James O'Brien

I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.
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Key players from Penguins, Sabres, Lightning headline salary arbitration list

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The NHLPA released a list of players who are filing for salary arbitration during this off-season on Wednesday.

It’s important to note that arbitration hearings rarely happen, and with good reason, as they can be harsh situations that may lead to hard feelings between a player and his team. Hearings take place July 20-Aug. 2, with a 48-hour window for verdicts to be made.

Also, the deadline for club-elected salary arbitration is set for tomorrow (July 6) at 5 p.m. ET.

Another key note: offer sheets are not an option for players who file for arbitration. Now, onto the list, which began with 30 players and is now down to 28:

TORONTO (July 5, 2017) – Thirty players have elected Salary Arbitration:

Arizona Coyotes

Jordan Martinook

Boston Bruins

Ryan Spooner

Buffalo Sabres

Nathan Beaulieu

Johan Larsson

Robin Lehner

Calgary Flames

Micheal Ferland

Colorado Avalanche

Matt Nieto

Detroit Red Wings

Tomas Tatar

Edmonton Oilers

Joey LaLeggia

Los Angeles Kings

Kevin Gravel

Minnesota Wild

Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter

Montreal Canadiens

Alex Galchenyuk (signed for three years; more on that here)

Nashville Predators

Viktor Arvidsson

Marek Mazanec

Austin Watson

New York Islanders

Calvin de Haan

New York Rangers

Jesper Fast (signed, read about the deal here)

Mika Zibanejad

Ottawa Senators

Ryan Dzingel

Jean-Gabriel Pageau

Pittsburgh Penguins

Brian Dumoulin

Conor Sheary

St. Louis Blues

Colton Parayko

Tampa Bay Lightning

Tyler Johnson

Ondrej Palat

Vancouver Canucks

Reid Boucher

Michael Chaput

Vegas Golden Knights

Nate Schmidt

Winnipeg Jets

Connor Hellebuyck

Canadiens get bargain for Galchenyuk: Three years, reportedly $14.7M

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The Montreal Canadiens continue to rotate between bright and puzzling moves with the announcement of a three-year deal for Alex Galchenyuk.

Galchenyuk, whose name comes up repeatedly in trade rumors and who apparently cannot thrive as a center, will carry a $4.9 million cap hit, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

(Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston and plenty of others back up that number. Johnston notes that Galchenyuk will be a UFA when this deal expires.)

At 23, Galchenyuk’s already shown some flashes of brilliance, and – on paper – could stand as a player who could grow into his contract much like newly acquired forward Jonathan Drouin.

That said, Galchenyuk’s time with the Canadiens parallels Drouin’s troubles with the Tampa Bay Lightning, making one wonder if he’ll really stick or instead be moved later. Montreal experienced a similar tug-of-war with P.K. Subban before ultimately trading him to Nashville, after all.

Also:

As it stands, this is a great deal for the Habs. Apparently Galchenyuk initially filed for salary arbitration, but that’s no longer a concern.

GM Marc Bergevin & Co. have absorbed plenty of criticism over the years, yet they’ve done well to experience savings with many RFAs, including Max Pacioretty at $4.5M per season. There’s a strong chance that Galchenyuk will continue that trend.

Of course, as significant as this re-signing is, the Carey Price extension remains the pivotal moment of Montreal’s off-season. That said, it’s been a busy time, with the likes of Alex Radulov, Alexei Emelin, Nathan Beaulieu, and prospect Mikhail Sergachev leaving town while Ales Hemsky and Karl Alzner are big additions.

The Canadiens have solid space (Cap Friendly places it at $9.16 million) remaining if they want to add, say, some defensive help.

Considering the rumblings of Galchenyuk being moved, this deal almost makes him feel like an addition, too.

For now?

In supporting McDavid, Oilers face bigger cap tests than Pens, Blackhawks

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The Edmonton Oilers officially confirmed Connor McDavid‘s contract as the richest in NHL history: eight years at a tidy $100 million.

Remarkably, that $12.5 million cap hit is actually a big break for the Oilers, as McDavid could’ve justifiably demanded more. Either way, what’s next?

GM Peter Chiarelli gave the “no-comment” treatment when asked about Leon Draisaitl, instead praising McDavid for “caring about his teammates.”

Chiarelli’s seen the Blackhawks and Penguins struggle with salary-cap challenges, and the scary thing is that the Oilers must climb a bigger mountain.

Oilers lack some advantages Penguins, Blackhawks enjoyed

As tough as things have been for Chicago and Pittsburgh, Edmonton lacks some of those franchise’s significant edges.

For one thing, signing Sidney Crosby to a 12-year deal with an $8.7 million cap hit wouldn’t be possible today. Edmonton could only sign McDavid for a maximum of eight years, limiting the Oilers’ ability to parallel deals for the likes of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

It’s worth noting that the Blackhawks haven’t won a Stanley Cup since Jonathan Toews‘ and Patrick Kane‘s matching $10.5 million cap hits kicked in, deals that were more costly with the max-year loophole closed.

Yet, even in Chicago’s case, they managed to get a huge-term bargain under its belt during the old CBA. Duncan Keith brings Norris-level defense for a dirt-cheap cap hit of about $5.54 million through 2022-23.

Edmonton must find other opportunities to save money.

Bargains are crucial, and they’re where Chiarelli must “earn his money”

However you slice it, teams must bargain-hunt, and they often need to be creative to make things work.

The Penguins spent assets to land Phil Kessel, and they convinced the Maple Leafs to retain a crucial chunk of his cap hit. They’ve managed to integrate younger players like Jake Guentzel, Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, and especially Matt Murray into a mix of established stars. Of course, they’ve also enjoyed some luck along the way, most notably in convincing Marc-Andre Fleury to go to Vegas.

In many ways, Chicago set a template for the Penguins in discovering the likes of Artemi Panarin while also finding success with the likes of Ryan Hartman. Both Stan Bowman and Jim Rutherford have been willing to take chances on players and part ways with guys who weren’t deemed essential.

Such a thought explains why Kris Russell and Milan Lucic stand as polarizing signings; if those two struggle, that’s $10M poorly spent.

Not all bad

Look, Chiarelli faces some difficult challenges, yet he also has some things working in his favor.

Most obviously, this is a largely young core, with players who can improve. It’s reasonable to believe that McDavid and Draisaitl could make other, cheaper wingers better when Edmonton’s budget gets especially tight.

Cam Talbot‘s also been a revelation, and while his $4.2M cap hit expires after two more seasons, it’s a nice bargain to have.

There are also some decent deals on defense.

Andrej Sekera, Oscar Klefbom, and Adam Larsson combine for an affordable, solid trio. Klefbom and Larsson are also in their prime years, likely to deliver value for Edmonton going forward.

Once you shake off concerns about Lucic and Russell, the slate is actually fairly clean for Edmonton. That’s especially true if they make another tough call and move Ryan Nugent-Hopkins if his $6M is too much to stomach.

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The Oilers aren’t in an impossible situation, just a very challenging one. With McDavid as a sure thing alongside other nice pieces, it comes down to Chiarelli providing the supporting cast needed to collect some Stanley Cups.

Signing McDavid was the easy part.

Panthers will give first-rounder Tippett a real shot to play next season

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One can almost assume that the top picks of a given draft will make an instant jump to the NHL, but the picture gets muddier as you go down the rankings.

As the 10th pick of 2017, Owen Tippett might face an uphill battle of making an impact right away for the Florida Panthers.

MORE: Draft profile for Tippett

Panthers GM Dale Tallon told NHL.com that one or two players from the team’s development camp could very well be on their roster, and Tippett would be in the running.

“He’s going to get every opportunity,” Tallon said. “I don’t have any problem and [coach Bob Boughner] and our coaching staff don’t have any issues playing young guys. We’re building a team that’s going to be around for a long time and we’ll give him every opportunity to play this year.”

With the likes of Jaromir Jagr on the way out, the Panthers should expect to have room for young scorers to emerge. People seem excited about his skills in that regard:

Personally, it’s most exciting to see “Big Red” (very unofficial nickname) in those Panthers sweaters.

Something to root for.

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.