NHL Notes: Blue Jackets give Alexander Wennberg 6-year, $29.4 million deal

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NHL Notes: Blue Jackets give Alexander Wennberg 6-year, $29.4 million deal

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed free-agent center Alexander Wennberg to a six-year, $29.4 million contract.

The Blue Jackets announced the deal Friday, locking up their top-line center through the 2022-23 season, with a cap hit of $4.9 million a year. The 22-year-old Swede was a key part of a young team that set franchise records for wins and points and advanced to the playoffs last year.

Wennberg posted NHL career highs in 2016-17 with 13 goals and 46 assists for 59 points and a plus-9 plus/minus rating in 80 regular- season games. In his third year in the league, he led Columbus in assists and finished second in points to Cam Atkinson.

Canucks: Vanek signs 1-year, $2 million deal
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Thomas Vanek and the Vancouver Canucks agreed to a one-year, $2 million deal Friday.

The 33-year-old forward had 17 goals and 31 assists in 68 games last season with Florida and Detroit.

"Thomas has been a prolific scorer throughout his career and we're excited to add his offence and experience to help with the continued growth of our forwards," Canucks general manager Jim Benning said. "His skill and ability to contribute on the scoresheet, combined with his lead-by-example style will help our team this year, and will benefit our younger players as they continue to develop their game."

The former University of Minnesota star from Austria has 333 goals and 364 assists in 885 regular-season games with Buffalo, the New York Islanders, Montreal, Minnesota, Detroit and Florida.

NHL Notes: Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella gets 1-year extension

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NHL Notes: Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella gets 1-year extension

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- John Tortorella of the Columbus Blue Jackets is getting a one-year contract extension following a season in which he was the NHL's Coach of the Year.

General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced the move Monday. Financial terms were not released.

Tortorella was entering the last year of a five-year, $10 million deal he signed with Vancouver in 2013.

Since joining Columbus on Oct. 21, 2015, Tortorella has led the Blue Jackets to an 84-57-16 record and .586 winning percentage.

Columbus had a 50-24-8 record and 108 points last year, the NHL's fourth-best record. This was a 32-point turnaround from 2015-16.

Sabres: Beaulieu avoids arbitration with 2-year, $4.8M deal 
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Newly acquired Buffalo Sabres defenseman Nathan Beaulieu has agreed to a two-year, $4.8 million deal in foregoing the opportunity to have his contract determined at an arbitration hearing.

The Sabres announced the agreement on Monday, five days before both sides were scheduled to present their case before an NHL arbitrator. Beaulieu was a restricted free agent.

Buffalo gave up a third-round draft pick to acquire Beaulieu in a trade with Montreal on June 17 after the Canadiens were prepared to expose the player in the expansion draft.

The 24-year-old Beaulieu had a career-best four goals and 24 points in 74 games in his third full NHL season. Overall, he has seven goals and 53 assists in 225 career games.

Beaulieu is a puck-moving defenseman who is regarded to be a good fit under newly hired head coach Phil Housley.

Wild: With long-term deal, Niederreiter can finally relax
Nino Niederreiter has been bold enough with his hobbies to ride on the outside of an airplane . On the ice, he plays a fearless game with a thick frame that's tough to knock off the puck around the net.

The last few months, though, he found himself feeling a little anxious.

Niederreiter was a restricted free agent who filed for salary arbitration, and the long-term contract he expected with the Minnesota Wild, a deal they spoke openly of desiring to complete, had not yet come together. The arbitration hearing scheduled in Toronto was coming closer and closer.

"I wouldn't say I wasn't worried. Obviously the longer the summer went, the more you start thinking," Niederreiter said, adding: "All of a sudden you have to make plans for Toronto and all that stuff. Obviously you get a little nervous. You never want to go to Toronto and make a deal there."

He didn't have to. The Wild and Niederreiter agreed to terms on a five-year contract worth $26.25 million on Sunday night, keeping him under the team's control through the 2021-22 season. His average annual salary is $5.25 million, which is what the hit will be against the Wild's cap.

"He's grown into his role as one of the offensive leaders of this group, and his shot and net-front presence will continue to play a major role in our team's success," general manager Chuck Fletcher said in announcing the deal. "Nino has a great attitude and personality, and we know our fans will be as happy as we are" (see full story).

NHL Notes: Blue Jackets buy out Scott Hartnell

NHL Notes: Blue Jackets buy out Scott Hartnell

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Columbus Blue Jackets have bought out the final two years of 35-year-old forward Scott Hartnell's contract, opening up salary cap space to possibly sign another free agent.

Hartnell would have cost the team $4.75 million against the cap over the next two years. The buyout, announced Thursday, clears $3.25 million against the cap next season and $1.75 million in 2018-19.

Hartnell, who becomes an unrestricted free agent, had 64 goals and 82 assists with 275 penalty minutes in 234 games with the club in three seasons. Last season he had 13 goals and 24 assists in 78 games.

The No. 6 overall pick by Nashville in the 2000 draft, Hartnell was acquired by the Blue Jackets in a trade with the Flyers in 2014 (see full story).

Devils: Goaltender Kinkaid re-signed
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Devils have re-signed backup goaltender Keith Kinkaid to a two-year contract.

General manager Ray Shero announced the deal late Thursday, noting that Kinkaid will get $1.2 million this season and $1.3 million in 2018-19.

The soon-to-be 28-year-old Kinkaid set career highs with 26 games played, 23 games started, and 713 saves. He was 8-13-3 with one shutout, a 2.64 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.

Kinkaid also notched the first point of his career, assisting on Taylor Hall's power-play goal on Feb. 19 against the New York Islanders. The former Union College star has spent all six of his professional seasons with the Devils' organization.

Rangers: Smith agrees to $17M, 4-year deal
WASHINGTON -- The New York Rangers have agreed to terms on a $17 million, four-year deal with Brendan Smith.

The defenseman will count $4.35 million against the salary cap in each season of the new contract.

General manager Jeff Gorton announced the deal Thursday. Smith was set to be an unrestricted free agent Saturday.

Smith, 28, would have been one of the top blue liners available in free agency after the Rangers acquired him as a rental at the trade deadline from the Detroit Red Wings. Smith had three goals and six assists for nine points in 51 games, averaging a career-high 19:14 of ice time.

In 309 games in parts of six seasons, Smith has 16 goals and 55 assists. A left-shooting defenseman who can play the right side, the Toronto native has strong puck-possession numbers and will be a top-four player for New York, perhaps playing with captain Ryan McDonagh (see full story).

Oilers: Buying out Pouliot, clearing cap space
EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers have placed forward Benoit Pouliot on unconditional waivers with the purposes of buying out his contract.

Pouliot had two years left at a salary-cap hit of $4 million. By buying out Pouliot, Edmonton saves $2.67 million against the cap the next two years.

It's the latest move by the Oilers to clear cap space with big-money deals for MVP Connor McDavid and forward Leon Draisaitl coming. Draisaitl's new contract starts next year and McDavid's -- which could come in at around $100 million -- would begin in 2018-19.

Edmonton already traded winger Jordan Eberle and his $6 million salary to the New York Islanders for the younger, cheaper Ryan Strome.

Pouliot, 30, had 84 points in 184 games in three seasons with Edmonton, his sixth NHL team (see full story).