The much-anticipated breakup of the Columbus Blue Jackets’ core came quickly.
Once Artemi Panarin completed the exodus of playerse leaving Columbus by signing with the New York Rangers a little more than an hour into the NHL’s free-agent signing period Monday, the real intrigue began.
The Montreal Canadiens made the boldest move of the day by signing Carolina restricted free-agent forward Sebastian Aho to a five-year, $42.27 million offer sheet. That leaves the Hurricanes seven days to match the offer or elect to receive Montreal’s first-, second- and third-round picks as compensation.
“We want to win. That’s the risk we’re taking,” Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin said.
Carolina GM Don Waddell last week said the team would match any offer, but Monday would say only that the team will review its options.
The NHL’s new year began in hectic fashion highlighted by Columbus’ three top free agents each signing lucrative seven-year contracts; Aho landing the first offer sheet since 2013; and the Toronto Maple Leafs swinging two multiplayer trades.
Panarin is headed to the Big Apple after signing a seven-year, $81.5 million contract with the Rangers. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky left Columbus for South Beach after signing a seven-year, $70 million contract with the Florida Panthers, where he will take over the starting duties after Roberto Luongo retired.
And center Matt Duchene acknowledged he considered re-signing with the Blue Jackets before signing a seven-year, $56 million contract with the Nashville Predators.
The Blue Jackets began restocking their lineup by signing former Sharks winger Gustav Nyquist to a four-year deal with an average salary of $5.5 million. Columbus also re-signed defenseman Ryan Murray to a two-year, $9.2 million contract and backup goalie Joonas Korpisalo to a one-year contract.
Nyquist wasn’t bothered by the departures. “I think we want to prove that there is going to be opportunity for other guys who are going to try to come in and fill some of those holes,” he said. “I have no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be a really good team.”
In Florida, Panthers GM Dale Tallon settled on landing Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. The Panthers also had extra money on hand to sign forwards Brett Connolly and Noel Acciari and defenseman Anton Stralman.
The Maple Leafs began the day acquiring defenseman Cody Ceci, a 2020 third-round pick and minor-leaguers Ben Harpur and Aaron Luchuk from the Ottawa Senators for defenseman Nikita Zaitsev, forward Connor Brown and minor leaguer Michael Carcone.
Some 10 hours later, the Leafs acquired defenseman Tyson Barrie, forward Alex Kerfoot, a restricted free agent, and 2020 sixth-round pick from Colorado. The Avalanche got back forward Nazem Kadri, prospect defenseman Calle Rosen and a 2020 third-round pick.
Toronto, which still needs to sign restricted free-agent forward Mitch Marner, cleared $9.1 million in badly needed cap space, with Colorado agreeing to pick up half of the final year of Barrie’s $6 million salary, and $5.5 million cap hit.
John Wawrow and Stephen Whyno are Associated Press writers.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Artemi-Panarin-to-Rangers-Sebastian-Aho-to-14065637.php.