The New York Islanders on Friday brought in two veterans they hope will get them to the next level while allowing three of their longest-tenured players to leave in free agency.
On the opening day of free agency, the Islanders agreed in principle on a seven-year contract with former Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd and a two-year contract with 37-year-old forward Jason Chimera, who scored 20 goals for the Washington Capitals last season.
Ladd's contract is worth $38.5 million, for an average annual value $5.5, TSN reported.He said he likes the direction the Islanders are heading, particularly with many of their defensemen signed long-term and "in a great situation" in terms of the NHL salary cap.
"I think any team with John Tavares on it and the goaltending and the defense that the Islanders have, they're very close," Ladd said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge with helping this team get to the next level, and that's a Stanley Cup."
Meanwhile, center Frans Nielsen, a member of the Islanders organization since 2002, signed a six-year contract with the Detroit Red Wings. Right wing Kyle Okposo, who was New York's first-round pick (No. 7) in 2006, agreed to a seven-year contract with the Buffalo Sabres. Matt Martin, who was drafted by the Islanders in 2008, signed a four-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Video: Andrew Ladd signs with Islanders
The Islanders advanced past the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 1993 when they defeated the Florida Panthers in six games last season.
Ladd, 30, started last season with the Winnipeg Jets before being traded to the Blackhawks in February. A two-time Stanley Cup champion (Carolina Hurricanes, 2006; Chicago, 2010), Ladd had 25 goals in 78 games last season and likely will play on Tavares' left side this season. His contract is being finalized.
Ladd spent Thursday on Long Island and was flying to Winnipeg on Friday.
"I talked to John before I headed out to Long Island and he texted me today," Ladd said. "I know him a little bit from World Championships and having played with him there. I'm beyond excited to have a chance to play with someone of his caliber. I've had the opportunity to play with a [Jonathan] Toews and a [Patrick] Kane (in Chicago), those types of generational players, and I think he's one of those guys. I can't wait. Hopefully we find some chemistry pretty quick. It'll be fun to have the opportunity to play with him."
Chimera arrives in New York after spending the past six-and-a-half seasons with the Capitals. He had 40 points last season and scored 20 goals for the second time in his NHL career.
Chimera didn't hide his excitement about the Islanders' addition of Ladd.
Video: PHI@WSH, Gm2: Chimera's tip beats Mason from distance
"Having his competitiveness and what he brings to the rink every day, he's a great leader in his own right," Chimera said. "When you add a guy like that with skill and grit, it makes your team that much better. I think he's going to help. It was really exciting to see him sign there too, and I did shortly after. It's an exciting team. It's exciting to be a part of. When you added him, it's a pretty [darn] good squad. It's going to be fun to play with him for sure."
It's unknown if Chimera will replace Martin on the Islanders' fourth line, or whether coach Jack Capuano will ask him to play a bigger role. But Chimera's former coach, Washington's Barry Trotz, recently said Chimera has plenty of gas left in his tank.
"There's not that many 20-goal guys that can skate like Jason Chimera in the National Hockey League," Trotz told The Washington Post. "He's a veteran guy, brings energy. I said to him, 'If you just keep taking care of yourself the way you are,' … I mean, he can play until he's 45. I think he's going to get a three-year deal somewhere in the National Hockey League. He's got a 28-year-old body on him. I don't think he's going to get any slower in the next year or two here."
Chimera said he feels he's "a young 37," and the chance to play with the Islanders' young core has him excited for training camp. He vividly remembers playing against the Islanders in what was a physical Eastern Conference First Round series in 2015 and believes in what New York general manager Garth Snow is trying to build.
"I think the game keeps you young," Chimera said. "I try to keep myself in pretty good shape. Playing with young guys every day keeps you young, keeps you going. I'm pretty motivated to win. That's all I really care about. I wanted to go to a team that has a chance to win, and I felt the Islanders had the best shot of that."