The opening day of the NHL free agency period was awfully quiet in Sunrise.
Until it wasn’t.
General manager Dale Tallon swung a deal with Boston on Wednesday evening, acquiring winger Reilly Smith and the contract of concussed center Marc Savard for the rights to restricted free agent Jimmy Hayes.
Tallon said Smith, 24, brings the Panthers speed and versatility he had been looking for and comes at an affordable price as he is signed for the next two seasons at around $7 million.
“[Smith] can play any forward position, with anyone really,” Tallon said. “He’s really smart and can really skate. ... We needed to address our need for speed.”
Smith, who scored 20 goals for the Bruins as a rookie but just 13 last season, was a teammate of Florida’s Brandon Pirri as a youngster in Toronto.
Savard hasn’t played since 2011 and Florida will take a $4 million cap hit for the next two seasons while only paying out about $250,000 in actual money per Sportsnet’s Elliott Friedman.
“The cash part isn’t much and we have a lot of cap space,’’ Tallon said. “It made sense. [Boston] probably wouldn’t have made the deal otherwise. It was win-win. We were in a situation where we could do it and got a player we really like.”
Tallon says the Panthers’ salary cap number is around $65 million — or about $6 million under the ceiling when Savard’s contract is factored in.
The Panthers also still need to come to a financial agreement with restricted free agent Jonathan Huberdeau, who likely expects a salary similar or exceeding Smith’s deal.
Hayes, a Boston native who played at Boston College, scored a career-high 19 goals for the Panthers last year but only scored twice in his final 24 games.
One of Hayes’ goals came in Florida’s 4-2 victory April 9 that all but knocked the Bruins from the playoffs.
“We wanted to end on a high note,” Hayes said then. “We showed we can still compete, still play hard. I’m a Florida Panther so no emotions there. We made it tougher on them, but tonight was about us.”
Although Tallon said Hayes was leaning toward taking the Panthers to arbitration for the second straight year, that didn’t “come into play in my decision” to trade the 25-year-old power forward.
Hayes and the Panthers avoided an arbitration hearing last year when they settled on a one-year deal worth $925,000. Tallon also offered Hayes to the Rangers at the draft for goalie Cam Talbot. New York traded Talbot to Edmonton.
Since coming to the Panthers in the 2013 Kris Verteeg deal with Chicago, Hayes had 30 goals in 125 games. He had six in 43 games with the Blackhawks.
“Sometimes you have to give up good assets to get good assets back,” Tallon said. “It’s a good deal for both teams. Jimmy can score; he scored a lot early in the year but struggled in the second half. We’re looking for a player with more speed who can play more positions, kill penalties, play defense.”
Before Wednesday’s late trade, the Panthers made five signings to stock their new AHL team in Portland, Maine.
Florida added another goalie by signing Mike McKenna to a two-year deal.
McKenna has played in 22 NHL games over the past seven seasons for four different teams — including one start for Arizona last year — but has spent most of his career in the minors.
McKenna helped lead the Portland Pirates to the AHL playoffs last season and, barring injury to Roberto Luongo or Al Montoya, will remain in Maine as the Panthers take over that affiliation.
▪ The Panthers conclude their development camp Thursday with players taking the ice at 10 a.m. at the Coral Springs IceDen. Admission is free.
▪ Florida officially bought out the final year of Brad Boyes’ contract Wednesday.