With goalie Cam Ward leaving in free agency, the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday signed Petr Mrazek to a one-year, $1.5 million contract as NHL free agency began.
Ward, the franchise leader in career goaltending wins, signed a one-year, $3 million contract Sunday with the Chicago Blackhawks.
Mrazek, 26, is a former Detroit Red Wings draft pick who was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers by the Wings in February of last season. He has a 78-64-23 NHL record, with a career 2.66 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.
Mrazek, a native of the Czech Republic, will compete with Scott Darling to be the Canes' No. 1 goalie in training camp as the Canes look to solidify the position.
"Obviously we knew we were going to be in the goaltending market and this process started probably two months ago," Canes general manager Don Waddell said Sunday. "The free-agent market was what it was. There was nobody who had been a starter in the league except for Petr. At 26 years of age we felt there's still upside.
"The other thing that was appealing when we talked with Petr on the phone was he said 'I want to go someplace on a one-year deal and prove I'm the guy to be the No. 1 guy.' Obviously we have the opportunity here ."
Ward's goaltending numbers last season -- 23-14-4 record, 2.73 GAA, .906 save percentage -- were better than Mrazek's, but Waddell said the eight-year difference in age and that "upside" were primary factors in the signing.
"We knew where Cam was in his career and wish him the best of luck," Waddell said. "(Mrazek) is still a young player and still has a lot to prove and is determined to prove it."
In one stretch in the 2015-16 season, Mrazek was playing as well as any goalie in the league. He allowed 16 goals in 13 starts, with a .933 save percentage. That didn't last, although he finished the season with a 27-16-6 record, a 2.33 GAA and .931 save percentage.
Mrazek has not approached those kinds of numbers the past two seasons. He had a 3.01 GAA and .901 save percentage in 2016-17, and his combined totals with Detroit and Philadelphia were 3.03 and .902 this past season. In 17 appearances for the Flyers, 15 starts, he had a 3.22 GAA and .891 save percentage.
Mrazek filed for arbitration with the Red Wings after the 2015-16 season, the two sides agreeing in a settlement that gave Mrazek a two-year, $8 million contract.
Losing his job to Jimmy Howard in the 2016-17 season, Mrazek was made available to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, but the Golden Knights passed on him.
A goalie emergency in Philadelphia last season resulted in the trade. With both Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth injured, the Flyers traded a pair of draft picks to the Red Wings for Mrazek.
"He at one time looked pretty darn impressive," Canes coach Rod Brind'Amour said Sunday. "A couple of years ago he was the talk of the goalie nation. I don't know what happened the last couple of years.
"With goalies, it's a weird thing. You're hot and you look great and all of a sudden everyone says you're no good. We're hoping to rekindle that reason they (Red Wings) thought he was going to take over from Jimmy Howard. There's something there and we have to figure it out."
Detroit was to receive a 2019 third-round draft pick from the Flyers if Philadelphia made Mrazek a qualifying offer after. That didn't happen.
Mrazek has represented the Czech Republic in such international competitions as the World Cup and World Championship. Mrazek was a fifth-round draft pick by the Red Wings in 2010.