Red Wings sign two-time Stanley Cup champion Vladimir Tarasenko away from Panthers

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The raiding of the Stanley Cup champion Florida Panthers continued Wednesday with the Detroit Red Wings signing winger Vladimir Tarasenko to a two-year contract worth $9.5 million.

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Tarasenko, 32, is the sixth player from Florida’s Game 7 lineup to leave in free agency, not an uncommon theme around the NHL as other teams look to replicate that success. The 2019 and 2024 Cup winner will count $4.75 million against salary cap through the 2025-26 season, a deal that carries a no-trade clause in year one and limited protection in year two.

He joins three-time champion Patrick Kane on the Red Wings as they try to end a franchise-worst playoff drought at eight seasons. Kane re-signed for $4 million with $2.5 million in additional incentives.

After adding Tarasenko, Detroit traded away one of his former St. Louis Blues teammates, sending forward Robby Fabbri and a conditional 2025 fourth-round pick to Anaheim for 22-year-old goaltending prospect Gage Alexander.

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Tarasenko scored five goals and had four assists on the run to the Panthers’ first title in franchise history after joining them prior to the trade deadline.

Sam Reinhart re-upped for $69 million over eight years and the core led by Matthew Tkachuk and captain Aleksander Barkov remains in tact. Young forward Anton Lundell, a restricted free agent, signed a six-year, $30 million contract earlier in the day.

Of course, without infinite cap space, it is not possible to keep everyone. Brandon Montour signed in Seattle, fellow defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and backup goaltender Anthony Stolarz in Toronto and forwards Ryan Lomberg in Calgary and Kevin Stenlund in Utah. Josh Mahura, a regular on the Panthers blue line on their 2023 run to the final and who played 30 games for them during the regular season, is reuniting with Montour after signing a $775,000 contract with the Kraken.

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Among the other signings around the league Wednesday, Philadelphia re-signed RFA forward Bobby Brink for $3 million over two years, while Columbus added veteran defenceman Jack Johnson for next season at $775,000.

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“Jack Johnson is a consummate professional who has been a very good player and leader in this league for many years and will be a great asset to our team, particularly the young defencemen we have in our organization,” general manager Don Waddell said. “He is in tremendous shape, plays a simple, hard game, has won a Stanley Cup and has great passion for this city and organization and we are thrilled to welcome him back.”

Johnson won the Cup with Colorado in 2022. Edmonton, which lost to Florida, is doing its best to copycat the Panthers by winning a year after falling just short in the final. The Oilers lost only a couple of depth players — forwards Warren Foegele and Sam Carrick and defenceman Vincent Desharnais — and brought back Connor Brown, Corey Perry, Adam Henrique, Mattias Janmark, Troy Stecher and Calvin Pickard, all of whom were free agents.

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“I think these guys all believe in their teammates,” CEO of hockey operations Jeff Jackson said earlier this week. “All those guys coming back tells me everything I need to know about this team, and we’re happy to have all those guys back.”

Jackson and the front office also signed veteran forwards Viktor Arvidsson and Jeff Skinner and replaced Desharnais with 30-year-old Josh Brown. The Oilers and Panthers are early co-favorites to win the Stanley Cup in 2025, according to BetMGM Sportsbook.

“Just to have the chance to win,” said Henrique, who took a nearly 50% pay cut to stay. “I think the group there is a special group. I had so much fun being part of this year and just wanted more of that.”

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