Devils’ off-season questions go beyond Brodeur, Parise

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For some, the New Jersey Devils’ surprisingly deep postseason run revolved around the possibility that this could be a last hurrah for lynchpins Martin Brodeur and Zach Parise. Upon further inspection, it’s clear that those crucial choices are just the headliners in what could be one of the most eventful off-seasons in GM Lou Lamoriello’s lengthy reign.

Really, the team doesn’t have a ton of guys locked up long-term beyond Ilya Kovalchuk and a handful of defensemen.

Taking a look at the Devils’ Cap Geek page, it’s stunning how many players are a) scheduled to become free agents this summer or b) only have one more year left on their contracts. To spare you all that tedious clicking, I thought I’d rattle them off with some thoughts.

Free agents this summer

Parise – As you may know, it all comes down to what Parise thinks. Perhaps the deep playoff run and familiarity in New Jersey will make him a Devil for the rest of his career, but we’ll need to wait and see.

Brodeur – For a long time, it seemed like the Devils were holding all the cards. Brodeur gained quite a bit of clout and leverage with his playoff performances, however, so it’ll be interesting to see if New Jersey ponies up. If you ask me, the sticking point might be term instead of cash.

Johan Hedberg – Interestingly enough, both Devils goalies are unrestricted free agents this summer. It’s tough to imagine seeing two older netminders in New Jersey next season, but Hedberg’s quietly played well for the Devils.

source: Getty ImagesBryce Salvador – Could he parlay a surprisingly productive postseason into a bigger paycheck?

Alexei Ponikarovsky – Will his friendship with Kovalchuk help his chances of finally sticking with a team? Maybe if his asking price is reasonable.

Mark Fayne (restricted) and Peter Harrold – Two fairly young defensemen whose negotiations could be intriguing.

Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier and Stephen Gionta – Hey, remember how excited everyone got about the great play by the Devils’ fourth line? Their agents are probably the most excited.

Petr Sykora – Sure, he’s been a healthy scratch, but it’s amazing he even got this far with the Devils.

Free agents after next season

Patrik Elias – He’s had tough scoring luck in the playoffs, yet he had a stealthily outstanding season. He’ll almost certainly need to take a generous pay cut from his $6 million cap hit, though.

Travis Zajac – One underrated reason why the Devils got this far was that Zajac finally seemed close to 100 percent after struggling to recover from off-season surgery. Something tells me that the underrated pivot would get some of Elias’ money – unless he bolts.

source:  Adam Henrique – Who knows how much more money he can earn for himself in his sophomore season?

Jacob Josefson – Don’t be surprised if a healthier Josefson at least establishes himself as an NHL regular next season.

David Clarkson – One of the league’s better young power forwards could fetch a nice sum if he has a strong contract year.

Marek Zidlicky – Zidlicky is one of the only “wild cards” in a defense that’s locked up or a few more seasons.

Dainius Zubrus – Another underrated fixture in New Jersey.

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Honestly, the Devils’ deep run scores another bullet point for the “greed is good” principle of contract year successes. Once he sorts out Brodeur’s and Parise’s situations, Lamoriello must step back and determine if this core can put together more runs like this. If he leans toward yes, it’ll be costly.

The Buzzer: Malkin paces Penguins, Vegas keeps on winning

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Player of the night: Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin helped get things started for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, and then he finished the game off with the overtime winner to send the New York Rangers to a fourth consecutive loss.

Malkin scored once, added three assists and even dropped the gloves in a 5-4 overtime victory, as the Penguins came back with a late — and crafty — third period goal from Sidney Crosby.

Talk about the Penguins being opportunistic on the winner. Off a defensive zone faceoff win for the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh made a terrible giveaway right beside his own net, giving the puck to Phil Kessel, who slipped it over to Malkin for the quick one-timer.

Highlight of the night:

There were a few candidates for this tonight. Phil Kessel once again showed off that tremendous wrist shot. Thomas Vanek decided to blast a slap shot on a breakaway, going post and in against the Senators. Nikita Kucherov had a perfect shot against Cory Schneider after previously setting up teammate Vladislav Namestnikov for a pretty goal versus the Devils. Yes, there were a few options.

But, we’ll go back to Winnipeg for this one. Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson not only protects the puck from Jacob Trouba on the breakaway, but then dekes out Steve Mason with the move to the forehand.

Factoid of the night:

The Vegas Golden Knights won again, giving them a 5-1 record to begin their inaugural season. That puts them in elite company.

Scores:

New Jersey 5, Tampa Bay 4 (SO)

San Jose 5, Montreal 2

Pittsburgh 5, New York 4 (OT)

Philadelphia 5, Florida 1

Toronto 2, Washington 0

Vancouver 3, Ottawa 0

Nashville 4, Colorado 1

Columbus 5, Winnipeg 2

Dallas 3, Arizona 1

Vegas 5, Buffalo 4 (OT)

Carolina 5, Edmonton 3

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Sharks send Habs to their fifth straight loss

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Make that five straight losses for the Montreal Canadiens.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist on Shea Weber‘s power play blast, giving the Habs center a two-point night. That’s one of the few bright spots, as Montreal lost by a score of 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

This was a battle of two teams struggling to start the new season, with each sitting on only one victory. For the Habs, that victory was back on Oct. 5 in their season opener against Buffalo.

Since then, however . . .

And it isn’t about to get any easier for the Habs. This was the start of a stretch that includes three games in four nights against the bruising California teams — the Sharks tonight, the Kings tomorrow, and the Ducks on Friday. It could still get worse before it gets better.

For the Sharks, who were led Tuesday by Logan Couture‘s four-point performance and Joe Pavelski‘s first goal of the season, they end their five-game home stand on a positive note after losing three of the previous four games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Wayne Simmonds leaves Flyers game for ‘precautionary reasons’ with lower-body issue

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The Philadelphia Flyers earned a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, thanks to a four-goal outburst in the second period.

And Philly forward Wayne Simmonds earned a decision over Micheal Haley in a quick fight during that middle frame, too.

While the Flyers got the win, the news wasn’t all good with respect to Simmonds, however, as he was removed from the game for precautionary reasons because of a lower-body issue, the team announced.

Beyond that, the Flyers said they will know more about his status by either tomorrow or Thursday. That puts a bit of a damper on the win.

Not only is the 29-year-old Simmonds one of the toughest players in the league, unafraid to drop the gloves or throw big hits from time to time, but he’s an important part of Philadelphia’s offensive attack, as well. A productive member of the power play, he’s flirted with the 30-goal mark on three occasions while in Philly and reached that mark in each of the past two seasons.

And he’s done that on a contract that includes an annual cap hit of just under $4 million.

Simmonds was also off to a strong start in 2017-18 with five goals and seven points in six games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Rangers’ losing streak continues with OT defeat vs. Penguins

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The New York Rangers needed a win.

Their slow start is among the surprises early this season, as the Rangers have now lost four in a row with only one win to their record through seven games so far. They’ve had trouble scoring. Mistakes at inopportune moments have been costly.

Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Rangers had a brutal start and a brutal finish in a 5-4 overtime loss to their Metropolitan Division foes.

Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the game, utilizing that dangerous wrist shot off the rush to beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner. By the end of one period, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh.

Despite a second-period comeback, with three goals in under three minutes, and taking the lead in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t hang on and the Penguins won in overtime.

Sidney Crosby scored a crafty tying goal with only 56 seconds remaining in regulation, waiting for the Rangers defender to touch the puck negating what would’ve likely been called a hand pass on Pittsburgh before firing a no-look backhander toward the net from behind the red line. The puck deflected in off Lundqvist, helping send this one to overtime.

Evgeni Malkin capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

“Right now it’s a little bit challenging as far as putting a whole game together for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault following the game. “But this group is very accountable … and I’m very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing right now, we’re going to be on the right track.”

A trio of Rangers recorded their first goals of the season. That included David Desharnais, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, despite nearly four minutes in power play time, and of course the goal.

The Rangers host the New York Islanders on Thursday. Another loss, and one has to wonder how hot the seat may be getting under Vigneault.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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