Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sports

Bottom-feeding teams lure vets

Milan Lucic and Kyle Okposo, two of the NHL's top free agents, took full advantage of two of the league's worst teams eager to pair a veteran with a young star.

The 28-year-old wings each got $42 million, seven-year contracts Friday on the first day of free agency, though neither is a proven or prolific scorer.

Okposo, coming off a 22-goal year with the Islanders, joined the Sabres, who haven't made the playoffs since 2011 or finished higher than seventh in their division in three years.

Lucic, who scored just 20 times last season with the Kings, is following the money to play for the lowly Oilers.

"It's about time this team starts heading in the right direction," he said of the Oilers, who want to surround center Connor McDavid, their No. 1 overall draft pick last year, with experienced talent.

Teams didn't waste time making a flurry of deals on the first shift of free agency. None involved a superstar player, but none were available.

The Oilers haven't made the playoffs since they lost Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final to the Hurricanes and had the fewest points in the Western Conference last season for the second time in three years.

Lucic said Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli and McDavid, 19, were the reasons he joined a franchise that most highly touted free agents have ignored in recent summers.

"The McDavid factor changes it all," Lucic said.

Chiarelli was Lucic's general manager when the wing played for the Bruins. Chiarelli said 12 teams tried to sign Lucic, indicating one of them was the Kings. "He was offered a longer term," Chiarelli said. "He was offered more money."

Okposo also gets a chance to play with one of the league's most promising players, center Jack Eichel, 19, taken No. 2 behind McDavid in last year's draft. "He knows Jack's a great, young player," Sabres general manager Tim Murray said.

Here's a look at some of the day's other notable moves:

• The Canucks signed wing Loui Eriksson (six years, $36 million), who is coming off a 30-goal season in Boston.

• The Red Wings signed center Frans Nielsen (six years, $31.5 million) to address a need with the departure of Pavel Datsyuk and re-signed center Darren Helm (five years, $19.25 million) before he could have been on the market.

• After spending his 10-season career in St. Louis, David Backes (five years, $30 million) bolted for the Bruins.

• The Panthers, stockpiling goalies, signed James Reimer (five years, $17 million) with Roberto Luongo and Reto Berra on the roster.

• The Maple Leafs, who probably dreamed of bringing Steven Stamkos back home, had to settle for signing wing Matt Martin (four years, $10 million) to perhaps play on their fourth line.

Panthers open vault for Ekblad: Florida came to terms on a contract extension for two-time All-Star defenseman Aaron Ekblad that, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported, will make him the highest-paid player in franchise history. Ekblad, 20, is in the final season of his three-year, entry-level deal at $925,000. The new deal is for $60 million over eight years.

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