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Nashville Predators buy out Matt Duchene as NHL teams prepare for the start of free agency

A handful of NHL teams spent Friday clearing out salary cap space with some big-money buyouts on the eve of free agency.

The Nashville Predators led the way by buying out Matt Duchene’s contract. The 32-year-old center had three years left on his deal at an annual cap hit of $8 million.

Duchene is the latest veteran player to leave Nashville since former coach Barry Trotz took over as general manager, replacing longtime executive David Poile. The Predators also traded Ryan Johansen to Colorado, continuing the path of a rebuild started when Poile dealt away a handful of players before the deadline in March.

The Winnipeg Jets also put former captain Blake Wheeler on unconditional waivers to buy out the final year of his contract. The Boston Bruins did the same with defenseman Mike Reilly and the Detroit Red Wings took the same step with Kailer Yamomoto a day after acquiring him from the Edmonton Oilers.

Wheeler looked to be on the outs in Winnipeg for some time. Incoming coach Rick Bowness stripped Wheeler of the captaincy last year in an attempt to fix the locker room culture around the Jets, and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had been looking to trade the speedy winger who turns 37 on Aug. 31.

The Chicago Blackhawks also signed winger Corey Perry to a $4 million contract for next season. They acquired his rights from Tampa Bay earlier in the week, part of their plan to surround No. 1 pick Connor Bedard with experienced players.


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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press