On the fourth day, they rested.
After an extrememly busy opening few days to free agency, the NHL largely fell quiet Friday. The biggest news came out of Russia, where club team Avangard Omsk announced that it had signed free-agent winger Jaromir Jagr to a contract.
That two-year deal likely signals the end of Jagr’s brilliant NHL career. His 1,699 points currently put him ninth on the league’s all-time list.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Jagr told The Canadian Press. “It was the toughest decision in my life, hockey-wise. …
“It was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. No question about it, I hate making changes.”
The other major moves on Friday all happened with trades.
San Jose continued re-tooling its blue-line by acquiring defencemen Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich from Tampa and sending Craig Rivet to Buffalo.
The Sharks sent 23-year-old defenceman Matt Carle and top prospect Ty Wishart to the Lightning along with a first-round pick in 2009 and a fourth-round choice in 2010 to land Boyle and Lukowich.
In exchange for Rivet, they received two second-round picks from the Sabres.
Rivet had spent parts of two seasons in San Jose but became expendable after the team signed free-agent Rob Blake on Thursday and made the trade with Tampa for two more defenders.
“Under the cap system, difficult decisions have to be made and this is one of them,” said Sharks GM Doug Wilson. “Craig is a true professional and we would like to thank him for everything that he has done here.”
The Vancouver Canucks were also active and acquired young winger Steve Bernier from Buffalo for second-and third-round draft picks.
Bernier only joined the Sabres at the trade deadline and was surprised to be traded again so soon.
“When I got the call I was shocked,” he said. “Right now the only thing I am thinking about is getting in shape and having a chance to improve myself with the Vancouver Canucks.
“I didn’t see this coming. I got traded last year in February. I thought I was going to stay there (Buffalo) for a little while. It took me by surprise but it’s part of the job. I’m going to Vancouver and it’s tough not to be happy.”
Jagr, meanwhile, received contract offers from Edmonton, Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers but none of those teams wanted to give the 36-year-old anything more than a one-year deal.
He was after more stability and decided to sign with the same Russian team he played for during the 2004-05 NHL lockout. Jagr has no qualms about going overseas to play in the new Continental Hockey League.
“Don’t forget I’m from Europe,” he said. “Russia is nothing new for me. It’s close to the Czech Republic. It would be different for American or Canadian players but for me, I enjoy it. The people love hockey and I had a great time out there.”
His bank account will love it, too. Jagr will earn around US$7 million tax-free – the equivalent of around $11 million a season in the NHL.
In other moves Friday:
-Toronto signed centre Mikhail Grabovsky to a one-year contract just one day after acquiring him in a trade from Montreal.
-Calgary agreed to terms with veteran winger Rene Bourque.
-Vancouver signed minor-league centre Mark Cullen. He had 47 points in 59 games with Grand Rapids of the AHL last season.