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Giroux joins Senators, Campbell Oilers, Mikheyev Canucks as NHL free agency opens

Goaltending carousel continues to turn in the first day of the NHL signing season
Chicago Blackhawks center Henrik Borgstrom (13) chases Florida Panthers right wing Claude Giroux (28) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Sunrise, Fla., Thursday, March 31, 2022. NHL free agency opened with a bang Wednesday as the Senators signed veteran forward Giroux to a reported three-year, $19.5-million contract in another move that signals the franchise’s long, painful rebuild is over.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Reinhold Matay

The Ottawa Senators brought a local product home.

The Edmonton Oilers finally solidified a troublesome position.

And the emergency switch was finally pulled on the league’s wild goalie carousel.

Free agency opened with a bang Wednesday, with the Senators signing veteran forward Claude Giroux to a three-year, US$19.5-million contract — yet another move that signals the franchise’s long, painful rebuild is over.

The Oilers, meanwhile, secured crease talent star forwards Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have lacked their entire careers in the Alberta capital, agreeing on a five-year, $25-million pact with goaltender Jack Campbell.

The Maple Leafs, meanwhile, continued to retool the position in Toronto after allowing Campbell to walk into unrestricted free agency and trading Petr Mrazek last week, inking Ilya Samsonov for one year at $1.8 million in a deal that will see him work alongside newly acquired Matt Murray.

The Washington Capitals got in on the goaltending action by signing Darcy Kuemper, who’s coming off a Stanley Cup victory with the Colorado Avalanche, to a five-year, $26.5-million contract.

The Oilers, Leafs and Capitals were among the biggest movers over the last week of a netminding free-for-all that saw no fewer than 10 signings or trades as teams once again played crease musical chairs.

In the other big move involving a Canadian team, the Vancouver Canucks signed winger Ilya Mikheyev to a four-year, $19-million deal as the Russian also departs Toronto.

Giroux joins a promising Ottawa roster that already includes captain Brady Tkachuk, star defenceman Thomas Chabot and slick forward Tim Stutzle, and added sniper Alex DeBrincat and goaltender Cam Talbot in recent days to a club that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2017.

Campbell will carry the load in Edmonton following an up-and-down 2021-22 season with the Leafs that included a first all-star nod. The Oilers also have veteran Mike Smith under contract.

The New York Rangers signed centre Vincent Trocheck to a reported seven-year, $39.327-million deal.

The Detroit Red Wings inked forward and Michigan native Andrew Copp to a five-year, $28.125-million contract, while defenceman Ben Chiarot signed on for four years at a reported total of $19 million.

Names still on the free-agent board include two of the biggest — Johnny Gaudreau and Nazem Kadri.

Gaudreau won’t be re-singing with the Calgary Flames, general manager Brad Treliving confirmed Tuesday night, while Kadri looks set to cash in on his terrific season and playoffs with the Avalanche.

There was also plenty of movement before the free-agency bell rang at 12 p.m. ET.

Evgeni Malkin decided to re-sign with the Pittsburgh Penguins late Tuesday, inking a four-year, $24-million contract that will keep the three-time Cup winner alongside Sidney Crosby in the Steel City through 2025-2026.

Evander Kane then announced on Twitter that he would be returning to Edmonton on a four-year pact worth $20.5-million.

The Oilers confirmed the contract details Wednesday morning.

The winger with a boatload of off-ice baggage said the opportunity the organization offered him in January after the San Jose Sharks terminated the remainder of his contract for violating COVID-19 protocols played a big part in his decision.

“Throughout the last 12 months, there have been lots of roadblocks, tons of adversity and many tough days,” Kane wrote. “I’m grateful for the tremendous amount of support from family, friends, teammates and others who have helped me stay strong through these difficult times.”

Kane topped 20 goals for eighth time in 13 NHL seasons despite appearing in just 43 games, all with Edmonton.

The Avalanche looked likely to lose Kadri, but re-signed defenceman Josh Manson to a four-year deal worth a reported $18 million, while winger Artturi Lehkonen gets a reported $22.5 million over five seasons.

The St. Louis Blues also got in on the action, locking up one of their young talents by signing centre Robert Thomas to an eight-year, $65 million contract extension.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, meanwhile, signed a trio of eight-year extensions that will see defencemen Mikhail Sergachev earn a total of $68 million over the life of his deal, centre Anthony Cirelli get $50 million, and blue-liner Erik Cernak secure $41.6 million.

Thomas, Sergachev, Cirelli and Cernak were all eligible to become restricted free agents next summer.

—Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

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