NHL News and Notes

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Senators re-sign McAmmond
June 22nd, 2007

Ottawa, ON (Sports Network) - The Ottawa Senators re-signed veteran forward Dean McAmmond to a multi-year contract on Friday.

The 34-year-old came to Ottawa as a free agent last August, and recorded 14 goals and 29 points in 81 games during the 2006-2007 regular season. McAmmond contributed five goals and eight points in 18 postseason games as the Senators fell to the Anaheim Ducks in a five-game Stanley Cup final.

McAmmond gained notoriety after he suffered a concussion from a left elbow to the head by Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger in Game 3 of the Finals. Pronger was not penalized on the play, but received a one-game suspension for the hit. McAmmond did not play in the final two games of the series recovering from the injury.

The Alberta native is a 14-year NHL veteran, and has compiled 164 goals, 393 points and 414 penalty minutes with Chicago, Edmonton, Philadelphia, Calgary, Colorado, St. Louis and Ottawa.

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Calgary gets Aucoin from Chicago
June 22nd, 2007

Columbus, OH (Sports Network) - The Calgary Flames acquired defenseman Adrian Aucoin and a seventh-round pick in the 2007 draft from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for defensemen Andrei Zyuzin and Steve Marr on Friday.

Aucoin, who has played for Vancouver, Tampa Bay, the Islanders and Chicago, has appeared in 694 games and has notched 88 goals along with 179 assists over 12 NHL seasons.

He was the captain of the Blackhawks last season and totaled four goals along with 12 assists in 59 games.

Zyuzin, who was the first round pick (second overall) of San Jose in 1996, appeared in 49 games last season with Calgary and scored one goal along with five assists.

He has played nine seasons in the NHL, which included appearances with San Jose, Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Minnesota, and in 464 games has recorded 36 goals and 79 assists.

Marr, 23, has not appeared in any NHL games.

Last season at Omaha, Calgary's American Hockey League affiliate, Marr played in 34 games and posted one goal with three assists.

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Hurricanes get Leighton from Montreal
June 23rd, 2007

Raleigh, NC (Sports Network) - The Carolina Hurricanes acquired goaltender Michael Leighton from the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for the Hurricanes' seventh-round pick (192nd overall) in the 2007 draft on Saturday.

Leighton, 26, bounced around several teams last year as he was part of the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, Philadelphia Flyers and Montreal Canadiens organizations throughout the 2006-07 season.

He played in five games, four with Philadelphia and one with Nashville, and posted a 2-2 record with a 3.93 goals-against average.

He has appeared in 47 games, all but five with Chicago, since coming into the league during the 2001-02 season and has a 10-23-10 record with a 3.04 GAA. The Blackhawks selected Leighton in the sixth round, 165th overall, in the 1999 draft.

With the draft pick, Montreal chose defenseman Scott Kishel.

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Anaheim gets King from Canucks
June 23rd, 2007

Anaheim, CA (Sports Network) - The Anaheim Ducks acquired left wing Jason King and a conditional third-round draft choice in the 2009 draft from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for right wing Ryan Shannon on Saturday.

King, 25, played in 55 games with Vancouver from 2002-2004 and tallied 12 goals along with 11 assists. The 6-1, 195-pound forward played with Manitoba (Vancouver's AHL affiliate) for parts of four seasons from 2002-2006.

He was unsigned by the Canucks for the 2006-2007 season and opted to play for Skelleftea AIK in the Swedish elite league Elitserien.

Shannon, 24, played his first season in the NHL during the 2006-07 campaign and skated in 53 games with Anaheim, totaling two goals and nine assists. He also played in 11 playoff games, but did not register a point.

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Thrashers, Canucks swap players
June 23rd, 2007

Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - The Atlanta Thrashers acquired forward Jesse Schultz from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for defenseman Jimmy Sharrow on Saturday.

Schultz spent the majority of last season with the Canucks' American Hockey League affiliate in Manitoba, scoring 18 goals and 39 points in 67 games. The 24-year-old has picked up 64 goals and 131 points in 219 games with the Moose. The Saskatchewan native previously spent time with Columbia (ECHL), and Tri- City, Prince Albert and Kelowna in the WHL.

Sharrow, a fourth-round pick by the Thrashers in 2003, recorded four goals and 18 points in 42 games with the AHL's Chicago Wolves. The Massachusetts native notched six goals and 37 points in 89 career games with the Thrashers' AHL farm club. He has also seen time with the Gwinnett Gladiators (ECHL) and Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL).

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Pittsburgh and Anaheim swap centers
June 23rd, 2007

Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - The Pittsburgh Penguins acquired center Tim Brent from the Anaheim Ducks for center Stephen Dixon on Saturday.

A third-round pick of Anaheim in 2004, Brent appeared in 15 games for the Ducks this past season, his first in the NHL, scoring one goal and collecting six penalty minutes. The 23-year-old spent the majority of 2006-07 with Portland of the American Hockey League, registering 16 goals and 14 assists in 48 contests.

Dixon, 21, was a seventh-round selection of the Penguins in 2003. He spent 2006-07 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL, notching 17 goals and 24 assists in 80 games.

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Ducks sign pair of blueliners
June 23rd, 2007

Anaheim, CA (Sports Network) - The Anaheim Ducks signed defensemen Sean O'Donnell and Kent Huskins to two-year contract extensions on Saturday. Per team policy, financial terms were not disclosed.

Anaheim acquired O'Donnell late in the 2005-06 season from Phoenix.

This past season, he appeared in 79 regular season games and posted two goals and 15 assists. Also, he appeared in all 21 postseason games and added two helpers with a plus-10 rating to help Anaheim to its first-ever Stanley Cup victory.

Over 12 seasons, he has appeared in 850 games and has 25 goals and 143 assists.

Huskins played in his first season during the 2006-07 campaign and, after several trips between the NHL and the minors, became a permanent fixture on the blueline late in the season.

Over 33 games he had three assists and a minus-three rating. He also appeared in all 21 playoff games and had one assist and a plus-four rating.

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Blues get Tkachuk back
June 26th, 2007

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) - The St. Louis Blues acquired the rights to center Keith Tkachuk from the Atlanta Thrashers along with a conditional fourth round draft pick in 2008, which could become a third round choice in 2009, in exchange for a conditional first round draft choice in 2008 on Tuesday.

This past February, the Blues shipped Tkachuk to Atlanta in exchange for a first round draft choice in 2007, a third round draft choice in 2007, a second round draft choice in 2008 and forward Glen Metropolit.

There was also the conditional first-round pick in 2008 which went back to Atlanta. It would have gone to the Blues had the Thrashers re-signed Tkachuk, who becomes an unrestricted free agent Sunday.

At the time of the trade, he had 43 points (20 goals, 23 assists) in 61 games with the Blues. He finished last season with 58 points (27 goals, 31 assists) and reached the 50-point plateau for the 12th time in 15 seasons.

"Keith has played a major part for the Blues organization over the past seven seasons and played some of his finest hockey under head coach Andy Murray," said Blues president John Davidson.

The four-time All Star has amassed 926 career points (473 goals, 453 assists) and 2,033 penalty minutes in 976 NHL games with Winnipeg/Phoenix, St. Louis and Atlanta.

Tkachuk was originally selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, 19th overall, in the 1990 NHL draft.

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Calgary Flames sign forward Wayne Primeau to three-year contract
June 28, 2007

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -The Calgary Flames re-signed center Wayne Primeau to a three-year contract and inked defenseman David Hale to a one-year deal.

Calgary had acquired Primeau, who could've become an unrestricted free agent Sunday, from the Boston Bruins in a February trade that also brought defenseman Brad Stuart to the Flames.

Primeau, 31, had three goals and four assists in 27 games for the Flames. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound forward played a defensive role on Calgary's third and fourth lines. He had two assists in six playoff games.

Calgary acquired Hale from New Jersey at the Feb. 27 trade deadline. The rookie had one assist in 43 games for the Devils before he was traded to Calgary, where he played another 11 regular-season games and two postseason contests.

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Blues sign C Keith Tkachuk on eve of unrestricted free agency
June 30, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -The St. Louis Blues signed center Keith Tkachuk to a two-year contract on Saturday, one day before he would have become an unrestricted free agent.

The Canadian Press reported that the deal was for $8 million. The Blues traded the four-time All-Star to Atlanta in February but reacquired rights to him earlier this week. The trade allowed St. Louis to deal exclusively with Tkachuk until Sunday.

``We are excited to be able to bring a player of Keith's caliber back to the St. Louis Blues,'' team president John Davidson said. ``Keith played great hockey under head coach Andy Murray last season, and we are thrilled to have him wearing the blue note again.''

Tkachuk, 35, had seven goals and eight assists with the Thrashers after 20 goals and 23 assists for St. Louis. It was the 12th 50-point season in his 15-year career.

The 6-foot-2, 225-pounnd center needs 27 goals to reach 500 and is 24 games shy of 1,000.

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Report: Wild goaltender Fernandez traded to Bruins
June 30th, 2007

St. Paul, MN (Sports Network) - The Minnesota Wild have reportedly traded goaltender Manny Fernandez to the Boston Bruins.

According to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Fernandez was shipped to Beantown in exchange for minor-league prospect Petr Kalus and a future fourth- round draft pick.

Fernandez was 22-16-1 with a 2.55 goals-against average and a pair of shutouts in 44 games for Minnesota last season, before missing the last 10 regular- season games and all five postseason contests with a knee injury.

The club was looking to unload his $4.33 million salary after signing backup netminder Niklas Backstrom to a two-year, $6.2 million deal earlier in the off-season. Third-string goaltender Josh Harding is expected to move into the backup role next year.

The Ontario native was a third-round pick of the Quebec Nordiques in 1992, and has compiled a 125-113-24 mark with a 2.47 GAA and 13 shutouts for the Stars and Wild from 1994-2007.

With the departure of Fernandez, only Marian Gaborik and Wes Walz remain from the Wild's inaugural season of 2000-2001.

Kalus, Boston's 39th selection in the 2005 draft, picked up 13 goals and 30 points in 43 games with the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League last season.

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Columbus signs defenseman
July 2, 2007

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -The Columbus Blue Jackets agreed to a one-year contract Monday with defenseman Sheldon Brookbank.

The 26-year-old Brookbank, selected as the American Hockey League's top defenseman last season, scored a career-best 15 goals and had 38 assists in 78 games with the Milwaukee Admirals.

He played three games with the Nashville Predators last season, picking up his only NHL point with an assist against Pittsburgh on Feb. 6. He'll bolster the Blue Jackets' blue line, decimated by injuries a year ago.

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Blues sign Kariya to 3-year contract
July 1, 2007

ST. LOUIS (AP) -The St. Louis Blues signed free agent left wing Paul Kariya to a three-year contract on Sunday night, adding scoring punch to a rebuilding franchise.

Kariya, 32, was the leading scorer the past two seasons for the Nashville Predators, electing to test free agency with that franchise for sale. He's a seven-time All-Star, including five straight berths from 1999-2003.

``We are excited to announce we have signed a world class hockey player as well as a first-class person,'' Blues president John Davidson said. ``Paul gives us instant scoring up front as well as bringing an entertaining brand of hockey.''

Kariya scored 76 points last season on 24 goals and 52 assists and had 85 points in 2005-06. The Predators also have lost goaltender Tomas Vokoun, defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell.

The Blues missed the playoffs for the second straight season but surged under new ownership that added coach Andy Murray in mid-December.

Kariya played his first nine seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, helping that franchise reach the Stanley Cup finals in 2003. He has seven 30-plus goal seasons, is a two-time Lady Byng Trophy winner, and represented Canada in two Olympics.

Kariya is the second offseason acquisition in two days for the Blues, who signed center Keith Tkachuk to a two-year contract on Saturday. The Blues traded Tkachuk, a four-time All-Star, to the Atlanta Thrashers in February and reacquired his rights last week.

Kariya has 366 goals and 500 assists in 821 games. He was originally the fourth overall pick of the 1993 draft by the Ducks.

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Smyth agrees to deal with Avalanche
July 1, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -``Captain Canada'' Ryan Smyth has found a new home with the Colorado Avalanche.
   
Late in a frenzied first day of free-agent signing, Smyth - the last remaining topflight forward left the New York Islanders on Sunday night for a return trip to the Western Conference.

Islanders general manager Garth Snow, who made retaining Smyth his top priority, got the bad news that Smyth was leaving Long Island shortly before 11 p.m. EDT from the forward's agent, Don Meehan.

``It was obviously not what we wanted to hear, but I appreciated the call,'' Snow said. ``Don said we were right in it for Ryan's services until the very end and it was one of the hardest decisions he'd ever been a part of.''

The Islanders acquired Smyth from the Edmonton Oilers just minutes before the NHL trade deadline in February. New York gave up two former first-round picks plus this year's No. 1 selection to get him, but couldn't make the big move stick by signing him to a long-term contract.

``Ryan decided it was best for him and his family to sign with Colorado,'' Snow said. ``The Avalanche are very fortunate to have him and we wish Ryan and his family the best. I said when I made the trade to acquire Ryan from Edmonton that it's a deal I'd do over and over again.

``My feelings on the move to bring Ryan Smyth to Long Island have not changed.''

Smyth agreed to a five-year deal worth $31.25 million with the Avalanche, who are looking to quickly rebuild a franchise that missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1994 - two years before the team relocated to Denver from Quebec.

It capped a very tough day for Snow and the Islanders, who lost several key free agents Sunday - including Smyth and Jason Blake, the team's top two scorers from last season.

All they had to show from a busy first day of free-agent negotiations was a deal with forward Jon Sim, who left the Atlanta Thrashers for a three-year, $3 million deal.

The Avalanche, however, made Smyth their second acquisition of the day after they inked former San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan to a four-year, $18 million contract. That marked the first time Colorado spoiled the Islanders plans Sunday.

``We had a few conversations with Hannan and made him an offer right on par with what he signed for,'' Snow said. ``Scott told us he was flattered by our interest and intrigued by the opportunity to play for (Islanders coach) Ted Nolan, but his first choice was to stay in the West. We weren't surprised when he went to the Avalanche.''

Smyth also watched former Buffalo co-captains Chris Drury and Daniel Briere leave the Presidents' Trophy- winning Sabres earlier in the day for big deals with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, respectively, before making his move.

Scott Gomez also joined the Rangers on Sunday, leaving the New Jersey Devils for a seven-year deal worth $51.5 million.

Smyth was dealt to the Islanders by the Oilers in a stunning deal at the trade deadline. Known as ``Captain Canada'' for his experience with his home country's national teams, the Alberta native was shipped out of Edmonton after spending his first 11-plus NHL seasons there.

He turned down a multiyear offer from the Oilers that would've paid him more than $5 million a season and was traded to the Islanders for former first-round picks Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra. Edmonton took defenseman Alex Plante last weekend with the draft choice they got from New York.

Smyth's departure capped a rough first free-agency opener for Snow, who retired as a player last July to immediately take over as Islanders GM from the fired Neil Smith.

In the opening hours of the signing period Sunday, the Islanders lost leading scorer Blake (Toronto), fellow forward Viktor Kozlov and top defenseman Tom Poti to the Washington Capitals, and another forward, Richard Zednik, to Florida.

``This organization has nothing but the utmost pride in Blakey and a deep appreciation for the player he became on Long Island,'' Snow said.

Smyth finished second on the club with 68 points and provided necessary leadership New York needed in its dressing room.

They added Sim, a 30-year-old, grinding right winger who had 17 goals and 12 assists in 77 games with Atlanta last season.

``Jon Sim is an aggressive, hardworking veteran forward with good offensive skills who fits in perfectly with Ted Nolan's system,'' Snow said.

In 307 NHL games over eight NHL seasons, the 5-10, 190-pound Sim posted 52 goals and 45 assists.

``I really like Jonathan's game and I believe he's an excellent addition for us,'' Nolan said. ``He's a tenacious player who doesn't take off a shift. He's exactly the kind of player we want for the Islanders.''

Blake, who had career highs of 40 goals and 69 points last season, signed a five-year, $20 million contract with the Maple Leafs. Kozlov, who had a career-best 25 goals and 51 points with New York, turned that into a two-year, $5 million deal with the Capitals. He will team again with Poti, an offensive-minded defenseman who put up 44 points in his only season with the Islanders.

Poti received a four-year, $14 million contract from the Capitals. Zednik, also acquired shortly before the trade deadline, signed a two-year deal worth $3.25 million with the Panthers.

The Islanders also bought out the contract of former captain Alexei Yashin after the season, and were prepared to make Smyth the new captain if they could have convinced him to stay.

Regardless of whom New York signs to replace the lost parts, those players will be in front of goalie Rick DiPietro, who is set to enter the second season of his landmark 15-year contract with the Islanders.

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Blake signs 5-year, $20 million deal with Maple Leafs
July 1, 2007

TORONTO (AP) -The Toronto Maple Leafs signed winger Jason Blake to a five-year, $20 million contract on Sunday.
   
The 33-year-old unrestricted free agent had a career-high 40 goals last season while also adding 29 assists for a career-high 69 points in 82 games with the New York Islanders.

Blake, a four-time 20-goal scorer, will make $5 million next season, $4.5 million in each of the following two seasons and $3 million in the final two years of his deal.

The Islanders' top priority is keeping forward Ryan Smyth, who they acquired at the trade deadline from the Edmonton Oilers.

The Leafs were in need for a first-line winger to play with captain Mats Sundin and hope they've found it with the speedy Blake, who also is a good penalty killer.

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Rangers sign centers Gomez and Drury
July 1, 2007

NEW YORK (AP) -The New York Rangers solved their problems at center in a big way Sunday, signing Scott Gomez and Chris Drury away from Eastern Conference rivals on the first day of free agency.

Just hours after the summer shopping season opened, the Rangers landed the two biggest available centers - plucking Gomez from Atlantic Division-foe New Jersey and Drury from the Buffalo Sabres, the team that knocked New York out in the second round of this year's playoffs.

Gomez signed a seven-year deal with the Rangers worth $51.5 million - including $10 million next season. Drury inked a five-year contract for $35.25 million. He will earn $7.1 million each of the next two seasons.

The Rangers had been looking for a second-line center to play with forward Brendan Shanahan, and now can plug Gomez into that spot. Drury's signing means that New York will let unrestricted free agent Michael Nylander leave, which will create a spot on the top line for Drury to play alongside Jaromir Jagr.

The 27-year Gomez, a two-time Stanley Cup champion in his seven NHL seasons - all with the Devils - had 13 goals and 47 assists in 72 games with the Devils.

Shanahan hasn't signed a new deal yet, but said after the season that he wanted to return to New York.

Drury, from nearby Trumbull, Conn., joined fellow Sabres co-captain Daniel Briere in leaving Buffalo on Sunday. Briere signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with Philadelphia - another division rival of the Rangers.

Drury, 30, scored a career-high 69 points - including 37 goals - for the Sabres. Buffalo had an NHL-best 113 points this season, but the balance of power in the East clearly shifted toward the Atlantic Division on Sunday.

The Rangers lost a tight, six-game series to Buffalo in the second round. New York was poised to take a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 when Drury scored the tying goal with 7.7 seconds left in regulation. The Sabres then won 2-1 in overtime to take control back in the series.

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Oilers acquire Pitkanen, Sanderson from Flyers
July 1, 2007

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) -The Edmonton Oilers acquired defenseman Joni Pitkanen and forward Geoff Sanderson from the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday for defenseman Jason Smith and forward Joffrey Lupul.

Pitkanen's arrival should provide a major boost to Edmonton's power play, which ranked fourth-worst in the league last season. The 23-year-old had career highs with 39 assists and 43 points in 77 games with the Flyers last season.

``Joni is a talented young defenseman with a proven track record,'' Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said in a statement. ``He possesses the offensive skills we have been seeking on the blue line and look forward to having him in the lineup.''

Sanderson, a two-time All-Star, had 11 goals and 18 assists in 58 games with Philadelphia last season.

Lupul, acquired in the trade that sent defenseman Chris Pronger to Anaheim last offseason, leaves his hometown team after a disappointing season with 16 goals, 12 assists and a team-worst minus-29 in 81 games.

The Oilers made two other moves on Sunday, signing free-agent defensemen Dick Tarnstrom and Denis Grebeshkov to one-year contracts.

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Briere signs 8-year, $52 million deal with Flyers
July 1, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -Daniel Briere will never be undervalued again.

The skilled but undersized forward signed an eight-year, $52 million contract with the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday, immediately becoming the top player signed on the first day of the NHL's free agency period and leaving the Buffalo Sabres without one of their co-captains.

The Flyers weren't done. A few hours later they swung a major four-player deal with the Edmonton Oilers, acquiring defensemen Jason Smith and forward Joffrey Lupul in exchange for defenseman Joni Pitkanen and journeyman forward Geoff Sanderson.

It was a big day for general manager Paul Holmgren, who continues revamping what had been an aging and slow team that finished with a league-low 22 wins last season.

``We are extremely please to add Daniel to our roster and eager to get him into our lineup,'' Holmgren said. ``We look for big things from him.''

The contract is heavily front-loaded, with Briere to make $10 million next season - double what he made last year. He'll then make $8 million in the next two years and $7 million during the 2010-13 seasons. The contract then tapers off with Briere scheduled to make $3 million in 2013-14 and $2 million in the final year of the deal.

The Flyers outbid numerous teams that were interested in Briere, the former Sabres co-captain, who finished 10th in the league with 95 points (32 goals, 63 assists) last season. Buffalo could also lose co-captain Chris Drury to free agency.

``Danny had many offers and lots of interest out there,'' said Pat Brisson, his agent. ``He made sure to carefully look at his options. He is thrilled with the results.''

The trade came as a surprise.

Lupul is a three-year veteran, who struggled in Edmonton after the Oilers acquired him in a deal that sent Chris Pronger to Anaheim last summer. Lupul had 16 goals and 12 assists last season, a considerable dropoff after scoring 28 goals and 25 assists the previous year with Anaheim.

Smith is a 14-year veteran and was the Oilers captain. He's a dependable blue-liner who had two goals and 11 points last year.

The Oilers were also looking to shake up their roster after missing the playoffs last season.

In three seasons, Pitkanen has established himself a solid offensive defensemen and is expected to bolster what had been a sputtering Oilers power play. He's coming off his second consecutive 40-point season, in which he scored four goals and 39 assists.

Sanderson is a 16-year veteran, who will be joining his seventh team. He's still productive, managing 11 goals and 18 points for the Flyers last season.

``Joni is a talented young defenseman with a proven track record,'' Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe said. ``He possesses the offensive skills we have been seeking on the blue line and look forward to having him in the lineup.''

The Flyers already bolstered their lineup two weeks ago when they acquired defenseman Kimmo Timonen and forward Scott Hartnell in a trade with the Nashville Predators. Philadelphia then signed both to six-year deals: Timonen for $37.8 million and Hartnell for $25.2 million.

Briere will be reunited with friend and former teammate, goaltender Martin Biron, who was traded to Philadelphia by Buffalo in February and has since claimed the No. 1 job.

Briere broke off talks with the Sabres on Friday, disappointed that Buffalo offered him a five-year, $25 million contract. The offer averaged out to the one-year, $5 million contract Briere was awarded in arbitration last summer, leaving the player confident he could get more on the open market.

The new deal is a big step up for Briere, who earlier in his career was knocked for his slight 5-foot-9, 177-pound frame. At one point, he was placed on waivers by the Phoenix Coyotes.

A nine-year veteran, Briere emerged as a star shortly after Buffalo acquired him in a deal with Phoenix in March 2003. He has scored 92 goals and 138 assists for 230 points in 225 games with the Sabres, a big improvement after 70 goals and 76 assist for 146 points in 258 games with the Coyotes.

He appeared in his first career All-Star Game this season and earned the game's MVP honors. He also produced in the clutch, scoring 10 game-winners over the past two seasons.

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Flames sign D Sarich to 5-year deal
July 1, 2007

CALGARY, Alberta (AP) -Cory Sarich signed a five-year, $18 million contract with the Flames on Sunday, the first day of free agency.

The 28-year-old defenseman spent the past seven seasons with Tampa Bay, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2004 against Calgary. He has played in all 82 regular-season games in each of the past four seasons.

Signing Sarich addressed the most pressing need for Flames general manger Darryl Sutter after Roman Hamrlik and Brad Stuart became free agents Sunday. Sutter was looking for a player capable of partnering with either Robyn Regehr or Dion Phaneuf.

Now he can focus on trying to sign Regehr and captain Jarome Iginla to extensions. Both players are due to become free agents in a year.

``I think we're still working on the details of both of them,'' Sutter said Sunday. ``There's a lot more to it than just money. We'll get it worked out.''

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Penguins, Whitney agree to 6-year deal
July 1, 2007

PITTSBURGH (AP) -The Pittsburgh Penguins made the first move to keep their core group of young players together, reaching terms Sunday with restricted free agent defenseman Ryan Whitney on a $24 million, six-year contract that will pay him most of his money at the end of the deal.
   
Whitney is to make $2.5 million in the 2007-08 season, with his salary rising from there. By backloading the contract, the Penguins improve their ability to re-sign stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal before they become free agents in five or six years, yet stay under the salary cap.

Giving Whitney a six-year contract assures the Penguins of keeping him for at least one season past when he would have become eligible for free agency.

Whitney finished sixth among NHL defensemen with 59 points (14 goals, 45 assists) last season, and has 20 goals and 77 assists in 149 career games. Whitney and Sergei Gonchar give the Penguins two of the NHL's top offensive defensemen, with Gonchar getting 13 goals and 54 assists last season. Gonchar has three seasons remaining on his $25 million, five-year deal.

With rookie defenseman Kris Letang apparently ready to play in the NHL after getting a brief trial at the start of last season, the Penguins would like to add another veteran defenseman who doesn't need to score a lot. Among those on the market are Detroit's Danny Markov and San Jose's Scott Hannan, who had four goals and 20 assists last season.

Hannan, a former first-round draft pick, broke in with the Sharks during the 1998-99 season and has played his entire career with them. He has 25 goals and 102 assists in 508 NHL games.

With Crosby winning the NHL scoring title and MVP award last season, and Malkin and Staal enjoying excellent rookie seasons, the Penguins made the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They won 47 games after winning only 22 in 2005-06, the fourth best turnaround in NHL history.

Whitney had left wrist surgery in April but is expected to be ready for the start of training camp in September.

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