Mar 25, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) handles the puck against the Phoenix Coyotes during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Coyotes won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Capitals top NHL free agency spending list

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NHL free agency hit hard and fast this year, with the majority of the top available players finding new homes on the first possible day. As the dust settles, it should come as little surprise that the league’s highest spending team was the Washington Capitals after breaking the bank for two veteran defensemen.

With the signings of Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Justin Peters, the Capitals guaranteed $69.65 million in total salary this summer. As Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post passes along with help from CapGeek.com, that easily puts Washington at the top of the list for spending.

Even excluding Peters, who signed for slightly under $2 million over one year, the Capitals would still have the most expensive rap sheet. Niskanen got a huge seven-year, $40.25 million deal from Washington — the biggest contract handed out this summer — while Orpik got $27.5 million over five years.

It’s been part of an expensive effort by new general manager Brian MacLellan to get the Capitals back in contention as quickly as possible. If it doesn’t work out, the team may have some seriously ugly numbers on the books a few years from now.

Only two other teams eclipsed the $60 million barrier this summer, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers.

Tampa Bay spent huge money re-signing Ryan Callahan to a five-year, $34.8 million contract, then kept the cash flowing with a five-year, $22.5 million deal for Anton Stralman. The Lightning also signed Brian Boyle and Evgeni Nabakov, rounding out a busy month that will ultimately cost the team $64.85 million.

The Panthers gave out arguably the most question deal of the offseason, $27.5 million for Dave Bolland, as well as a number of smaller deals. Jussi Jokinen, Willie Mitchell, Derek MacKenzie, Al Montoya and Shawn Thornton will also be joining Florida next season. The whole spree cost the team $60.4 million.

The least active team has been the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have agreed to just two deals: a one-year, $600,000 contract with goaltender Curtis McElhinney and a one-year, two way deal worth $550,000 for Frederic St-Denis.

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Tags: Florida Panthers NHL Free Agency Tampa Bay Lightning Washington Capitals