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Did Devils drop the ball in not trading Kovalchuk?

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Amusingly enough, as great as Ray Shero and the New Jersey Devils’ run of recent trades has been, reportedly failing to move Ilya Kovalchuk overshadows those successes (at least in the eyes of some fans).

The way the CBA works out, Kovalchuk could be a UFA next summer, so in failing to trade him during this off-season, they get nothing.

Out of context, that seems like poor work by Shero.

When you dig deeper, it’s a pretty complicated (or at least challenging) situation.

As this post notes, Kovalchuk likely had incentive to spend at least one more year in the KHL in order to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

One also wonders if they would have only received “pennies on the dollar” if they did make a trade, and what if the only real takers were a division rival like the Columbus Blue Jackets or – even worse for Devils fans – the New York Rangers?

MORE: Shero noted that Kovalchuk “drove the bus” in many ways.

Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski dives into additional details about Shero may or may not have been thinking; overall, it’s difficult to figure out how severe a misstep this really was without knowing what was truly on the table.

Really, it brings up a fascinating question for Devils fans: what would have been a suitable price to possibly power up the hated Rangers?

A remarkable run otherwise

It’s worth bringing up this point again, though: Shero has enjoyed a very nice run of trades, and the Devils began getting great value even before he took over being that they landed Cory Schneider for a reasonable price.

When you take a look at the structure of the team, almost every one of the Devils’ best assets came via trades (at least before they drafted Nico Hischier first overall).

The Taylor HallAdam Larsson trade is a punchline in some circles. It’s starting to look like the same can be said for the Marcus Johansson swap.

Even with an off 2016-17 in mind, Schneider seems like he’ll be worth the investment. Kyle Palmieri isn’t quite the headliner that Hall is, but he’s a key part of the Devils offense, and they nabbed him from Anaheim for cheap.

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There are a lot of factors to consider regarding Kovalchuk, including what kind of aspirations the Devils have for 2017-18.

If New Jersey thinks it can be at least a playoff bubble team, do they really want to make a division rival – particularly a bitter one like the Rangers – stronger with Kovalchuk, just for meager returns?

Even if Shero legitimately dropped the ball in this specific case, Devils fans should take heart: the good has heavily outweighed the bad, particularly when it comes to trades.

Plenty of opportunity on revamped Blackhawks defense

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For almost a decade, Niklas Hjalmarsson was a mainstay on the Blackhawks’ back end, quietly providing some of the most effective defense in the league.

But with Hjalmarsson in Arizona now, traded to the Coyotes for the younger-though-less-proven Connor Murphy, it remains to be seen how Chicago’s blue line will roll out next season.

In addition to Hjalmarsson, the ‘Hawks also bid adieu to Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, and Trevor van Riemsdyk this offseason.

Add up all the good-byes, and that’s a lot of minutes to replace.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we’re going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” head coach Joel Quenneville said, per CSN Chicago. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

The way it looks right now, the top four will be comprised of Keith, Seabrook, Murphy, and Michal Kempny. That’s two left shots — Keith and Kempny — and two righties — Seabrook and Murphy.

Read more: After major changes, Bowman thinks Blackhawks are in ‘good spot’

The bottom pairing, though, is anyone’s guess. Newly signed Czech defenseman Jan Rutta is in the mix. But so too are Jordan Oesterle, Gustav Forsling, Ville Pokka, Erik Gustafsson, Viktor Svedberg, and possibly even Luc Snuggerud.

Once training camp starts, it’ll be up to those young players to prove themselves.

“Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more,” said Oesterle, whom the ‘Hawks signed July 1. “I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Veteran Michal Rozsival is also under contract for next season. However, he turns 39 in September, and with all that youth champing at the bit, the Blackhawks will be hoping they won’t need him much, if at all.

Chicago’s defense in 2016-17, ranked by total time on ice

Sheary’s agent — who’s also Dumoulin’s agent — hoping to avoid arbitration

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Conor Sheary‘s agent is hopeful that an arbitration hearing won’t be needed with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

And that same agent has reason to be optimistic, since he’s also the agent for Brian Dumoulin, who settled at the last minute today.

“Each (case) is so different,” Andrew Gross told the Post-Gazette this morning. “Ultimately, though, team and player would like to avoid going in that room. It’s not a pleasant experience.”

Sheary’s hearing isn’t scheduled until Aug. 4. The 25-year-old forward is coming off a 53-point regular season. In his young NHL career, he’s already won two Stanley Cups.

That said, the Penguins can’t afford to break the bank on an extension. After all, a big reason for their success has been having players like Sheary on affordable deals — a necessity with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Kris Letang taking up so much cap space.

Sheary wasn’t all that productive in the 2017 playoffs either, scoring just two goals with five assists in 22 games, while finishing a team-worst minus-5 for the postseason.

“We’re prepared to go to arbitration,” Pens GM Jim Rutherford said last week.

Of course, Rutherford was also speaking about Dumoulin, and the two sides were able to reach an agreement on him.

You can probably expect a similar outcome with Sheary.

Just don’t bet the house on it.

Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

Spooner seeking $3.85 million in arbitration

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Ryan Spooner‘s arbitration hearing with the Boston Bruins is scheduled for Wednesday. And if it goes ahead, it could be a rather contentious one.

According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, Spooner is seeking $3.85 million on a one-year deal, while the B’s are thinking almost half that at $2 million.

Spooner, a 25-year-old forward, will certainly be able to sell his offensive statistics. He had 49 points in 2015-16, then 39 points last season.

“Ryan’s a talented player,” said GM Don Sweeney, per CSNNE.com. “He’s had a lot of success. Our power play is better when he plays as well as he’s capable of playing, and he can really be a good complement to our group.”

But the knock on Spooner has always been his defensive play. The past two seasons, he’s a combined minus-17. Back in May, it was reported that the B’s were entertaining trade offers for him.

Spooner’s last contract paid him $1.9 million over two years.