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After drafting Hischier and acquiring Johansson, ‘it’s an exciting time for the Devils,’ says Shero

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Ray Shero pointed out that if the salary cap did not exist, Marcus Johansson would still likely be a member of the Washington Capitals.

But a salary cap does exist in the NHL, and while the ceiling moved up to $75 million for the 2017-18 season, the Capitals were up against it following some of their recent offseason decisions, especially after re-signing Evgeny Kuznetsov to an eight-year, $62.4 million contract on Sunday.

The Capitals, with about $4.65 million available following that signing, needed to clear more space. And so, they made a deal with the Devils, sending Johansson to New Jersey. Going back to Washington: A second-round pick and a third-round pick next year.

Those picks, according to the Capitals, previously belonged to Florida and Toronto, so New Jersey keeps its original selections for those rounds next year.

In Johansson, the Devils get a 26-year-old forward capable of playing both on the wing and center, and one who just posted career highs in goals (24) and points (58). That’s an important addition for New Jersey, which was 28th in the league last year in scoring.

“He really adds to this forward group,” said Shero, the Devils general manager, in a conference call. “That’s what we’re looking to do is get better instantly. We just have to get better and that means more skill, more talent.

“We’re getting there and I think that’s exciting for a guy like Marcus.”

The addition of Taylor Hall last year was a start in the right direction. Defying the odds and getting the No. 1 overall pick, which turned into Nico Hischier, was a lucky development at the lottery, and acquiring a productive, versatile forward from a team against the cap should help in at least starting to turn the Devils’ offensive problems around.

“I think we’re better, more dynamic up front than we have been in a while, obviously,” he said.

They also signed veteran center Brian Boyle yesterday.

“It’s a good day for us and it’s a trade that obviously helps both teams. Washington, with their cap, and then being able to sign a great player like Kuznetsov and certainly a team like ours that’s taken advantage of that in adding a real good young player … in Marcus,” said Shero.

The Devils now have about $20.3 million in cap space, and Shero hasn’t ruled out the possibility of more moves, including with other teams in need of trading away salary to free them up financially. That could mean making an upgrade on defense, as well.

“Just in the last week … I think adding Boyle, Johansson and Nico Hischier — I think it’s an exciting time for the Devils,” said Shero. “We’re open to anything.

“We’ll see where it goes. We have more assets now. The draft picks and cap space are huge assets and we utilized a little bit of both today, but we’re still in good position and would certainly look to get better before the season starts.”

One aspect of the offseason Shero didn’t really have an update for was on Ilya Kovalchuk. It’s been reported that he’s planning a return to the NHL. It’s been reported that he’s talking extension with his KHL team. It’s been reported that the Rangers, Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets are all apparently on his wish list.On the second day of free agency, however, Kovalchuk remains available.

“I’d assume at some point in the next few days, we should have a real good indication of what’s going on or what he’s going to do,” said Shero.

Still, after the events of the last few weeks, Shero had a sense of optimism about the direction of his team.

“We’re in a better position than we were a day ago,” said Shero. “We’re in a better position than we were a week ago.”

New addition Thompson thinks Senators are ‘ready to win’

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Even after reaching Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016-17 there is still probably some skepticism as to how good the Ottawa Senators will be this upcoming season and whether or not they can repeat that success.

They didn’t do much to add to that roster over the summer outside of the addition of gritty forward Nate Thompson on a two-year contract from the Anaheim Ducks.

Thompson is excited about the opportunity to join the Senators and believes the success of the team last season was not a fluke.

“This team now is ready to win,” he told Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun this past week. “I don’t think this was a Cinderella team, it was the real deal. They have a pretty good window to win games and hopefully do something even more special.”

It’s going to probably be a little more difficult this season given some of the improvements that have been made by teams around them (Tampa Bay and Toronto should be better than they were a year ago; Montreal and Boston will still be fierce contenders as well) and the fact the Senators themselves might see a bit of a regression in the standings if their overall play doesn’t change much. Keep in mind, for all of the success they had in the playoffs this was still a team that gave up more goals than it scored during the regular season. That is not typically a recipe for long-term success.

Thompson, who will turn 33 at the start of the season, will be relied on primarily to fill a bottom-six role and perhaps help in the faceoff circle. He is coming off of a 2016-17 season in Anaheim that saw him be limited to just 30 games, scoring one goal and adding one assist before recording six points (two goals, four assists) in the playoffs for the Ducks on their run to the Western Conference Finals. He spent the past three seasons playing for the Ducks and also has experience playing for Senators coach Guy Boucher during their time together in Tampa Bay.

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.