Devils may start season with just 20 players thanks to salary cap crunch

NewJerseyDevils_logo.gifWe all know that the Devils have some cap issues to deal with by now. They’ve also got some injury problems as well and both fortunately and unfortunately for them, they can use those two issues to help themselves out of a bit of a mess.

Defensemen Bryce Salvador and Anssi Salmela are expected to begin the season on the LTIR which gives the Devils room to go over the cap by the amount of their combined salaries. Even though that hasn’t happened yet, that solution is being counted on to happen and would only allow the Devils to start the year with the minimum 20 players needed to ice a team each night. Tom Gulitti of Fire & Ice examines the possibility.

Nothing is certain yet, but as the signs pointed today to the Devils going with only 20 players on their roster to meet Wednesday’s 3 p.m. deadline to be under the salary cap, there was a definite feeling of relief among the players that were possible candidates to be moved.

Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner admited he felt “a little bit” of relief that it appears he will still be with the team when it opens the regular season Friday night at Prudential Center against Dallas..

“It looks like this is what it’s going to be going forward for a while,” Langenbrunner said. “Everyone will have to fend for their health, but for now the focus is on Friday. All of us in this business know that there’s never going to be relief any time, so I don’t think it’s that’s big of a deal for us. (But) we knew something was going to happen or we thought something would, so there’s a little bit of relief.”

The trick with going with just the minimum of 20 players is that you can’t afford minor injuries to anyone. If an injury isn’t serious enough to put a guy on LTIR (which means a minimum of 24 days lost or 10 games missed) the team can’t do much to replace that player on the roster. As it is, by putting Salmela and Salvador on LTIR, it gives the Devils about $85,000 in cap space.

What that means is if the team wants to bring in Adam Mair, who’s been in camp on a professional tryout, they’ll need to move someone out to free up the cap space, even to sign him to a NHL minimum contract. It makes life difficult for Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, but it’s a situation he was more than well aware of.

As it is, hearing the team will only go with a 20-man roster is a huge relief to players like Dainius Zubrus, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Rolston, and Colin White who have had their names bandied about in trade rumors and waiver speculation. Their jobs are safe for now, but once it’s time for Salmela and Salvador to return, things will change.

For now, the Devils just have to keep their heads about them and make sure they don’t get dinged up. With six games in the season’s first nine days, that could be a tall order for the Devils.

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    A ‘number of concerns’ about Jonathan Quick led Kings to pursue Bishop

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    Dean Lombardi revealed that he and Steve Yzerman had been working on a deal for Ben Bishop for about two or three weeks.

    On Sunday, a deal between the Kings and Lightning was finally completed and it had basically everything to do with Jonathan Quick. Speaking in a conference call, Lombardi, the Kings general manager, noted a “number of concerns” for Quick coming back from a 59-game absence because of a groin injury before finally returning to game action Saturday.

    Quick, 31, was impressive in a win over the Anaheim Ducks, but Lombardi and the Kings just could not be sure about how he would fare in the stretch drive after coming back from such a lengthy time away, and were therefore set on acquiring another No. 1 goalie.

    “You’re never sure how well a guy who’s been out this long — is he going to have his ‘A’ game, so to speak, or not? These type of injuries, which are fairly serious, the history of comebacks can go either way,” said Lombardi.

    “On the other hand, we all know Jon’s a tremendous athlete. He’s one of the top goaltenders in the game and most importantly he’s one of the game’s top competitors. So you certainly don’t worry about Jon … once he passes the mental part that ‘I’m capable of doing athletically what I have in the past’ that he’s going to be able to give it his all.”

    The Kings, currently three points out of a playoff spot in the West, are in a stretch of three games in four nights.

    Bishop is expected to join the team for the morning skate tomorrow. Lombardi even mentioned that coach Darryl Sutter had actually planned on playing the newly acquired netminder Monday versus the Wild. That is still to be determined but it’s likely Bishop plays one of the Kings’ next two games. They’re in Calgary on Tuesday.

    The condensed schedule over the next few weeks was another factor in making the trade for the Kings. They just simply don’t want to wear Quick down.

    “This is not an insurance policy,” said Lombardi. “There’s not a lot of room here for error. We just want to take that out of the equation by making sure that we have a No. 1 goalie in there every night.”

    Bishop is a pending unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. The Kings have Quick under contract until 2023 at a cap hit of $5.8 million.

    While Lombardi didn’t completely rule out the chance of re-signing Bishop — “You never say ‘never,'” he said — bringing in a player on an expiring contract was something the Kings were willing to do in this case.

    “If not, we’re comfortable with what we had to pay to give ourselves a chance here to get in. After that, as we know, anything can happen,” he said. “The focus was on getting the best goalie available.”

    The Kings face other issues. You could argue more pressing issues.

    Sure, they made a move they believe will strengthen the goaltending position. But they’re also 25th in scoring, averaging just 2.44 goals-for per game. They had a nice third-period outburst Saturday, but for the most part, goals have been hard to come by for L.A.

    “There’s players that will freely admit right to you that they’re capable of producing more. We don’t want to lose our defensive identity. We’ve got two of the best goalies in the league there now,” said Lombardi.

    “Now when we get into the other team’s end … we’ve got to bear down.”

    Video: Duncan Keith gets 500th point; Blackhawks put on passing clinic

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    The Chicago Blackhawks’ two biggest names (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) scored the first two goals against the St. Louis Blues on Sunday. It’s fitting that Duncan Keith, the third big core player, hit a milestone in the process.

    By assisting on Kane’s goal, Keith collected the 500th point of his already-impressive NHL career.

    This currently places him at 89 goals, 411 assists and 500 points in 895 games … with some time to beef up his totals on Sunday.

    You can see him get his 500th point in the video above.

    The prettier of the two plays was likely the passing clinic Chicago put on with Toews finishing the play. Enjoy that impressive display in the video below:

    Keith’s assist could end up being important in this one, as the Blues recently made it 2-1 before the end of the first period. Tune into the game on NBCSN and follow the livestream here.

    BREAKING: Wild reportedly acquire Hanzal, White from Coyotes

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    The Minnesota Wild have made a bold move and paid a price ahead of the trade deadline.

    According to multiple reports, the Wild acquired Martin Hanzal, Ryan White and a fourth-round pick in 2017 from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a first-round pick this year, a second-round pick in 2018, a conditional fourth-round pick in 2019 and minor leaguer Grayson Downing, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie.

    That’s quite a haul of draft picks for the Coyotes, currently in the midst of a rebuild.

    For the Wild, leading the Central Division by three points in their first season under coach Bruce Boudreau, they get a towering center in Hanzal, who stands six-foot-six-inches tall and 226 pounds. He has 16 goals and 26 points in 51 games for Arizona this season.

    White has 171 penalty minutes combined between this season and last. He has seven goals and 13 points in 46 games this season.

    More to come.

    WATCH LIVE: Blues at Blackhawks

    CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 12: Patrick Kane #88 of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck against Jay Bouwmeester #19 and Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues during the season opening game at the United Center on October 12, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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    The St. Louis Blues will look to improve their cushion in the Western Conference playoff race when they visit the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.

    You can catch the game on NBCSN (7:30 p.m. ET) or online with the NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

    CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

    Here are some links to check out for tonight’s game:

    NHL On NBCSN: Blues look to slow down Blackhawks

    Blues extend Berglund — five years, $19.25 million

    Blackhawks’ Hjalmarsson ‘day-to-day,’ will not play on Sunday