Free agency: Major moves shake up Caps roster
Given the flurry of activity around the NHL over the past 48 hours, a number of secondary free agent signings can easily fall under the radar.
While Mike Ribeiro (Phoenix), Matt Hendricks (Nashville), Jeff Schultz (Los Angeles) and Joey Crabb (Florida) all signed with different teams on day one of free agency, they weren’t the only former Capitals changing addresses.
KEITH AUCOIN (St. Louis Blues; 1-year, $625K):
In the days and weeks leading up to free agency, the St. Louis Blues made no secret that they would be targeting centers.
Despite their efforts though, the Blues were unable to land Vincent Lecavalier (Philadelphia Flyers, 5-years, $22.5M), Stephen Weiss (Detroit Red Wings, 5-years, $24.5M) or Valteri Filpulla (Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-years, $25M).
Instead, St. Louis general Doug Armstrong signed former Vancouver Canucks Derek Roy (1-year, $4M) and Maxim Lapierre (2-years, $2.2M) as well as Capitals alum Keith Aucoin (1-year, $625K).
Aucoin’s four-year stint with the Capitals organization (2008-12) ended last July and the 34-year-old split the 2012-13 season between the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League and the New York Islanders. In 41 regular-season games with the Islanders, the 5-foot-8 Aucoin had six goals and 12 points. He then had three assists in six playoff games.
MATT COOKE (Minnesota Wild; 3-years, $7.5M):
Barring injury or (ahem) suspension, agitator-extraordinaire Matt Cooke will likely play in his 1000th career NHL game sometime next season. Seventeen of Cooke’s 935 career NHL games came with the Capitals in 2008; a total the 34-year-old should easily pass in Minnesota.
The Wild signed Cooke to a three-year deal on day one of free agency and expect the former Pittsburgh Penguins forward to provide energy to Minnesota’s third-line.
Both Wild general manger Chuck Fletcher, who was an assistant GM in Pittsburgh from 2006-09, and head coach Mike Yeo, who was an assistant coach in Pittsburgh from 2006-10, are plenty familiar with Cooke’s game.
"He's a player that [Yeo] and I know well from our days in Pittsburgh," Fletcher told the team's website. "He came into the League as a physical, energy-type player, but his game has evolved into a quality two-way player. We look at him as an ideal third-line forward."
BOYD GORDON (Edmonton Oilers; 3-years, $9M):
After trading center Shawn Horcoff to the Dallas Stars and exercising one of their compliance buyouts on center Eric Belanger, the Edmonton Oilers’ entered free agency in need of a veteran pivot. They got one in former Capitals first-round pick (2002) Boyd Gordon.
“Boyd Gordon was a real significant signing for us,” Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish told reporters in Edmonton. “With [Horcoff’s] departure, we needed to find a centerman who can go in there. He was a highly sought-after guy who's one of the best face-off men in the League. He's a highly-competitive guy at the age of 29 who has lots of good years ahead of him.”
Gordon spent the first eight years of his professional career with the Capitals organization and won a Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears in 2006.
He signed with the Phoenix in 2011 and had 12 goals and 37 points in 123 games with the Coyotes the past two seasons. Gordon also led Phoenix in shorthanded ice-time last season and should take over many of Belanger’s defensive responsibilities with the Oilers.
“For me to leave Phoenix it was going to have to be a good fit for me," Gordon told reporters on a conference call. "[The Oilers] have a lot of speed up front and they're young. I'm reliable down the middle and hopefully I can bring a little bit of a different mix to the team."