Rangers, Isles, Devils bolster lineups on first day of free agency

All three local NHL teams made a splash on the opening day of free agency, but it was the New York Rangers who brought in one of the summer’s biggest prizes.

The Blueshirts signed former Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin to a 7-year, $81.5 million deal.

The 27-year-old Panarin tallied 87 points in 79 games last season, adding 11 points in 10 games during the Blue Jackets’ surprise playoff run.

“He loves to score, he loves to win and I think he’s going to love everything about playing for the Rangers,” said team President John Davidson.

The Rangers made a second move on Monday, trading away forward Jimmy Vesey to Buffalo for a third-round draft pick in 2021.

The New Jersey Devils made much of their noise acquiring defenseman P.K. Subban from Nashville before free agency opened, but they brought one of Subban’s Predator teammates from last season to join him, inking forward Wayne Simmonds to a 1-year, $5 million contract.

Simmonds, a 31-year-old forward, has spent most of his 11-year NHL career with the Philadelphia Flyers before a midseason trade to Nashville this past season. He has 203 career goals, including 17 last season. The Devils made a couple of minor additions in defensemen Matt Tennyson and Dakota Mermis, as well as forward Ben Street.

The Islanders were not to be outdone after losing out to the Rangers on Panarin. They re-signed forward Anders Lee to a 7-year contract and added goaltender Semyon Varlamov.

Varlamov, who signed a four-year deal on Long Island, has spent the last eight years with the Colorado Avalanche. Lee has scored 152 goals in seven seasons with the Islanders. The Isles also re-upped forward Tom Kuhnhackl.

The Islanders allowed goaltender Robin Lehner to walk, as he signed a contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

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