Cam Tucker

Toronto Maple Leafs' Roman Polak, of the Czech Republic, as seen making his return appearance to St. Louis during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. Polak did not return to St. Louis after the off-season. (AP Photo/Billy Hurst)
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He’s back! Polak signs one-year deal with Leafs

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The Toronto Maple Leafs turned to a familiar face on the second day of NHL free agency, signing defenseman Roman Polak to a one-year contract on Saturday.

Yes, that’s right.

Prior to the trade deadline in February, the Leafs sent Polak and forward Nick Spaling to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Raffi Torres and a pair of second round picks (2017, 2018).

On the first day of free agency, the Leafs signed hard-hitting forward Matt Martin to a four-year, $10 million contract.

The Leafs aren’t bringing Polak back to add offense to their blue line.

Polak scored one goal and 15 assists last season between Toronto and San Jose, and was used primarily in the Sharks’ bottom defensive pairing in their run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Report: Panthers sign Trocheck to six-year contract

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 24:  Vincent Trocheck #21 of the Florida Panthers skates against the New York Islanders in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Barclays Center on April 24, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The Islanders won the game 2-1 in double overtime to win the series four games to two.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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More news from the Florida Panthers!

According to George Richards of the Miami Herald on Saturday, the Panthers have re-signed 22-year-old forward Vincent Trocheck to a six-year contract that, as expected, comes with a massive raise from the $894,166 AAV from his entry-level contract.

Back in June, it was reported the two sides were nearing a long-term contract extension.

The Panthers have yet to announce a deal.

This past season, Trocheck erupted for 25 goals and 53 points in 76 regular season games, before a foot injury forced him to miss the remainder of the regular season and limited his post-season to just two games.

His breakout campaign led to Jaromir Jagr proclaiming Trocheck, at the time of his injury, to be Florida’s “…best player for a long time.”

Related:

Signing with Panthers was a ‘no-brainer’ for Demers

Yandle calls Panthers an ‘all-in organization,’ excited to play with Ekblad

Signing with Panthers was a ‘no-brainer’ for Demers

Jason Demers, Justin St. Pierre
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After signing Keith Yandle and keeping him away from unrestricted free agency and inking 20-year-old defenseman Aaron Ekblad to a massive contract extension, the Florida Panthers then officially brought Jason Demers to their club on Saturday.

When Demers looked at Florida’s defense, and the young, talented forwards up front, it seemed like a straightforward sell to the UFA blue liner on the direction the Panthers appear to be heading.

“I just always liked the team and liked that young core. Just playing against them the last few years, I like where they’re headed. It seemed like a good fit for me,” Demers told reporters in a conference call.

“It was kind of a no-brainer for me. I want to go somewhere where I have a chance to win.”

The Panthers have had a busy off-season, especially re-modelling their blue line.

Refresher:

Erik Gudbranson and Dmitry Kulikov are gone via the trade market. Brian Campbell went to free agency and is now in Chicago with the Blackhawks.

Additions are Yandle, Demers, Mark Pysyk and Ian McCoshen, who signed an entry-level deal with the Panthers. 

“I know they’re going to emphasize on a quick transition game and hopefully with the additions on the blue line, we can move the puck up quick to these skilled forwards,” said Demers.

When it comes to Demers’ point production, the numbers don’t jump off the page. His highest point total was 34 (5 G, 29 A) in 2013-14 when he was with the Sharks.

He had solid possession numbers this past season with Dallas and can play on both the penalty kill — he really enjoys playing on the penalty kill, too — and power play. Oh, and he has a right shot, too.

“The last couple of years, I’ve tried to focus on just being a good two-way defenseman. I want to help out offensively when I can but I just want to feed the transition and get the puck to our skilled forwards,” said Demers.

“The more we have the puck, the less they do and the more chances we’ll get.”

Related: Yandle calls Panthers an ‘all-in organization,’ excited to play with Ekblad

Canucks will give newly signed Larsen the chance to run the power play

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 02:  Philip Larsen #36 of the Edmonton Oilers looks on prior to the start of the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on April 2, 2014 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
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With the hockey world expecting the Vancouver Canucks to deal pending unrestricted free agents Radim Vrbata and Dan Hamhuis in February, Jim Benning instead acquired the rights to Philip Larsen.

On Friday, after signing Loui Eriksson to that six-year, $36 million contract, the Canucks inked Larsen to a one-year, one-way deal worth $1.025 million.

He last played professionally in North America during the 2013-14 season, with three goals and 12 points in 30 games with Edmonton, but has spent the last two seasons in the KHL, with 36 points in 52 games last season.

Signed to his new deal in Vancouver, it seems the Canucks will give the right-shooting defenseman a look on the power play when training camp opens, according to Benning. Current Canucks forward Jannik Hansen has played with Larsen before on the Danish national team, and Benning said Eriksson knows him as well.

Benning said he spoke with both players about Larsen.

“They say his ability to carry the puck up ice and walk the line and get pucks through is excellent,” Benning told reporters, as per TSN 1040 radio.

“When we made the trade, we were kind of trying to figure out a right-shot defenseman that could run the power play, so we’re going to give him that opportunity.”

The Canucks had the 27th-ranked power play last season.

Two seasons ago, Yannick Weber finished tied for second on the team with five power play goals, using a cannon for a right shot from the blue line.

In 2015-16, however, Weber appeared in only 45 games and didn’t score a goal for the Canucks. He then went to free agency on Friday, as expected, signing with the Nashville Predators.

Okposo: Sabres are rebuilding at an ‘accelerated rate’

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 07:  Kyle Okposo #21 of the New York Islanders looks on before a face off against the Philadelphia Flyers on April 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the New York Islanders 5-4.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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It was actually a few months before free agency that the Buffalo Sabres, with their play on the ice, left an impression on Kyle Okposo.

Early on in Friday’s free agent frenzy, the Sabres signed Okposo to a seven-year, $42 million deal. It was in the last regular season game of the year for Okposo, on April 9, that he began to see the growth with Buffalo’s rebuilding team.

He believes the Sabres are on an “accelerated rate” for their rebuild, making strides from the 2014-15 season.

“It was a completely different team, I feel like, playing them this year as opposed to the year before,” Okposo told reporters in a conference call.

“I just remember coming out of that game thinking, ‘Gosh, these guys are a really skilled bunch, really skilled group.’ They have a lot of upside. And obviously I didn’t know what was going to transpire over the next two months but just thinking how good some of their young players were.”

In the 2014-15 season, the Sabres finished with the worst record in the NHL. They didn’t get the first overall pick — which eventually became Connor McDavid — in the lottery, but they landed the No. 2 selection and Jack Eichel.

Buffalo then went out and added center Ryan O’Reilly and signed him to an extension through 2023.

The Sabres didn’t qualify for the playoffs last season. They finished 23rd overall, with a 35-36-11 record and 81 points.

But they’ve got a pretty good one-two punch up the middle with Eichel and O’Reilly, and that is an attractive aspect for Okposo, who has hit the 20-goal plateau in three of the last five seasons with the New York Islanders.

“Those guys are only going to continue to get better, especially Jack,” said Okposo. “He’s got super star status and you definitely need that to win a Stanley Cup.”

Landing Okposo could also represent a further step for the Sabres in making Buffalo a go-to location for coveted free agents.

“It means a lot,” said Sabres GM Tim Murray, as per the Buffalo News. “It means what I have felt since I got here, that we can be a destination for good players, I think this shows that we are.

“It’s exciting to get a player of his caliber who had a choice of — I won’t say 30 teams — but certainly a lot of teams, and he decided to come here.”