Patrik Elias is staying in New Jersey, while five players, including Toronto’s Mikhail Grabovski, are on the move after their teams placed them on unconditional waivers Thursday.
The Devils re-signed Elias to a three-year, $16.5-million contract, locking up the franchise’s career goals and points leader a day before he was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent. New Jersey also re-signed veteran forward Dainius Zubrus to a three-year, $9.3-million contract.
Elias’ agent, Allan Walsh, announced the terms of the deal on Twitter. A person familiar with Zubrus’ contract revealed the terms to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because the Devils didn’t disclose those numbers.
The Maple Leafs announced their intention to part ways with Grabovski by placing him on waivers with the intention of buying out the final four years of his contract.
“It was not an easy decision to make as Mikhail made numerous contributions to our hockey club,” Toronto general manager Dave Nonis said. “This is a roster move that will give us salary cap flexibility moving forward.”
The Maple Leafs’ decision to waive Grabovski came after they signed him to a five-year, $27.5-million contract in March.
A person familiar with the moves told the AP that New Jersey goalie Johan Hedberg, Colorado defenseman Greg Zanon, Nashville defenseman Hal Gill and Edmonton center Eric Belanger also were placed on unconditional waivers and are eligible to have their contracts bought out. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the NHL doesn’t announce the moves.
Players who have contracts bought out on compliance buyouts don’t count against the salary cap. They do receive two-thirds of their remaining salary spread out over double the years left on the deals.
Grabovski is a three-time 20-goal scorer, but he is coming off an inconsistent season in which he had nine goals and seven assists in 48 games. His best season came with Toronto in 2010-11 when he had 29 goals and 29 assists in 81 games.
The Maple Leafs’ decision to free up cap space is a clear sign they intend to be aggressive in free agency to continue improving a team coming off its first playoff appearance since 2004. The Leafs were knocked out by Boston in a seven-game, first-round series.
There only are a few high-profile players expected to be available in free agency, among them, Jarome Iginla, Nathan Horton and Mike Ribeiro.
Two of the top names already are off the market after the Philadelphia Flyers reached a deal this week to sign former No. 1 overall pick and Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier and the Montreal Canadiens announced a deal with former Flyers center Danny Briere on Thursday.
Take the 37-year-old Elias off the list, too.
He has spent his entire 15-year career with the Devils, during which he has combined for 375 goals, 555 assists and 930 points in 1,090 career games. Elias also holds career franchise playoff records with 45 goals, 80 assists and 125 points. He has led the Devils in points in eight seasons, including this last year when he finished with 36 points (14 goals, 22 assists) in 48 games.
Selected by New Jersey in the second round of the 1994 draft, the Czech-born Elias has topped 70 points in a season five times. That included 2011-12, when Elias had 78 points (26 goals, 52 assists) in 81 games.
Hedberg’s release adds yet another veteran goalie to a growing list of free agents. It’s a group that includes Tim Thomas, who is exploring the possibility of a comeback after taking a season off; Rick DiPietro, whose contract was bought out by the New York Islanders; and Ilya Bryzgalov, whose contract was bought out by the Flyers.
Then there are the Buffalo Sabres, who are open to trading Ryan Miller, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Hedberg is a 12-year NHL veteran who has become expendable to the Devils. He is stuck behind Devils starter Martin Brodeur and Cory Schneider, who was acquired from Vancouver in a draft-day trade Sunday.