Now that Kovalchuk is a Devil, who might be on their way out of New Jersey?

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for langenbrunner.jpgIt took two months and two days – and it felt like two years – but Ilya Kovalchuk finally got his way. The Russian winger saw the nine figures he wanted, receiving a 15-year, $100 million contract that will cost the New Jersey Devils a satanic annual salary cap hit of $6.66* million.

* – Actually, it technically rounds up to $6.67 if you only go with two decimal points, but let’s not allow technicalities ruin an amusing coincidence, OK?

While Kovalchuk and his agent Jay Grossman are out of the woods after a harrowing summer, the Devils now open a whole new can of worms. Factoring in CapGeek.com’s salary numbers, Kovalchuk’s cap hit will put New Jersey over the ceiling by about $3 million with only 21 of 23 roster spots accounted for. The question is: who is on the chopping block now?

Considering how disgruntled he was late last season and his $2.8 million cap hit, captain Jamie Langenbrunner is one of the go-to guys among rumor mongers. The versatile forward feels confident that the team would have discussed waiving his no-trade clause if they wanted to trade him. Here is more from Craig Custance of the Sporting News.

Langenbrunner said he hasn’t been asked to waive his no-trade clause, so at this point he expects to be on the team moving forward.

“I would imagine if I were the guy, I would have been at least approached about it earlier,” Langenbrunner told Sporting News. “But in saying that, you still understand that it is somebody. Obviously, it’s somebody who has been on the team for awhile.”

Obviously, someone needs to go. Teams are unlikely to bite on Brian Rolston’s hysterically bad contract ($5.06 million per year until 2011-12) and the Devils probably wouldn’t part with valuable forward Travis Zajac ($3.89 million through 2012-13). While it’s always possible to move a recently acquired player, the chances of the team moving Jason Arnott, Henrik Tallinder or Anton Volchenkov are fairly low.

So the list of the most reasonable trade/AHL demotion candidates probably comes down to Langenbrunner, Dainus Zubrus, Colin White and Bryce Salvador. It could be just one of them or a combination of two or more.

Then again, you never really know with “Loophole” Lou Lamoriello. He knows every trick in the book. While this saga probably wore him down a bit, I imagine he has Plans B-Z lined up as this situation resolved itself.

We can ask if Kovalchuk’s really worth the headaches, but he’s a lifer now in New Jersey. It just comes down to two questions: who’s on their way out and how in the world are they going to re-sign Zach Parise next summer? I guess we’ll see just how smart Lamoriello really is by then.

Capitals accuse Letang of leaving his feet, hitting Johansson in head

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Get this: the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins seem divided on the legality of Kris Letang‘s hit on Marcus Johansson.

(Take a moment to gather your thoughts amid this shocking revelation.)

You can watch the hit over and over in the video above. This post features some takes on that check, which the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly reviewing.

Generally speaking, the three things people discuss regarding the check is how late it might be, if Letang used his feet and if Johansson’s head was the principal point of contact.

Letang told his side of the story:

The Capitals disagree:

While Barry Trotz pleads the Fifth after his previous comments about Brooks Orpik‘s suspension:

No doubt about it, Letang’s status is the top story to follow in this series between Games 3 and 4. We’ll find out soon enough how it all shakes out.

Penguins ride Murray’s masterpiece to 2-1 series lead vs. Capitals

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If Marc-Andre Fleury suiting up bothers Matt Murray, then the rookie goalie channeled those feelings into a masterful performance on Monday.

The Washington Capitals absolutely dominated Game 3, but Murray was even better, stopping 47 shots as the Penguins stole one 3-2 to take a 2-1 series lead.

(Capitals fans might see some parallels to Washington’s Game 5 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers; they fell 2-0 despite a 44-11 shots on goal edge thanks to Michal Neuvirth‘s heroics.)

Murray stopped chance after chance before Alex Ovechkin finally broke through for his first goal of this series. Justin Williams then brought the Penguins’ lead down to 3-2 to make for a hold-your-breath final minute.

A driven Ovechkin and strong overall play from the Capitals (despite this defeat) aren’t the only reasons why Game 4 might present some twists.

First things first: Kris Letang might get suspended for Game 4 (if not for more than one game) thanks to this controversial check on Marcus Johansson.

Beyond that, there could be some bumps and bruises from this contest.

Bryan Rust left during the first period and didn’t return to the game after blocking a shot. Brian Dumoulin seemed shaken up after an Alex Ovechkin hit in the third period. The Capitals might have a player or two to look at, as well.

In other words, the Penguins could really lack for quality defensemen with Letang possibly suspended and possible injury absences for Dumoulin and Olli Maatta.

This series is living up to the hype … and really building up the hate.

Yes, NHL is reportedly looking at Letang’s hit on Johansson

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It remains to be seen if Kris Letang will get suspended for his hit on Marcus Johansson … and if he does, for how long.

(You can read initial reactions and some analysis about the specifics of the check vs. the one that got Brooks Orpik suspended here.)

There are a few things we do know already.

For one thing, the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is reportedly looking into it.

Another factor that could help Letang avoid a suspension or limit the duration of supplemental discipline: Marcus Johansson returned during the second period.

In fact, Johansson delivered some hits on Letang.

There have been some nasty moments in Game 3, and more might be coming. The Penguins lead 2-0 with a few minutes remaining in the middle frame.

Kris Letang may face suspension for hit on Marcus Johansson

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Update: Reports indicate that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is indeed looking into the hit.

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As thrilling as this Pittsburgh Penguins – Washington Capitals series has been, it seems like every game presents another controversial hit.

Game 3’s most noteworthy entry (so far?) came when Kris Letang was whistled for interference on Marcus Johansson.

Penguins fans griped that Brooks Orpik didn’t get a major penalty for his hit on Olli Maatta … now Capitals fans likely feel the same about the check Letang delivered.

Watch it in the video above. Also, Stefanie “My Regular Face” has it in GIF form:

Things could get ugly in Game 3:

One factor in a suspension happening – or at least the duration of the suspension – would be what the point of contact was:

Also, lateness of the check:

The Penguins ended the first period up 2-0 against the Capitals, even though Washington played one of its best 20 minutes of the series. Expect more drama.

Update: The Penguins won the game 3-2.

Read reactions to the check here.