Analyzing the big moves, rumors

  • NHL free agency opens noon ET on Wednesday.
  • Forward Johnny Gaudreau is the top player available.
  • The free agency class is deep on forwards and thin on defense and goals.

The NHL free agency signing period officially opened at noon ET on Wednesday.

This year’s free agent class is deep at forward but a little thin on defense and goaltending.

Key players available at the opening buzzer were forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Nazem Kadri, Claude Giroux, Andrew Copp, Ondrej Palat, Ryan Strome and David Perron, defensemen John Klingberg and Nick Leddy, and goalie Darcy Kuemper, Jack Campbell and Ilya Samsonov.

Kadri and Kuemper, plus Andre Burakovsky and a handful of other unrestricted free agents, played for the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.

Follow along as USA TODAY Sports’ NHL staffers track and analyze the signings and trades that occur during the day:

Stanley Cup-winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper was signed by the Washington Capitals.

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FREE AGENCY:A look at the Top 25 players testing the market

Darcy Kuemper signs with Capitals

The Stanley Cup-winning goaltender gets a five-year, $26.25 million deal. The Capitals were unhappy with their goaltending last season and traded Vitek Vanecek and didn’t qualify for Ilya Samsonov. Kuemper had a career-best 37 wins last season and his .921 save percentage ranked fifth among league starters.

Ilya Mikheyev goes to Canucks

The forward signed a four-year, $19 million contract, Agent Dan Milstein tweeted. He had 21 goals in 53 games with the Maple Leafs last season.

Lightning lock up three to eight-year extensions

The Lightning, who reached the Stanley Cup Final for the third year in a row, are keeping the core together. After giving defenseman Mikhail Sergachev an eight-year extension, Tampa Bay did the same to forward Anthony Cirelli and defenseman Erik Cernak. Sergachev averages $8.5 million, Cirelli $6.25 million and Cernak $5.2 million. Cirelli is the team’s shutdown center and Sergachev’s and Cernak’s role will grow after the trade of Ryan McDonagh.

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