Cam Tucker

AP

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.”

Mike Babcock doesn’t seem too worried about Marleau’s age

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The Toronto Maple Leafs committed three years to free agent Patrick Marleau on Sunday, signing the now former San Jose Sharks forward.

It’s a pricey deal — worth a total of $18.75 million, most of that geared towards signing bonuses, according to CapFriendly.

It also involves a no-movement clause.

That’s quite a bit for a player about to celebrate his 38th birthday in September. Marleau won’t reach his lofty numbers achieved five, six, seven or eight years ago. Knocking on the door of a 40-goal campaign was the norm back then for Marleau.

But he has remained productive into his late 30s, scoring 27 goals and 46 points this past season.

Toronto’s bench boss Mike Babcock coached Marleau with Team Canada in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics. With such emphasis on youth and speed in today’s NHL, signing a soon-to-be 38-year-old forward — especially to a three-year deal — raises eyebrows.

However, Babcock doesn’t seem overly concerned about that deal or Marleau’s age.

Babcock has been put in charge of overseeing the on-ice component of the Maple Leafs rebuild, which, with an impressive group of young and talented players, has taken quite a step forward in the last year. The Maple Leafs have since added veteran players like defenseman Ron Hainsey and center Dominic Moore to their lineup. Marleau is the most noteworthy catch for Toronto over the last day-and-a-half.

From the Canadian Press:

The Leafs are trying to snatch the last bit of good from his Hall of Fame-worthy career while injecting veteran stability and versatility into an lineup that’s mostly populated by youth. The club also has a limited window for making such a move with young stars Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner all still on entry-level contracts.

“We won’t be able to do this in a year or so but we have the room and flexibility to do it (now) and not interrupt the process that we have in place, understanding where our young players are and where they will be,” Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello said in a statement released by the team.

Meanwhile, this marks the end of an era for the Sharks and Marleau.

He played 1,493 regular season games in San Jose, and another 177 in the playoffs. Between regular season and playoffs, Marleau scored 576 goals and 1,202 points with the Sharks.

“Patrick has been a pillar of this franchise since he was drafted as a 17-year-old in 1997, and has become one of the elite players in our team’s history,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson in a statement.

“He owns nearly every offensive record in Sharks history, scored some big goals for our team and helped shape San Jose into a true hockey city. While we were hoping he would choose to return to San Jose, we wish him the absolute best and want to thank Patrick, his wife Christina, and their children Landon, Brody, Jagger and Caleb for their time in San Jose, a place he has called home for nearly two decades.”

It’s official: Sharks re-sign Thornton to one-year deal

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Joe Thornton has officially returned to the San Jose Sharks.

Hours after Patrick Marleau signed with Toronto, ending his time in San Jose, the Sharks announced they had officially re-signed Thornton to a one-year contract, confirming reports from yesterday.

Per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press, it’s a one-year deal worth $8 million.

“Joe has become one of the faces of this franchise since his arrival in 2005 and we feel it’s only fitting that he will be wearing teal going forward,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson in a statement.

“He is a generational playmaker and his accomplishments place him amongst the elite players to ever play the game. He has helped lead this team to new levels and continues to be one of the top two-way centers in the League. His leadership on and off the ice have been instrumental in this franchise’s success, and we’re excited that he has continued his commitment to this organization and the fans in San Jose.”

The announcement of this deal coincides with Thornton’s 38th birthday. He’s also coming back from knee surgery for an injury suffered late in the regular season.

Capitals trade Marcus Johansson to Devils

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More breaking news from the Washington Capitals tonight.

After signing Evgeny Kuznetsov to a long-term contract on Sunday, the Capitals then traded Marcus Johansson to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a second-round pick (previously belonging to Florida) and third-round pick (previously belonging to Toronto) in the 2018 NHL Draft.

After signing Kuznetsov — eight years, $62.4 million — the Capitals were right up against the salary cap, with only about $4.65 million in space and still needing to get Andre Burakovsky, a restricted free agent, under contract for next season.

Trading the 26-year-old Johansson frees up about $4.583 million in cap space. He was entering the second year of his three-year, $13.75 million contract. It also takes a very productive player from that roster.

Johansson scored 24 goals and 58 points — both single-season career highs — in the 2016-17 campaign.

After acquiring Taylor Hall last summer, the Devils could still use the help offensively. They were ranked 28th in the league, with only 2.20 goals-for per game. Sliding up the order courtesy the draft lottery and selecting Nico Hischier first overall should also help remedy that.

The Devils are going to give him a chance to make the team right away in the fall.

Capitals sign Kuznetsov to eight-year, $62.4 million deal

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The Washington Capitals have announced a long-term contract for Evgeny Kuznetsov.

The Capitals have signed Kuznetsov, a restricted free agent, to an eight-year, $62.4 million extension.

As expected, that represents a substantial raise from the two-year deal, with an NHL salary of $3.4 million this past season, that recently expired.

“Evgeny is a premier center in the NHL and we are pleased that he will remain in Washington for at least the next eight years,” said general manager Brian MacLellan in a statement.

“It is difficult to find a player of his caliber, who is in his prime and makes his teammates better. Evgeny plays with a tremendous skill, speed and tenacity needed to win in the NHL.”

Now 25 years old, Kuznetsov’s total production dropped in 2016-17, as he scored 19 goals and 59 points in 82 games. But he has also shown to have a very high ceiling, scoring 20 goals and 77 points the previous campaign — just his second full season in the league.

He did have a strong, productive playoff with 10 points in 13 games, before the Capitals were ousted in the second round by Pittsburgh. Despite losing to the rival Penguins, Kuznetsov had a good series with seven points.

Per CapFriendly, the Capitals now have about $4.65 million in cap space — with about $70.3 million already committed to only 15 players for next season. Andre Burakovsky, a restricted free agent, is still in need of a new deal. The task now falls to MacLellan to try to figure out a way to gain more cap flexibility.

MacLellan, in May, called Alex Ovechkin “a big part of our franchise” but also didn’t completely rule out the possibility of a trade involving the prolific scorer and Capitals star — provided it was a “legitimate hockey deal.” He has four years remaining on his current deal, with a $9.538 million cap hit.

Today’s signing is the latest for the Capitals, who have already committed large sums of money to Dmitry Orlov (click here) and T.J. Oshie (click here).