Predators add Stamkos, Marchessault in blockbuster moves; NHL teams drop $1B in free agent frenzy

The Nashville Predators made a huge splash when free agency opened Monday by signing Stanley Cup champion forwards Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Marchessault in a series of moves topping $100 million that made Smashville the center of attention on a record-setting, billion-dollar day across the NHL.

Stamkos left Tampa Bay after 16 seasons, two Cup titles and two additional trips to the final to sign a four year, $32 million contract with Nashville.

“By no means did I ever envision that a day like today would happen, but it did,” Stamkos said. "It was definitely a bitter pill to swallow when it really started to materialize that it wasn’t going to work in Tampa.”

Stamkos turned to the Predators, made his decision and got a call from Marchessault asking if he was signing with them too, worried it was one or the other. “He said, ‘No Stammer, I’m coming, too,’” Stamkos recalled.

Marchessault got $27.5 million for the next five seasons less than 13 months since earning playoff MVP honors in leading Vegas to its first championship. The two will have company: Defenseman Brady Skjei signed with Nashville for seven years and $49 million, and Scott Wedgewood came in at $3 million for two years to back up franchise goaltender Juuse Saros.

General manager Barry Trotz called it “a massive day for the future of our organization.” The Predators at $111.5 million became the first team to surpass $100 million committed to new players in free agency since the Florida Panthers five years ago started building toward the championship they won last week.

“It’s huge because it’s a statement, I think, for the rest of the league,” Trotz said. “These players see what we’re doing with our franchise. We have lots to offer, and we’re very determined to win. We’re committed to that.”

Marchessault was an original member of the expansion 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 and, like Stamkos, was one of his team's most recognizable faces.

Big money deals

On the first day of free agency, teams committed a record $1.12 billion in contracts as more than 100 players changed teams. The total — the most ever spent in any single day of free agency, according to CapFriendly — is a direct result of the salary cap jumping to $88 million per team, the first big increase since before the pandemic.

“A lot of cash," Toronto GM Brad Treliving said. “There were some really good players available. You saw teams be aggressive, and lots of players changed teams.”

Jake Guentzel signed a $63 million, seven-year contract with Tampa Bay after they acquired his rights from Carolina over the weekend, opting to pay him big money at age 30 rather than Stamkos at 34.

“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 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.”

— 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. The Panthers’ exodus included Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Anthony Stolarz to Toronto, Ryan Lomberg to Calgary and Kevin Stenlund to Utah.

— 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 a pair of defensemen, Brett Pesce for six-years and $33 million and Brenden Dillon for three years and $12 million, and forward Stefan Noesen for three years and $8.25 million.

— San Jose signed forwards Tyler Toffoli for $24 million over four years and Alexander Wennberg for two years and $10 million.

— Toronto signed defenseman Chris Tanev to a six-year contract worth $27 million after acquiring his rights from Dallas.

— The Stars kept Matt Duchene for another season for $3 million and also signed defensemen Ilya Lyubushkin for $9.75 million over three years and Matt Dumba for $7.5 million over two years.

— Los Angeles signed former Oilers winger Warren Foegele for $10.5 million over three years and gave rugged defenseman Joel Edmundson four years and $15.4 million.

— Columbus signed center Sean Monahan to a five-year contract for $27.5 million.

Running it back

— 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 re-signed with the Hurricanes on a three-year deal worth $9.15 million.

— Edmonton, which lost to the Panthers in seven games in the Cup final, re-signed depth forwards Corey Perry and Connor Brown for next season. Perry, the only player in NHL history to reach the final with five different organizations, got $1.4 million including incentives, while Brown, who had a goal and an assist in the seven-game series against Florida, signed for $1 million. The Oilers replaced Foegele with Viktor Arvidsson, giving him $8 million over two years, and also added Jeff Skinner on a one-year $3 million agreement.

Busy teams

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), Craig Smith (one year, $1 million), defenseman Alec Martinez (one year, $4 million) and goaltender Laurent Brossoit (two years, $6.6 million).

The Capitals, beyond trading for Jakob Chychrun, continued their roster overhaul by signing defenseman Matt Roy to a six-year contract worth $34.5 million and forwards Brandon Duhaime (two years, $3.7 million) and Taylor Raddysh (one year, $1 million).


AP freelance writers Jim Diamond and Denis Gorman contributed.