Analyze major moves, rumors

  • NHL free agency opens Wednesday at noon ET.
  • Forward Johnny Gaudreau is the best player available.
  • The free agent class is deep on forwards and thin on defense and goaltenders.

The NHL’s free agency signing period officially began Wednesday at noon ET.

This year’s free agent class is rich in forwards, but a little thin on defense and goalkeeping.

Key players available at the opening buzzer were forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, Claude Giroux, Andrew Copp, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Strome and David Perron, defenders John Klingberg and Nick Leddy, and goaltenders Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbell and Ilya Samsonov.

Kadri and Kuemper, along with Andre Burakovsky and a handful of other unrestricted free agents, played for the Stanley Cup-champion Colorado Avalanche.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ NHL staffers as they track and analyze the signings and trades that take place throughout the day:

Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper has signed with the Washington Capitals.

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FREE AGENCY:Back to the Top 25 players testing the market

Darcy Kuemper signs with the Capitals

The Stanley Cup-winning goaltender is signed to a five-year, $26.25 million contract. The Capitals were unhappy with their goaltender last season and traded Vitek Vanecek and did not qualify Ilya Samsonov. Kuemper posted a career-best 37 wins last season and his .921 save percentage ranked fifth among league starters.

Ilya Mikheyev goes to the Canucks

The striker signed a four-year, $19 million contract, agent Dan Milstein tweeted. He scored 21 goals in 53 games last season with the Maple Leafs last season.

Lightning locks in three-to-eight-year extensions

The Lightning, which reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third straight year, are keeping the core. After giving defenseman Mikhail Sergachev an eight-year extension, Tampa Bay did the same with forward Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Erik Cernak. Sergachev is worth an average of $8.5 million, Cirelli $6.25 million and Cernak $5.2 million. Cirelli is the team’s center stopper and the role of Sergachev and Cernak will expand after the Ryan McDonagh trade.


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