the KHL, and signed Artem Anisimov after acquiring him in the Saad trade from Columbus.

Coyotes do go home after all: Arizona (re)acquired Zbynek Michalek and Antoine Vermette, and signed goaltender Anders Lindback. Michalek was traded to the Blackhawks at the trade deadline last season, and returns to Arizona with a Stanley Cup ring. Michalek was traded at the same time, to the St. Louis Blues. Lindback spent last season with the Dallas Stars, and could be a significant improvement over prior Coyotes backups. Arizona also added forwards Boyd Gordon (another returning Coyote), Brad Richardson and Steve Downie, and defenseman Nicklas Grossmann.

The Los Angeles Kings signed goaltender Jonas Enroth, an interesting move as it breaks with their tradition of having less well-traveled backups for Jonathan Quick. Enroth played very well for the Stars last season, when their regular starter Kari Lehtonen was out with injury. The Kings had already acquired forward Milan Lucic from the Bruins during the draft, in a trade that led to the Sharks being able to get Martin Jones from the Bruins.  Lucic is the sort of forward everyone needs to keep an eye on. The Kings also terminated Mike Richards’ contract but gave no further details about the breach the termination was based on.

The Anaheim Ducks acquired defenseman Kevin Bieksa from the Vancouver Canucks and signed forward Shawn Horcoff. They added goalie Matt Hackett, formerly of the Minesota Wild and the Buffalo Sabres. They also hired former Senators coach Paul MacLean as assistant coach. During draft weekend, they sent Emerson Etem to New York in exchange for Carl Hagelin and picks.

The Vancouver Canucks signed defenseman Taylor Fedun, who played seven games with the Sharks last season, after being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers. Vancouver traded  Zach Kassian to the Montreal Canadiens for Brandon Prust. They signed goalie Richard Bachman, and defenseman Matt Bartkowski.

The Edmonton Oilers won the Cam Talbot sweepstakes, trading three drafts picks and receiving one in return with the coveted goaltender. They then signed two veteran skaters: defenseman Andrej Sekera and center Mark Letestu.

The Colorado Avalanche signed defenseman Francois Beauchemin to a three year contract, and forward Blake Comeau. They traded ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for defenseman Nikita Zadorov, forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and J.T. Compher, and a 2015 2nd-round pick. They did not re-sign Jan Hejda, Daniel Briere or Ryan Wilson.

Other moves of note for Sharks fans:

Thomas Greiss signed a two year deal with the New York Islanders. The Kings and others had inquired, according to Pierre LeBrun. Defenseman Sena Acolatse signed with the Florida Panthers.

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