NORMAN — Defenseman Tom Gilbert is on his way out in Minnesota, Nick Leddy is back with the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, and the New York Islanders have parted ways with goalie Rick DiPietro’s long contract.
Wednesday proved to be a busy day for NHL teams, who scrambled to make subtractions and additions before the free-agent signing period opens at noon on Friday.
Gilbert was one of five players waived for the purpose of contract buyouts. The others were Vancouver defenseman Keith Ballard, Detroit defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, Nashville forward Sergei Kostitsyn, and Buffalo forward Nathan Gerbe.
“Due to the NHL salary cap decreasing this season, we needed to make this difficult decision to give the team more flexibility,” Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher said regarding the team’s decision to waive Gilbert.
Some teams re-signed their players, too.
Leddy agreed to a two-year contract before he was eligible to become a restricted free agent.
“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to remain in Chicago,” said Leddy, who had two assists in 23 playoff games for the Blackhawks.
The Dallas Stars announced the signing of Jordie Benn to a three-year deal, preventing him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
DiPietro, meanwhile, cleared waivers on Wednesday, allowing the Islanders to buy out what is left of the 15-year, $67.5 million contract the former No. 1 draft pick signed before the 2006-07 season.
Washington defenseman Jeff Schultz also cleared waivers and is expected to have the remaining two years and $6 million left on his contract bought out.
The series of moves continued to alter an ever-fluid, free-agent class, whose marquee player is already off the market. That would be Vincent Lecavalier, who agreed to a four-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. The former Tampa Bay Lightning captain hit free agency after the Lightning bought out his contract last week.
The Flyers followed up on Wednesday by issuing qualifying offers to retain the rights to defensemen Erik Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen, Brandon Manning and forward Eric Wellwood. The Flyers declined to make offers to defenseman Blake Kessel and forward Mitch Wahl, allowing both to become unrestricted free agents.
The St. Louis Blues re-signed defenseman Jordan Leopold to a two-year contract. Leopold is a 10-year veteran who had two assists in 15 regular-season games with St. Louis after being acquired by the Blues from Buffalo on March 31.
Teams had until Wednesday to place players on waivers in order to buy out their contracts. Under the collective bargaining agreement, teams are allowed to buy out contracts of two players over the next two seasons.
The clause was included to give teams the opportunity to clear space under the salary cap, which is dropping from $70.2 million to $64.3 million.