Report: Rangers offer Stralman about $4M, will let Falk walk

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Depth was a big reason why the New York Rangers made it to the 2014 Stanley Cup Final, but with a slew of free agents – both restricted and unrestricted – it could be a challenge to maintain that strength.

The New York Post’s Larry Brooks took an in-depth look at that situation, indicating that Brad Richards’ buyout will be used to retain current players rather than making a typically splashy Rangers acquisition.

While he focused first on Rangers forwards, there are some key details about their defense.

For one thing, Brooks reports that the Rangers are dangling a three or four-year deal worth about $4 million per season to Anton Stralman (pictured). Some likely look at that as a fine offer for the unrestricted free agent, yet the advanced stats community labels him as a “secret star.” It should be interesting to see if the 27-year-old draws much more interest than that offer would suggest if he does hit unrestricted free agency, especially since the market is pretty dry.

The Rangers hope to keep Stralman in the fold, but it sounds like Justin Falk played his last game for the team. Brooks reports that they’ll pass on qualifying the 25-year-old at a $1.025 million clip, allowing him to become a UFA.

Ultimately, Brooks believes that Richards’ $6.67 million will funnel into the pockets of the breakthrough line of two RFA’s (Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello) plus one UFA (Benoit Pouliot):

Brassard probably goes from $3.2 million to at least $4.5 million per on a multi-year deal, if not closer to $5 million. Zuccarello, perhaps the biggest bargain in the league in leading the Rangers in scoring (19-40-59) while earning $1.15 million, probably is going to command at least $4 million per on a long-term deal, and maybe $4.5 million. And Pouliot, who rescued his career working for $1.3 million, likely is going to get at least $2.5 million.

Cap Geek estimates that the Rangers will have $23.78 million in cap space this summer, yet with an unclear cap ceiling that might be a little lower, it’s likely safer to call it approximately $23 million. Let’s consider what Brassard, Zuccarello, Pouliot and Stralman would cost combined based on Brooks’ numbers:

Brassard: $4.5 – $5 million
Zuccarello: $4 million
Pouliot: $2.5 million
Stralman: $4 – $4.5 million
Range for Rangers: $15 – $16 million

The Rangers also need to re-sign Chris Kreider and John Moore (both RFAs) while making decisions on the likes of Brian Boyle and Dominic Moore (both UFAs), so Brooks is probably accurate in saying that the Rangers will spend most/all of their excess cash on keeping the band together.

Naturally, Stralman could end up pricing himself out of Sather’s budget and guys like Boyle could fetch a ransom on the market, so this situation could change. Sather’s also known for being a tough negotiator with restricted free agents, so perhaps Brassard and Zuccarello wouldn’t be so expensive.

Every now and then, a team rides some contract year hot streaks to unexpected success, making for some tough organizational decisions. It’s only tougher to assess some of these players considering Alain Vigneault’s very different philosophy compared to John Tortorella. However this situation shakes out, it should be almost as entertaining to watch as the Rangers were during their impressive playoff run.

‘We’ve got to get that out of his game’: Trotz wants Ovechkin to cut down on slashing penalties

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As you may have noticed, the NHL is trying to crack down on players cheating on faceoffs and stick infractions.

The first week of the preseason has been nothing more than teams getting a good look at their power play units because players still aren’t used to the way officials are calling the game.

One of the players that has to adapt to the officiating is Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, who took two slashing penalties against Montreal on Wednesday night.

“Too many slashing penalties,” Caps head coach Barry Trotz said, per the Washington Post. “Ovi took two. We’ve got to get that out of his game.”

Like all players, it’s something the Capitals captain will have to get used to before the regular season begins. But let’s be honest, there’s a good chance that these officials won’t be as strict on the stick or face-off infractions as the regular season goes on.

Ovechkin isn’t the only star player that’s having an issue adapting to some of these stricter on-ice policies. Earlier in this week, Bruins forward Brad Marchand ripped the new face-off rule.

“This faceoff rule’s an absolute joke,” Marchand said. “That’s how you ruin the game of hockey by putting that in there. They’re going to have to do something about that because we can’t play this year like that. That’s brutal.”

We’ll see if the league actually sticks to its guns here. If they do, how long will it take the players to adjust?

Housley focused on making Sabres ‘an aggressive team’

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The Buffalo Sabres haven’t been a playoff team in quite some time, but the organization is hoping that their major offseason changes will help them take a few steps in the right direction.

One of those major changes came behind the bench, as the team hired Predators assistant Phil Housley to be their head coach.

Housley did some terrific work with defensemen like Ryan Ellis, Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm and P.K. Subban last season. A big part of Nashville’s attack came from defenders pushing the pace from the back.

“We want to be an aggressive team,” Housley said, per NHL.com. “I think everybody we’ve talked about playing aggressive offensively but we need to play aggressive defensively. I think defense gives you a chance to win every night and they’ll understand that we want to be fast and aggressive. The days are gone when a guy wants to make a breakout pass and the [defense] just watched the rush go up and play; they have to get up in the play not only to maybe join the rush and add to the attack, but to be in the offensive zone, being able to keep pucks in, or else you’re going to start playing defense.”

The Sabres could use an offensive boost from their defense (or anyone really). Last season, Jack Eichel collected 57 points in 61 games, which comes out to an impressive 0.934 points-per-game. But Unfortunately for the Sabres, no player topped 60 points in 2016-17.

Buffalo changed the look of their defense during the summer, as they acquired Nathan Beaulieu from Montreal and Marco Scandella from Minnesota. Both guys are capable of moving the puck, which should help Housley execute his plan.

Also, it’ll be interesting to see if Housley can take Rasmus Ristolainen‘s game to the next level. The 22-year-old has surpassed the 40-point mark in each of the last two seasons. He’s also served as the big-minute guy on the Sabres blue line.

“We’re here to learn from him and pick his brain, he was a [heck] of a player in his day,” defender Zach Bogosian said. “He gets the game. He’s played for a while, he’s coached for a while, he’s been around forever.

“Guys are looking forward to playing that style.”

Report: Blue Jackets RFA Anderson in contact with Hockey Canada about 2018 Olympics

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The preseason is well underway and Josh Anderson is still without a contract.

Anderson, who scored 17 goals and 29 points last season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, is one of two remaining restricted free agents without a new deal. The other is Andreas Athanasiou of the Detroit Red Wings.

While there were reports this summer about Athanasiou potentially going to the KHL for this season, John Shannon of Sportsnet reported on Thursday that Anderson’s representatives have reached out to Hockey Canada’s staff about the 2018 Olympics. 

Anderson’s entry-level contract, with an AAV of just over $894,000, expired at the end of last season.

Meanwhile, here is the latest on this ongoing contract situation.

Making an impression: Sergachev has ‘NHL written all over him’

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Mikhail Sergachev has, over the summer, stated his belief he can play in the NHL this season.

He had a small taste of NHL action last season, appearing in four games for Montreal — the team that selected him ninth overall in 2016 — before getting sent back to junior and then being traded in June to Tampa Bay, as part of a blockbuster involving Jonathan Drouin to the Habs.

Well, Sergachev made a statement Wednesday in his preseason debut for the Lightning.

He scored once. He also played more than 22 minutes, which led all Lightning players on the night. That included time on the power play and penalty kill. If he was looking to make a favorable impression, to show that he belongs at the NHL level when the regular season begins, this seems to be another step in that direction.

“You watch this kid skate, shoot, stickhandle, he’s got NHL written all over him,” Tampa Bay’s associate coach Rick Bowness told the Tampa Bay Times. “Now we’ve got to give him experience. How much can he handle?”

There is competition on the blue line, with eight defensemen under contract in Tampa Bay for this season. That includes Sergachev, who is still only 19 years old. After getting sent back to junior last season, he recorded 43 points in 50 games with Windsor and then won the Memorial Cup that spring. That said, he’s made it a point of saying going back to junior “is not an option” for him.

Related:

Looking to make the leap: Mikhail Sergachev