Cam Tucker

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Habs may lean more on Montoya to keep Price refreshed

The Montreal Canadiens committed money (a lot of money) and term to Carey Price with his contract extension at the beginning of this month.

He is the backbone for this team, for its success.

He’s also about to turn 30 years old next month, with 509 career games in the NHL, entering the league in 2007-08. For as great as he has been, the Habs may place added responsibilities on the shoulders of their back-up, a title currently held by Al Montoya.

In an interview with the Habs’ website, the club’s goaltending coach Stephane Waite said that, in his mind, the days of starting goalies playing 65 to 70 games are done. It’s too tall an order in today’s NHL.

Price has, on three occasions, breached the figures in that approximation during his career. He approached the lower end of that with 62 starts in 2016-17. Montoya, meanwhile, had 18 starts and 19 games, posting a 8-6-4 record (20 points for Montreal in the standings) and a .912 save percentage.

He was the victim of one awful game, allowing 10 goals to Columbus on Nov. 4. But seriously, the entire Habs team was awful that night, essentially leaving their No. 2 goalie out to dry in an embarrassing effort from everyone.

Beyond that, Montoya was able to put together some nice starts, including shutouts against Pittsburgh and Edmonton, two teams well-equipped with dangerous offensive talent.

“We’re not afraid to put Al in goal against any team in the league,” said Waite.

“We don’t look at who he’ll be playing, we just look at the schedule that we make at the beginning of the season. Our priority is to give Carey the right days off at the right times.”

The Habs signed Montoya to a two-year extension in January. That’s a vote of confidence in their back-up.

Maintaining that confidence with a good season would certainly help the Habs accomplish the objective of keeping Price rested and refreshed.

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    Rangers are ‘right on the cusp,’ says Shattenkirk

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    Since missing the playoffs in 2010, the New York Rangers have made it to the Eastern Conference Final three times, and to the Stanley Cup Final once.

    A championship, however, has eluded them. Instead, they’ve lost to the L.A. Kings in the final and watched their division rivals from Pittsburgh win it twice in a row, even losing to the Penguins in the first round in 2016.

    This summer, however, has brought considerable change to the Blueshirts through a blockbuster trade with Arizona, buyouts and a retirement.

    Derek Stepan — gone.

    Dan Girardi — gone.

    Kevin Klein — gone.

    Antti Raanta — gone.

    Oscar Lindberg — gone.

    There has been substantial change on the blue line. The Rangers went after prized free agent defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk with a four-year contract worth $26.6 million. They re-signed Brendan Smith, a late-season acquisition. They brought in Anthony DeAngelo in that deal with Arizona.

    Read more: Optimism replaces pessimism after changes to Rangers defense

    No surprise here, but Shattenkirk had an optimistic outlook when describing the Rangers, a team he believes is “right on the cusp,” according to a conversation with NHL.com.

    “I think we have that capability of playing with a team like that,” Shattenkirk recently told NHL.com.

    “We have great goaltending (Henrik Lundqvist). Our defense is fast and we can make plays, but I also think we have a little bit of edge as well. Up front, I’m sure we’re one of the fastest teams in the League. You look at how Pittsburgh is built, and that’s the way that they’ve won. We have some great depth on our team, and I think that’s what it really comes down to at that point of the season: How deep are you?”

    Their success next season may also depend on which teams rise and fall in the Metropolitan Division.

    Columbus took a big step forward with a franchise record-setting season and will look to replicate that beginning in the fall. The Penguins were the Penguins, advancing past Washington and Ottawa in seven-game series despite a plethora of injuries before besting Nashville in the final. One has to wonder how much of a toll the grind of two Stanley Cups will take on that club. The Capitals won the Presidents’ Trophy but faltered in the playoffs, ushering in change to their roster with all the unrestricted free agents — including Shattenkirk for the playoff run — they had.

    Can the Islanders get back into the playoffs? Same question for the Flyers. Will Carolina, with Scott Darling in net, get the necessary upgrade at that position and take the next step toward the playoffs? What will New Jersey, with an upgraded offense in addition to Taylor Hall, be capable of when the season begins?

    The number of changes to teams in the Metropolitan may be enough to shift the balance of power in that division this upcoming season. The Rangers have seemed like a team on the cusp at least three times in the last seven years.

    Shattenkirk mentioned goaltending, as well, calling it great. That’s an accurate description of what Lundqvist has been for many years in New York. However, at the age of 35, he’ll need to bounce back from what was a down season for him in 2016-17.

    “I think everyone’s probably all going to judge [the window] based on Lundqvist, and everyone is talking about, ‘Well, how long does he have left?'” continued Shattenkirk. “We have a lot of young players on this team, though, to counterbalance that.”

    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.