No frenzy but GMs still throw wads of cash at UFAs

Ray Whitney signed a two-year contract with the Stars Sunday. (JIM YOUNG/Reuters file photo)

Ray Whitney signed a two-year contract with the Stars Sunday. (JIM YOUNG/Reuters file photo)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:33 AM ET

Well, it wasn't quite a "frenzy," though NHL general managers still managed to throw about $170 million into the free agent market for about 45 players Sunday.

Not too shabby.

And that's without the gold standard players -- winger Zach Parise and defenceman Ryan Suter -- being signed.

Those two sat back and had clubs lavish offers on them that are expected to come in at about $80 million apiece. Some time in the next few days they will decide to sign on the dotted line.

Throw in the 12-year, $104.4-million contract extension made official between the Pittsburgh Penguins and captain Sidney Crosby and 10-year, $60-million extension signed by Jordan Staal with the Carolina Hurricanes early Sunday and these few days will see more than half a billion dollars in salary commitments (about $480 million as of dinner time Sunday), probably the most lucrative few days for the players in NHL history.

The usual suspects were circling around Parise and Suter, whispering in their ears how life will be best wearing their gear.

It's expected there could be a decision from Parise as early as Monday, with the Pittsburgh Penguins regarded as the front-runners. The New Jersey Devils, Los Angeles Kings, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, the Hurricanes and Minnesota Wild were in the mix, too, though 'Canes GM Jim Rutherford thought his club was out.

Parise spent his day in Toronto fielding calls at the office of his agent, Wade Arnott of Newport Sports.

Suter was at his farm in Wisconsin. The Penguins, Wings, Flyers and Wild were among the teams making offers for his services.

While there was a huge number of down-market signings Sunday, Parise and Suter hold the key to unlocking other moves, too, like the fate of Columbus Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash, who is looking for a trade. Once Parise finds a home, the losers in that derby might be inclined to go after Nash.

There was a belief some defencemen and teams would wait to see where Suter landed before making moves. But Jason Garrison, who was third in defenceman goal scoring last year with the Florida Panthers, jumped to the Vancouver Canucks -- a six-year deal worth close to $28 million -- and veteran Sheldon Souray, banished to the minors two years ago before salvaging his career with the Dallas Stars in 2011-12, signed with the Anaheim Ducks for $11 million for three years.

There's still lots to happen.

Among the most active general managers in the opening day of free agency was Montreal Canadiens rookie Marc Bergevin, who upgraded his club's grit with the signing of former New York Rangers forward Brandon Prust to a four-year deal worth $10 million. He signed forward Colby Armstrong, who was bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs Saturday after an injury-plagued couple of years in Hogtown. And Bergervin also added former Hab Francis Bouillon on the blueline.

Armstrong appeared to be the first player to announce his deal on Twitter.

"I am so happy to have just agreed to a one year deal with Montreal. So pumped. My fav childhood team. Can't wait #dreamcometrue #habs," he tweeted.

"I still think I can play. There's just been some bad luck," Armstrong told Sportsnet. He said the Leafs told him "they pretty much felt I couldn't do it anymore, so I'd like to prove them wrong and there's no better place than Montreal."

The Colorado Avalanche were also busy, landing forward P.A. Parenteau, a good option for teams looking for a scoring boost, signing him to a four-year, $16-million deal, and adding centre John Mitchell and defenceman Greg Zanon.

The Phoenix Coyotes unsettled ownership situation contributed to losing veteran forward Ray Whitney. The 40-year-old signed a two-year deal worth $4.5 million a season.

"It played quite a bit of a factor. It was a bigger factor in Phoenix's ability to do something," said Whitney, noting the Coyotes still had to get approval for deals from the NHL, who have run the team the last three years while attempting to sell it to an owner who will keep it in Glendale.

Former San Jose Sharks executive Greg Jamison is attempting to buy the club.

Whitney said the Coyotes offered him just a one-year deal.

Another significant signing early Sunday was the Hurricanes getting Staal, whom they acquired from the Penguins last weekend at the NHL draft, inked to a 10-year, $60 million deal, the same terms he turned down from the Pens, which triggered his departure from the Steel City.

Goaltender Martin Brodeur, with the New Jersey Devils ownership situation in flux, had attracted interest from the Chicago Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers. When he resolves his situation -- the betting is he will still stay with the Devils -- it could align the goaltender market and give the Vancouver Canucks a more defined list of potential trading partners for goaltender Roberto Luongo.

The Leafs are rumoured to be interested in both.

In one of the eyebrow-raising signings of the day, the Florida Panthers gave former Ottawa Senators defenceman Filip Kuba a reported $4 million for each of the next two years.

The Panthers do know that Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson, Kuba's partner in Ottawa, doesn't come with him, don't they?

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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