Nashville Predators sign Stamkos, Marchessault, Skjei in free agency frenzy; Guentzel signs in Tampa


The Nashville Predators made a big splash as NHL free agency opened Monday by signing Stanley Cup champions Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault in a jaw-dropping series of moves topping $100 million that made Smashville the center of attention across hockey.

Stamkos said he was signing with the Predators, leaving Tampa Bay after 16 seasons that included winning the Stanley Cup twice and making two other trips to the final. Terms were not immediately known, but Stamkos reportedly will get $32 million for four years.

“It’s not for a lack of effort on my side (to try) to make things work out in Tampa, but it’s not fair to Nashville for me to sit here and say I really wanted to be in Tampa,” Stamkos said on TSN in Canada. “Everyone knows I did. It didn’t work out, and I’m just as thrilled to be joining the Nashville Predators for a multitude of reasons. You can see by how aggressive they’ve been today that their commitment to winning is second to none.”

Marchessault, the 2023 playoff MVP and another standout veteran forward, got a five-year deal worth $27.5 million, according to a person familiar with the contract. The Predators also signed defenseman Brady Skjei to a $49 million, seven-year contract and backup goaltender Scott Wedgewood to a $3 million, two-year contract, according to two others with knowledge of the moves.

All three spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the deals have not been announced. Wedgewood is expected to spell franchise goalie Juuse Saros, whose long-term contract extension could be finalized this week.

Marchessault was an original member of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and helped them reach the final twice and win the Stanley Cup last year. He is coming off scoring a career-high 42 goals.

Within the first hour of free agency, teams had committed over $745 million in salary, a product of the cap getting a big bump for the first time since before the pandemic. The cap is up more than 5% to $88 million for next season, with a possible leap to $92 million or more in 2025-26.

Jake Guentzel signed a $63 million, seven-year contract with Tampa Bay after they acquired his rights from the Hurricanes over the weekend, easing the blow of losing Stamkos.

“Things just didn’t work out in Carolina, and then I heard Tampa might be trading for my rights, so obviously I got really excited because everyone hears how good of a team and good of a spot this is,” said Guentzel, who will count $9 million against the salary cap through 2031. “The pedigree behind Tampa Bay, the winning culture — just a lot of high-end players that really make it intriguing to come to Tampa.”

Tampa Bay traded defensemen Mikhail Sergachev to Utah and depth forward Tanner Jeannot to Los Angeles to clear cap space not to retain Stamkos but to add Guentzel. The Lightning still had roughly $7 million to spend, and general manager Julien BriseBois was expected to use it on another forward, either in free agency or by trade.

— Fresh off helping Florida win the Stanley Cup, defenseman Brandon Montour signed a $50 million, seven-year contract with Seattle, and the Kraken added former Golden Knights center and ’23 champion Chandler Stephenson for $43.75 million over the same length of time.

— Vancouver signed former Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk for $38.5 million over seven years.

— Boston signed center Elias Lindholm to a seven-year contract worth $54.25 million and gave defenseman Nikita Zadorov $30 million for the next six seasons.

— New Jersey continued to build a playoff-worthy roster, signing defenseman Brett Pesce to a six-year contract worth $33 million.

— San Jose signed winger Tyler Toffoli for $24 million over four years, a person familiar with the deal said told AP on condition of anonymity because the signing had not yet been announced.

— Toronto signed defenseman Chris Tanev to a six-year contract worth $27 million that counts $6.5 million against the salary cap through 2030. The Maple Leafs also signed goaltender Joseph Woll, a restricted free agent, to a three-year extension for just under $11 million.

— The New York Rangers added a forward via trade, getting Reilly Smith from Pittsburgh for a 2027 second-round pick and a conditional fifth-rounder in ’25.

— Hours after a rainy rally celebrating their Stanley Cup title, the Panthers beat the midnight buzzer to re-sign Sam Reinhart to an eight-year contract worth $69 million, an annual cap hit of $8.625 million for a player coming off a 57-goal regular season.

— Jordan Martinook is re-signing with the Hurricanes on a three-year deal worth $9.15 million, according to a person with knowledge of the contract.

— Erik Johnson is also staying with the Philadelphia Flyers on a $1 million contract for next season.

— Edmonton, which lost to the Panthers in seven games in the Cup final, re-signed versatile depth forward Connor Brown to a one-year contract for $1 million. Brown, who tore the ACL in his left knee in October 2022, had a goal and an assist in the final.

Chicago and Washington were among the busiest teams.

The Blackhawks signed forwards Tyler Bertuzzi (four years, $22 million), Teuvo Teravainen (three years, $16.2 million) and Craig Smith (one year, $1 million) and goaltender Laurent Brossoit (two years, $6.6 million).

The Capitals followed through on GM Brian MacLellan’s plan to change their mix on the blue line, acquiring Jakob Chychrun from Ottawa for fellow defenseman Nick Jensen and a 2026 third-round pick. They signed 29-year-old defenseman Matt Roy to a six-year contract worth $34.5 million and added depth forward Brandon Duhaime, the latest moves in an organizational overhaul following separate trades for center Pierre-Luc Dubois and goaltender Logan Thompson.

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AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl



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