Mike Halford

NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 07: Matt Martin #17 of the New York Islanders gets the gloves up on Zack Kassian #44 of the Edmonton Oilers at the Barclays Center on February 7, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Leafs make splash, sign hard-hitting Martin to four-year, $10M deal

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Toronto fired its first shot in free agency this afternoon, and it was a notable one — Matt Martin, the former Isles forward and a fairly coveted target, has inked a four-year, $10 million deal with the Leafs.

First reported by Sportsnet, the deal will carry a $2.5M average annual cap hit. Martin, 27, really upped his market value this past season by scoring 19 points — and a career-best 10 goals — while dishing out a NHL-leading 363 hits.

Martin is a physically imposing presence at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, and was a fan favorite in Long Island and Brooklyn during his seven-year stint with the Isles.

An Ontario native, this move will represent a nice homecoming. Martin hasn’t played in the area since his days with OHL Sarnia, where he was a former teammate of Steve Stamkos and eventually served as team captain.

 

After Cup win, Pens give Rutherford three-year extension

Jim Rutherford
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PITTSBURGH (AP) The Pittsburgh Penguins have rewarded the architect of their Stanley Cup winning roster with a new deal.

The team and general manager Jim Rutherford agreed to a new three-year contract Friday that will run through the 2018-19 season. The 67-year-old Rutherford came to Pittsburgh two years ago and totally revamped the roster around stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, leading to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup this spring. He was voted General Manager of the Year at the NHL’s annual awards show last month.

Rutherford is the first general manager of the expansion era (post-1967) to lead multiple franchises to championships. He was in Carolina when the Hurricanes won their only Cup in 2006.

The Penguins also signed forward Tom Sestito and defenseman Steve Olesky and Stuart Percy to two-way contracts on Friday.

Related: Sullivan praises Rutherford for retooling Penguins roster

Avs make trio of moves, bring aboard Colborne, Wiercioch and Tyutin

Joe Colborne
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Colorado opened free agency with three pretty cost-effective moves.

The Avs first inked former Sens d-man Patrick Wiercioch to a one-year, $800,000 deal, then signed rangy Calgary center Joe Colborne to a two-year, $5 million deal with a $2.5M average annual cap hit.

Joe Sakic wasn’t done there, however. The Avs GM then scooped up veteran blueliner Fedor Tyutin — bought out by Columbus earlier this week — to a one-year, $2 million contract.

Colborne, 26, went unrestricted after Calgary failed to make him a qualifying offer. He’s coming off a career year in which he posted personal bests in goals (19) and points (44), averaging just over 15 minutes a night in 73 games played.

Tyutin, 32, struggled through a down ’15-16 campaign — he only played in 61 games, and was made a healthy scratch by head coach John Tortorella — but there were reports of teams looking to add him at the trade deadline, specifically Detroit.

Wiercioch, like Colborne, wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer, which ended his time in Ottawa. The 25-year-old had a disappointing ’15-16 campaign in the Canadian capital, recording just five assists in 52 games. Wiercioch did, however, have strong possession numbers at even strength in three of his five seasons with Ottawa.

He and Tyutin will now both contend for minutes on a new-look Avs blueline, after Sakic traded away Nick Holden and bought out Brad Stuart.

 

‘Canes bolster forward group with Stempniak, Stalberg signings

New Jersey Devils' Lee Stempniak, right, celebrates alongside teammate Travis Zajac after scoring during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Ron Francis wanted to add some veteran experience and size to his forward group this summer.

Well, mission accomplished.

On the opening day of free agency, the ‘Canes inked former Rangers winger Viktor Stalberg to a one-year, $1.5 million deal and journeyman Lee Stempniak to a two-year, $5 million contract — one that carries a $2.5M average annual cap hit.

“Lee is a veteran, skilled forward who will provide offense for our team, as well as leadership on and off the ice,” Francis said in a release. “Adding size to our forward corps was a priority this offseason. Viktor is another big, strong player who can skate that we’ve added to our lineup.”

More, from the club:

Stalberg, 30, appeared in 75 games for the New York Rangers in 2015-16, netting nine goals and adding 11 assists (20 points).

Stempniak, 33, netted 19 goals and added 33 assists (51 points) and was plus-3 in 82 games with the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in 2015-16.

Carolina will have a decidedly different look up front next season. Prior to today’s transactions, Francis acquired Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell from Chicago, without having to give up anybody from the active roster. Both should be in line for minutes, with Teravainen likely to play in the top six.

The ‘Canes are also expected to give prospect Sebastian Aho a shot at making the team this fall.

Devils bring back Bennett, Merrill and Smith-Pelly

New Jersey Devils players celebrate a goal by Devante Smith-Pelly, second from left, against Minnesota Wild goalie Darcy Kuemper, right, during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
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Earlier this week, the Devils didn’t make qualifying offers to defenseman Jon Merril and forwards Beau Bennett and Devante Smith-Pelly.

All part of the plan, apparently.

After the three hit unrestricted free agency on Friday, all three of ’em were quickly brought back.

The details, per the club:

— Bennett signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $725,000.

— Merrill signed a two-year, $2.275 million deal with an average annual cap hit of $1.137M.

— Smith-Pelly signed a two-year, $2.6 million deal with an average annual cap hit of $1.3M.

Bennett, acquired at the draft from Pittsburgh, will get a fresh start with the Devils after several injury-plagued seasons with the Pens.

Merrill, currently sidelined following major shoulder surgery, only played in 47 games last year due to a variety of injuries. He’s looking to rediscover the form shown during impressive rookie and sophomore campaigns in New Jersey. His second year was especially solid — 14 points in 66 games, averaging over 20 minutes per night — and he boasts good size, going 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.

Smith-Pelly, 24, was acquired by the Devils from Montreal for Stefan Matteau on February 29, 2016. He set new career highs across the board with 14 goals and 25 points in 64 combined games this season. He notched eight goals and five assists in 18 games after his trade to New Jersey.

Related: Devils sign veterans Lovejoy, Fiddler