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Recapping every big free agency move in the Metro division

Free agency came in with its usual bang. Let’s review all the divisional moves and signings from the first day.

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NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

As expected, there was a ton of buzz surrounding the league for the first day of NHL free agency and the 2019-20 season, and many interdivisional moves were made within the Metro to shake up and bolster the already-tough group.

Here is a rundown of every single signing made within the division:

New York Rangers

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at New York Rangers Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Artemi Panarin was arguably the biggest free agent on the market, and with it well known that the star Russian was adamant about leaving Ohio after his contract was up this season, the Blue Jackets tried to make one more big pitch to him in the waning hours of Sunday night. The 27-year-old opted to not take the $12 million AAV extension offer Columbus made (the largest contract offer in franchise history), and after fielding rumors that he was considering the Islanders or Rangers, he ended the whispers by inking a seven-year, $81.5 million deal to play in the famed Madison Square Garden in the heart of Manhattan with the Blueshirts Monday at noon.

“He’s only 27 years of age, he’s averaged 80 points over the last four seasons he’s played in the NHL, he’s a healthy body,” said Rangers’ president John Davidson. “We know he wants to be here in New York, specifically with the Rangers. It’s a perfect fit.”

The Rangers now have $8,769,391 in projected cap space with a roster of 19 players and notable RFAs Brendan Lemieux, Pavel Buchnevich, Jacob Trouba, and Anthony Deangelo still left to deal with.

NHL: New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Before the Rangers made the splash signing with Panarin, the team had to free up some cap space to get the deal done. Because of that, Jimmy Vesey was the odd man out, getting swapped to the Buffalo Sabres for a 2021 third-round pick. It wasn't long ago that the “Vesey Sweepstakes” were hitting the league by storm, but the 26-year-old hasn’t done much to live up to the hype in his three years in the NHL so far. He did just come off his most productive season and put up a conservative 35 points (17 goals, 18 assists) in 81 games played. Vesey’s point totals have only gone up since his rookie year, so there’s still hope the young, middling forward can come into his full form.

Overall Moves So Far:

In: Panarin, Kaapo Kakko, Adam Fox, Jacob Trouba

Out: Jimmy Vesey, Neal Pionk

Columbus Blue Jackets

NHL: Florida Panthers at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Even though the Panarin-Sergei Bobrovsky package deal didn’t ultimately work out with the Panthers, the team from Florida still got a little sunnier with the addition of the former Vezina-winning goaltender. It wasn’t surprising to see Bobrovsky come out as the player the Panthers got due to the swarming rumors of Panarin going to one of the New York teams, but it does make a little more sense given the team’s short-term problems between the pipes.

Roberto Luongo submitted his retirement a little less than a week ago, and even though Florida took Spencer Knight in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft, a goalie that could slot in immediately was a point of emphasis this offseason. Bob fills that role and without a doubt makes the team more talented. The Russian netminder will just have to prove he’s worth the money and not a victim of his infamous “boom or bust” reputation.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Columbus Blue Jackets Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Duchene has been eyeing up the Predators for at least five years or so, stating pretty regularly that he wanted to eventually suit up in a yellow and blue sabertooth jersey and play in the storied Music City. A love for playing country music probably plays a role in the 28-year-old’s adoration for Tennessee’s largest and most populous city, and it helped solidify his decision to sign a seven-year, $56 million contract.

Duchene was one of the Blue Jackets’ major signings at the trade deadline last season in a futile attempt to make one last run at winning a Stanley Cup with Panarin and Bob still in the mix. It was expected that he wouldn’t sign an extension with Columbus and that his next deal would be somewhere in the $9 million range. At an average annual value of $8 million, those projections were pretty spot on. Nashville has long needed a big name addition to round out and lift up its already-solid (yet underperforming) forward club, and Duchene’s skill set checks a lot of those boxes. He has a natural scoring ability and can be quite creative with the puck on his stick, and those elements will be welcomed on the Predators’ awful power play.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Detroit Red Wings Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Gustav Nyquist was the lone new addition to the Blue Jackets in the first day of free agency, and even though he’s a solid player, he’s more of a complementary piece than anything else.

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus also managed to re-sign defenseman Ryan Murray to a two-year deal worth $4.5 million this upcoming season and $4.7 million in 2020-21, buying one year into his UFA years. He is coming off of an injury-laden season that shortened his games played tally to a mere 56 games. Before his injury, Murray played pretty well, earning top pair minutes with a respectable 29 points (one goal, 28 assists) earned. He also ate up a decent amount of ice time, averaging 21:26 per game.

Overall Moves So Far:

In: Nyquist

Out: Bobrovsky, Panarin, Duchene, Ryan Dzingel

Carolina Hurricanes

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

In a stunning move by general manager Marc Bergevin, and in what's taken more than six years to actually employ and not just talk about, Hurricanes’ forward Sebastian Aho was offer sheeted by the Canadiens, of which would award the talented Finn an average of $8.454 million person over the next five years. Aho signed the Habs’ offer sheet, and reactions across the league all sang the same, consistent tune: why didn’t Montreal offer a larger contract?

Per The Athletic’s NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun, the breakdown of the offer sheet is as follows: $11.3 million signing bonus, plus 700,000 salary in Year 1; $9.87 million signing bonus plus 700,000 salary in Year 2; $6.95 million signing bonus plus 750,000 salary in Year 3; $5.25 million signing bonus plus $750,000 in each of Year 4 and Year 5.

Due to the nature of the offer sheet, Carolina has a week to decide whether or not it wants to match the Canadiens’ pitch or accept the compensatory draft picks (a first, second, and third-rounder in next year’s draft). It’s very likely that the Canes do so without hesitation — that is, if they haven’t unofficially done so already. It is surprising, however, that GM Don Waddell hasn’t specifically said what the team plans to do, and even mentioned that he might take all seven days to make a formal decision. The free agency drama is already off to a frisky start.

Overall Moves So Far:

In: Erik Haula, Gustav Forsling, Anton Forsberg, James Reimer

Out: Curtis McElhinney, Michael Ferland, Calvin de Haan, Scott Darling

New Jersey Devils

NHL: Nashville Predators at Minnesota Wild David Berding-USA TODAY Sports

The Devils, who have been surging through this offseason with stellar pick-up after stellar pick-up, have signed veteran forward and former All-Star Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5 million deal, and it’s appearing as one of the most welcomed free agency moves of the entire first day. It’s a relatively low-risk decision to give Simmonds another shot at proving he still has enough in the tank and is worthy of a respectable NHL contract. The trial run will solidify if the 31-year-old’s fluky past season was just the result of untimely injury, or if he’s officially on a downward spiral. The term keeps the Devils’ hands from potential cuffing, and adds decent talent to its winger corps.

Washington Capitals

NHL: Arizona Coyotes at Washington Capitals Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The addition of wingers Richard Panik, Garnet Hathaway, and Brendan Leipsic are just a few more pieces in the Capitals’ fine-tuning toolbox, as the grouping will be a solid buffer to Washington’s bottom-six forward depth. Panik, 28, specifically addresses the team’s need to replace Brett Connolly, but at a cheaper cap hit. His deal sings to the tune of a four-year, $2.75 million pay stub. In 75 games with the Arizona Coyotes last season, Panik collected 33 points (14 goals, 19 assists) and will nicely complement the Caps’ third or fourth line.

Overall Moves So Far:

In: Radko Gudas, Panik, Hathaway

Out: Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen, Connolly, Andre Burakovsky

New York Islanders

NHL: Chicago Blackhawks at New York Islanders Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Though it was evident that 2019 Masterton-winning goaltender Robin Lehner was likely going to be on a different team’s roster come next season, it was never expected that Chicago was going to be his landing spot. The break-up between Lehner and the Isles sounded a little iffy as well.

“I took a couple of days to kind of think about it and when I came back and wanted to make something work they already went for another goalie,” said Lehner of the short-term offer from the Islanders, per Sportsnet.

The acquisition of Lehner beams a large light on the Blackhawks’ confidence with Corey Crawford’s injury history and mudded future, but it makes sense from a historical point of view between the pipes. The Athletic’s Scott Powers made that point in his article about the Blackhawks signing Lehner, stating that Crawford was always at his best when he was playing alongside another quality goaltender. Whether it was Ray Emery, Antti Raanta, or Scott Darling, the proverbial one-two punch in net has always worked out well for Chicago. Now that Lehner is in the mix, that’s a hell of a goalie tandem to work with (if Crawford can avoid another devestating concussion).

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Carolina Hurricanes at New York Islanders Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

Despite rumors linking Lee to a potential move elsewhere, the Islanders’ captain opted to ink a huge long-term deal to stay home on Long Island, re-signing at a $7 million AAV for the next seven years. After it was made clear that the Isles’ hopes of landing Panarin were officially dead with the skilled Russian choosing the other New York franchise (despite a $12.5 million over seven years offer by NYI), GM Lou Lamoriello’s eyes beamed back towards Lee, who in the mean time was taking glances at the Canadiens, Avalanche, Wild, and Blackhawks. Once Panarin balked, Lee became the priority so that the Isles could address their need for a top-six forward.

NHL: New York Islanders at Detroit Red Wings Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Not that this move made that big of a wave with all the other major action signings going on, but Valtteri Filppula flipped back to the Red Wings for a two-year deal worth $3 million annually. Steve Yzerman’s first year as an NHL general manager is officially underway.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at New York Islanders Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports

After cutting loose Lehner and giving him to the Blackhawks, the Islanders filled the open goalie spot with Semyon Varlamov.

Overall Moves So Far:

In: Varlamov

Out: Lehner, Filppula

Philadelphia Flyers

Philadelphia’s big move so far has been trading for and signing Kevin Hayes before he could test the free agent waters.

New York Rangers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Beyond that, they tinkered with their defense trading Radko Gudas (and retaining salary) to division rival Washington Capitals for veteran and more expensive Matt Niskanen. Not really sure why they’re helping a rival save cap room, but that’s Flyera for you.

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

They also traded a second round pick for defensive defenseman Justin Braun and then bought out Andrew MacDonald from the last year of his contract.

Overall Moves So Far:

In: Hayes, Niskanen, Brian Elliott, Tyler Pitlick, Justin Braun

Out: Ryan Hartman, Andrew MacDonald, Radko Gudas, David Schlemko

Pittsburgh Penguins

NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Just in case you missed our breakdowns of the Penguins’ new additions from the first day free agency, catch our take of the (head-scratching) Brandon Tanev acquisition and the AHL depth signings of defenseman David Warsofsky and forward Andrew Agozzino here.

Overall Moves So Far:

In: Dominik Kahun, Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Tanev

Out: Olli Maatta, Phil Kessel