Beefing up: Senators add Zenon Konopka, Predators sign Zack Stortini

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For better or worse, enforcers aren’t going away anytime soon in the NHL. Sure, a more skill-friendly league is making it tougher for guys who do little beyond serving up hearty knuckle sandwiches, but they keep finding ways to earn paychecks for punching and getting punched.

There’s not anything wrong with that, one just wonders how much longer it will take for fighters to go from “marginalized” to “obsolete.” For all the perks that coming with having a guy to protect a superstar player, there’s that snag about them also needing to be able to skate with that person to truly play that role (and not just menace offenders after they commit grisly acts).

It never hurts to at least have the option of plugging your lineup with a guy who can hurt someone, though, especially when they come at the right price. Two teams added pugilists via affordable deals today.

  • The Ottawa Senators signed Zenon Konopka to a one-year contract worth $700K. The best part for Konopka might be that it’s a one-way deal, too; he gets the same paycheck whether he’s throwing his fists or wearing a suit (or maybe playing in the minors?).

To be fair to Konopka, he’s proficient with his hands in one other way that might actually make him an everyday player: the guy can win faceoffs. He won 57.7 percent of the draws he took last season, good enough for the fourth-best rate in the league. It’s not like he only received a handful of FO’s either; he took 1,075 (winning 620) in 82 games played in 2010-11. That’s an average of 13 per game. Considering the fact that he lead the league for the second year in a row in penalty minutes (307), he actually might bring a little something to the table when he’s not breaking noses.

Don’t get too excited, though; he only scored nine points for the New York Islanders. (Still, his faceoff skills are an undeniably nice bonus.) If you ask Don Brennan of the Ottawa Sun, the trio of Konopka, Chris Neil and Matt Carkner might make the Senators the toughest team in the NHL.

  • The Nashville Predators probably won’t expect to get much more than some fights out of Zack Stortini. That’s OK, though, because the one-year deal they signed him to is a two-way contract, allowing them to yo-yo him from the NHL to the AHL and back whenever they need a fighter. Stortini should hope he receives a lot of time at the big-league level; he’ll earn at a $550K pace when he’s in the NHL and just a $75K pace in the AHL.

Stortini appeared in 32 games for the Edmonton Oilers and 29 for their AHL affiliate the Oklahoma City Barons last season. Who knows if that half-and-half ratio will be a decent barometer for the Predators since they’re a higher-level squad than the woeful 2010-11 Oilers.

Preds GM Poile still has work to do, with Johansen in need of a deal

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David Poile got some work done Saturday.

The Nashville Predators re-signed Viktor Arvidsson on the day the two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled. The new deal? Seven years at a total of $29.75 million — an annual average value of $4.25 million for a player that just scored 31 goals while playing on the top line with Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.

The Predators made a run at the Stanley Cup last month, doing so with great goaltending from Pekka Rinne, a top-four group of defensemen that you can argue sets the standard around the league and a talented group of forwards — a number of them with age on their side.

They didn’t win it all, but Poile was recognized for his work by claiming General Manager of the Year.

This is likely among the reasons why.

Roman Josi still has three years left on his deal, while Mattias Ekholm, who was a valuable and reliable top-four d-man playing alongside P.K. Subban, has five years remaining on his deal.

With the Arvidsson contract completed, the priority is now to get Johansen — a restricted free agent — signed. At age 24, he’s Nashville’s No. 1 center coming off a 61-point season, which completed his three-year, $12 million deal.

He was also in the midst of a terrific playoff performance before he suffered a thigh injury and postseason-ending surgery. He’s in line for a significant raise from the $4 million AAV he made on his last contract.

The Predators have about $14.5 million remaining in cap space, per CapFriendly.

Vegas GM doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to move extra d-men

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The Vegas Golden Knights currently have 10 defensemen under contract — and that is without Nate Schmidt signed.

Schmidt and the Golden Knights have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 3, so there is still plenty of time for them to negotiate a new deal for the restricted free agent blue liner without having a neutral third party decide the matter.

Schmidt’s agent, Matt Keator, told the Las Vegas Review Journal that talks with the Golden Knights have been positive, which lends to optimism that perhaps the club and player will avoid this whole process with a deal.

A new contract between Schmidt — left unprotected by Washington in the expansion draft — and Vegas would put the Golden Knights at 11 d-men less than two months before training camp opens.

Granted, that number is considerably less than what Vegas had following the expansion draft, when they stockpiled 15 defensemen and eventually moved players like David Schlemko, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Marc Methot.

While it seems more moves are likely on the back end for Vegas, general manager George McPhee doesn’t seem to be in any particular hurry right now, per the Vegas Review Journal.

“We’re at a manageable number right now,” said McPhee. “We’re pretty close to where we want to be and we’re comfortable with the roster we have.”

Their blue line also includes five players — Jason Garrison, Luca Sbisa, Clayton Stoner, Brayden McNabb and Deryk Engelland — that are pending unrestricted free agents at the end of next season. As far as Vegas’ defensive group is concerned, this could mean future trades during the season as other clubs, perhaps playoff bound, look to possibly add a rental late in the year.

One thing McPhee has made clear in the past: He planned on keeping Schmidt and fellow d-man Shea Theodore (only 21 years old). Now, they just have to get Schmidt under contract.

Related: Vegas has more ticket revenue than Boston, Philly and Pittsburgh, says Foley

Predators sign Arvidsson to seven-year, $29.75 million deal

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Viktor Arvidsson has cashed in on his impressive, breakout 2016-17 campaign.

Playing in the final year of his entry-level contract — and making $640,000 in total salary, according to CapFriendly — the 5-foot-9 tall Arvidsson erupted for 31 goals and 61 points playing on the top line last season for a Nashville Predators team that eventually made its way to the Stanley Cup Final.

The two sides had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Saturday.

From The Tennessean:

Viktor Arvidsson received a new contract Saturday befitting a breakout star, with the Predators signing the energetic forward to a seven-year, $29.75 million contract, Arvidsson’s agent told The Tennessean. 

Few unheralded NHL players last season surprised more than Arvidsson. Expected to be a secondary contributor, Arvidsson erupted offensively with 31 goals and 61 points as part of Nashville’s top line, tying for the team lead in each category. 

Update: The Predators have since confirmed the deal, which pays Arvidsson an annual average value of $4.25 million per season, through the 2023-24 season.

Nashville’s general manager David Poile has work remaining this offseason. The Predators still have restricted free agents Ryan Johansen — another member of that vaunted top line in Nashville — and Austin Watson left to get under contract.

Watson and the Predators have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Monday. Watson is reportedly seeking $1.4 million in arbitration.

Flames re-sign RFA goalies Gillies and Rittich

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The Calgary Flames have re-signed goalies Jon Gillies and David Rittich to one-year, two-way contracts, the club announced Saturday.

Both spent the majority of last season in the American Hockey League, but did get in some game action with the big club in Calgary. The 23-year-old Gillies, the Flames’ third-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, played in 39 games with the Stockton Heat, posting a .910 save percentage.

He then made his first career NHL start on April 6 against the L.A. Kings and stopped 27 of 28 shots faced for the win. He then began the playoffs as Calgary’s back-up because of an injury to Chad Johnson.

Rittich made his debut two days later, allowing one goal on 10 shots in 20 minutes of ice time versus San Jose.

The Flames have already taken care of their goaltending situation at the NHL level for next season, bringing in Mike Smith from Arizona and Eddie Lack from Carolina.