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All the latest pre-free agency rumblings

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We’re less than four hours away from the free-agent market officially opening, and there are plenty of reports linking players to new teams already.

Remember, none of these deals can be made official until noon ET, so things can change in a hurry. But there’s a good chance that a lot of these verbal commitments turn into contracts once the clock strikes 12:00 p.m. ET.

To stay up to date with all today’s transactions, keep an eye on PHT’s free agent tracker.

TSN hockey insider Bob McKenzie has already linked a number of key free agents to their likely destination. According to McKenzie’s Twitter timeline, here’s what we can expect to go down today:

–The Vancouver Canucks don’t have a very good roster right now, but that won’t stop them from potentially landing three interesting free agents. It looks like they’ll be getting Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto and Anders Nilsson this afternoon.

–The Winnipeg Jets have been searching for a reliable goaltender to help out Connor Hellebuyck, and Steve Mason is expected to be their guy. The 29-year-old hasn’t been the most consistent goalie over the last few years, but he should be an upgrade on Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec.

–Speaking of Pavelec, McKenzie suggests he could end up being Henrik Lundqvist‘s backup in New York. The Rangers traded Antti Raanta away to Arizona, so they’re definitely in the market for a backup goalie.

–Another goalie to keep an eye on is Brian Elliott. The former Calgary Flame is probably heading to Philadelphia to replace Mason.

Trevor Daley, who has won back-to-back Stanley Cups with the Penguins, will stay in the Eastern Conference, as he’s been linked to the Detroit Red Wings.

–Dan Girardi will be playing for a different team after he was bought out by the Rangers earlier this month. That new team is likely to be the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Chad Johnson spent the 2015-16 season with the Sabres before spend last year with Calgary. It sounds like he’ll be returning to Buffalo.

–Anaheim will likely bring in veteran goalie Ryan Miller from Vancouver, which means last year’s backup, Jonathan Bernier, will be on the move. Bernier is expected to join the Colorado Avalanche, who lost Calvin Pickard in the expansion draft.

–As we wrote about yesterday, Evgeny Dadonov is expected to leave the KHL to sign a lucrative, multi-year deal with the Florida Panthers.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman also had some interesting tidbits earlier this morning, as he’s also linked potential free agents to new cities.

Here’s what Friedman is reporting:

–6-foot-6 center Martin Hanzal split last season with Arizona and Minnesota, but he isn’t expected to return to either city. Instead, Friedman says to keep an eye on the Dallas Stars. If they can land Hanzal, that would give them terrific depth down the middle with Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza already on the roster.

–The San Jose Sharks reportedly upped their offer to Patrick Marleau from one year to two years, but it’s unclear if that’s enough to get something done with the veteran. If Marleau decides to walk in free agency, Mike Cammalleri could be their fallback plan.

On another note, Blackhawks beat reporter Mark Lazerus is reporting that Patrick Sharp will be signing with Chicago. The veteran forward spent 10 seasons with the ‘Hawks.

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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