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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.”

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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