Listing five noteworthy September RFAs

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We looked at five significant unrestricted free agents yesterday. There are still some helpful players looking for jobs, but there are some great restricted free agents that also need contracts.

Most of the time, RFAs that hold out all summer end up agreeing to terms either just before or shortly after the start of training camp. But sometimes these negotiations drag on into the regular season or prompt a trade. There’s even a chance that an opposing club could decide to make life a little more complicated for a team near the salary cap by extending an offer sheet.

With that in mind, here are five restricted free agents to keep an eye on:

1) Alex Pietrangelo — The Blues’ cap situation is healthy and the 23-year-old Pietrangelo is a vital part of the team, so you would think that the two sides would be able to work something out before the start of the regular season. Of course, you could point to P.K. Subban’s talks with the Montreal Canadiens, which dragged into the 2013 campaign, but the lockout makes those situations largely incomparable. Drew Doughty’s situation in 2011 works a little better though and he ended up missing the entire preseason before inking an eight-year, $56 million contract with the Los Angeles Kings. The main thing to keep in mind though is that Subban, Pietrangelo, and Doughty have something in common: They are all represented by Newport Sports’ Don Meehan. At the same time, Pietrangelo insists that he’s “not even thinking about holding out.”

2) Nazem Kadri — The Toronto Maple Leafs spent freely this summer and they consequently have less than $5 million in cap space left to ink Kadri and fellow RFA Cody Franson. Kadri noted that worrying about the Leafs’ cap situation isn’t his job and it’s gotten to the point where he’s frustrated with the way the negotiations have been going. At the same time, he denied a report that he’s demanding a six-year, $30 million contract. After all that, he decided to just stop talking about it until he has a deal. We’ll see if the Leafs and Kadri end up agreeing to a bridge contract to determine if his 44-point 2013 campaign is genuinely representative of the type of player he is now.

3) Derek Stepan — Like Kadri, Stepan broke out last season with 18 goals and 44 points in 48 games. The difference is that Stepan has a longer history of success in the NHL and therefore can make a better case for a lucrative long-term deal, if that’s what he’s after. The only problem is that the New York Rangers don’t have the cap space to give him that kind of contract right now. With roughly $2 million in projected cap space, they aren’t even really in a position to offer him a bridge contract without getting creative. Stepan is content to let his agent and the team handle the ongoing negotiations, although he recently spoke on the matter and said that “these things take time.” Not that there’s much time left before the start of training camp.

4) Cody Hodgson — The Buffalo Sabres have shifted their focus towards building for the future and as a consequence of that, they have plenty of cap space. That doesn’t mean they’ll be liberal with their money when it comes to Hodgson, but it does lessen the possibility of them being outmaneuvered by an offer sheet. Hodgson had 15 goals and 34 points in 48 games last season, but the 23-year-old still has plenty to prove at the NHL level. He seems like an ideal candidate for a bridge contract, although he might have held out this long in the hope of getting something better.

5) Marcus Johansson — If there was a loser in the Washington Capitals’ decision to sign Mikhail Grabovski, it might have been Johansson as they now have a little under $2.7 million in cap space. Johansson scored six goals and registered 16 assists in 34 games last season while getting some playing time with Alex Ovechkin. With the Capitals lack of cap flexibility, it is possible that Johansson will be dealt before the start of the 2013-14 campaign, but it certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see him sign a one-year contract just below Washington’s limit in the hopes that he earns a regular spot with Ovechkin and is a stronger negotiating position next summer.

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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