But the suddenly free-spending Panthers also dove headlong into the free-agent pool, handing out more than $67 million to six players just days after taking on defenceman Brian Campbell and his $7.1 million annual cap hit.
Aging blueliner Ed Jovanovski returned to the city where he got his NHL start, pocketing a retirement fund of sorts with a four-year, $16.5 million deal. Winger Tomas Fleischmann, who split last season between Washington and Colorado, got a four-year contract that will pay him an average of $4.5 million, Scottie Upshall, who has never topped more than 22 goals in a season, cashed in with a four-year, $14 million pact and Tampa forward Sean Bergenheim got a four-year, $11 million deal.
"(Jovanovski) is a five-time NHL All-Star, who has played in more than 1,000 games and will be a mentor for our young defensemen and a leader in the locker room," Florida GM Dale Tallon said. "Tomas is a big, hard-working winger that can play a variety of roles for our team and will add depth at the forward position. Scottie is a character player that is tough to play against and we are pleased to have signed him."
The Panthers added more depth up front in centre Marcel Goc and winger Kris Versteeg, acquired from the Flyers for second- and third-round picks, and veteran insurance in net -- starter Tomas Vokoun is a UFA and expected to walk -- with the signing of Jose Theodore to a two-year contract.
But the Flyers and Panthers weren't alone in spending with reckless abandon. Plenty of teams threw stupid money around.
At the top of the heap was the six-year, $33 million contract defenceman James Wisniewski signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Never having made more than $3.25 million, the 27-year-old now finds himself in the same tax bracket as stud blueliners like Nik Lidstrom, Dan Boyle and Brent Seabrook.
"My family and I are really excited to be a part of the Blue Jackets organization and I'm looking forward to getting to Columbus to help this team win games," Wisniewski said in a press release. "I think this is a team that is ready to take the next step and I'm excited to help us become a winning team and a Stanley Cup contender."
Forward Ville Leino, the Flyers playoff scoring hero in 2010, signed with the Buffalo Sabres for an eye-popping $27 million over six years, another sign that new owner Terry Pegula is willing to spend some serious dough to bring a Cup to Buffalo. The Sabres signed defenceman Christian Ehrhoff to a 10-year, $40 million contract Thursday evening.
Michael Ryder, a revelation for the Boston Bruins during their run to the Stanley Cup last month, headed for, ahem, greener pastures in Dallas, inking a two-year, $7 million deal with the Stars.
Erik Cole, meanwhile, worked the Montreal Canadiens for a four-year, $18 million deal after a 26-goal campaign. The Habs also signed goalie Peter Budaj, a former No. 1 with Colorado who gives Montreal some experience behind Carey Price.
Heck, even Joel Ward got $12 million from the Washington Capitals. And he spent as much time playing for the University of Prince Edward Island (four years) as he has in the NHL.
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Noteable signings from Friday, the first day of NHL free agency (annual cap hit in brackets)
- F Jaromir Jagr, Philadelphia; one year, $3.3 million ($3.3 million)
Former superstar returns from KHL wilderness for one more shot at Cup
- D James Wisniewski, Columbus; six years, $33 million ($5.5 million)
Offensive-minded ex-Hab takes skilly money to-resign with Jackets
- D Sami Salo, Vancouver; one year, $2 million ($2 million)
GM Mike Gillis keeps 36-year-old blueliner around at reasonable price
- F Maxime Talbot, Philadelphia; five years, $9 million ($1.8 million)
Leaves Pens and buddy Sidney Crosby for cross-state rivals
- D Cam Barker, Edmonton; one year, $2.25 million ($2.25 million)
Takes pay cut with Oilers after being bought out by Wild
- D Roman Hamrlik, Washington; two years, $7 million ($3.5 million)
Turned down a one-year deal with Habs, gets two from Caps
- F Erik Cole, Montreal; four years, $18 million ($4.5 million)
Parlays 26-goal season with 'Canes into mega-buck deal with Canadiens
- F Michael Ryder, Dallas; two years, $7 million ($3.5 million)
Takes his shiny new Stanley Cup ring to the Lone Star State
- F Joel Ward, Washington; four years, $12 million ($3 million)
Four years at UPEI didn't hurt late-blooming ex-Predator's earning power
- F Steve Sullivan, Pittsburgh; one year, $1.5 million ($1.5 million)
Back woes behind him, gets shot at playing with offensive-minded Pens
- F Radim Vrbata, Phoenix; three years, $9 million ($3 million)
Re-ups with Coyotes for same money as 2010-11; coming off 19-goal season
- D Ed Jovanovski, Florida; four years, $16.5 million ($4.125 million)
35-year-old returns to South Beach after five years in the desert
- F Scottie Upshall, Florida; four years, $14 million ($3.5 million)
After half season in Columbus, heads south for more money, better beaches
- D Jan Hejda, Colorado; four years, $13 million ($3.25 million)
Czech on Rocky Mountain high after four years in Columbus
- G Peter Budaj, Montreal; two years, $2.3 million ($1.15 million)
One-time Avs starter gets new gig with Habs -- door opener for Carey Price
- F Andrew Brunette, Chicago; one year, $2 million ($2 million)
Under-appreciated but plodding sniper joins sixth team in long NHL career
- F Ville Leino, Buffalo; six years, $27 million ($4.5 million)
Flyers' 2010 playoff hero, who had 19 goals last season, cashes in with Sabres
- D Sheldon Souray, Dallas; one year, $1.65 million ($1.65 million)
Making a third of what he did last year but, incredibly, found a team to take a chance on him
- F Tomas Fleischmann, Florida; four years, $18 million ($4.5 million)
Career 68-goal scorer almost doubles 2010-11 salary with move to Panthers
- G Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Colorado; two years, $2.5 million (($1.25 million)
Now an ex-Leaf, fills the void left when Peter Budaj signed with Montreal
Boston: F Benoit Pouliot (one year, $1.1 million); Buffalo: F Cody McCormick (three years, $3.6 million); Carolina: F Tim Brent (two years, $1.5 million), G Brian Boucher (two years, $1.9 million), F Alexei Ponikarovsky (one year, $1.5 million), F Jiri Tlusty (one year, $525K); Chicago; D Sean O'Donnell (one year, $850K), F Daniel Carcillo (one year, $775K), F Jamal Mayers (one year, $550K); Colorado: F Chuck Kobasew (two years, $2.5 million); Columbus: G Curtis Sanford (one year, $600K); Dallas: F Vernon Fiddler (three years, $5.4 million), F Radek Dvorak (one year, $1.5 million), D Adam Pardy (two years, $4 million); Detroit: D Mike Commodore (one year, $1 million), F Drew Miller (two years, $1.65 million), F Patrick Eaves (three years, $3.6 million), D Jonathan Ericsson (three years, $9.75 million); Edmonton: F Eric Belanger (three years, $5.25 million), F Darcy Hordichuk (one year, $800K), F Ben Eager (three years, $3.3 million); Minnesota: G Josh Harding (one year, $750K); New Jersey: G Johan Hedberg (one year), D Andy Greene (four years, $12 million); NY Islanders: F Marty Reasoner (two years, $2.7 million); NY Rangers: F Ruslan Fedotenko (one year, $1.4 million), F Mike Rupp (three years, $4.5 million); Ottawa: F Francis Lessard (one year), G Alex Auld (one year, $1 million); Phoenix: F Boyd Gordon (two years, $2.65 million), F Raffi Torres (two years, $3.5 million), G Mike Smith (two years, $4 million); Pittsburgh: F Tyler Kennedy (two years, $4 million); San Jose: F Michal Handzus (two years, $5 million), D Jim Vandermeer (one year, $1 million); St. Louis: G Brian Elliott (two years, $1.2 million), F Matt D'Agostini (two years, $2.3 million); Tampa Bay: G Mathieu Garon (two years, $2.6 million); Vancouver: F Andrew Ebbett (one year, $525K), F Marco Sturm (one year, $2.25 million), F Mark Mancari (one year, $525K), F Chris Higgins (two years, $3.8 million); Washington: F Jeff Halpern (one year, $825K), F Ryan Potulny; Winnipeg: D Derek Meech (one year, $700K), F Tanner Glass (one year, $750K).