On Friday, the Rangers locked in some goaltending depth by signing Magnus Hellberg.
Hellberg, acquired from Nashville on the opening day of free agency, agreed to a two-year pact, according to his representation (A.M.A Sports Agency). No word yet on the financials.
The first goalie taken at the 2011 draft, one spot ahead of Anaheim’s John Gibson, Hellberg has only played in one NHL game — a 12-minute appearance in which he allowed one goal — and spent most of his time in North American shuttling between the ECHL and AHL.
Last year, Hellberg went 15-10-6 with AHL Milwaukee, posting a 2.33 GAA and .913 save percentage. He was dealt to the Rangers party because of the depth of Nashville’s goaltending group, which includes Marek Mazanec and Finnish national team member Juuse Saros.
With New York, Hellberg will enter the season battling for the No. 3 netminder position behind Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta, acquired from Chicago at the draft. Mackenzie Skapski will also be in the running for that third-string spot, but not until he returns from hip surgery that’s expected to sideline him until November.
Prior to last season, Matt Beleskey had never scored more than 11 goals in a single NHL season.
For financial reasons, he picked a great year to double that output when he potted 22 in 2014-15 for Anaheim.
Beleskey cashed in as an unrestricted free agent with a five-year, $19 million deal with the Bruins.
How does he explain his career year?
“Coach Bruce Boudreau put me in good situations,” Beleskey said, per NHL.com. “I played on the power play. I played a lot with Ryan Kesler, who works extremely hard and he’s a great player to work with and play with. And I think I took some confidence strides in my game. I knew it was time that I needed to be more than just a grinder that’s going to help out and be a guy that’s able to lead in situations. And I think I took those steps.”
Now the pressure’s on to keep it up. Especially after the Bruins traded away Milan Lucic, a guy who scored 139 goals during his time in Boston. Not to mention all the hits he delivered.
With Lucic in Los Angeles, and after GM Don Sweeney had vowed to return the B’s to their aggressive ways, Beleskey sees Boston as a good fit.
“The big, bad Bruins play that physical style, and they’ve always been a team that I’ve liked watching,” Beleskey said, per CSN New England.
“They’ve always been a team I’ve been drawn to.”
Related: Bruins sign Beleskey for five years, despite some warning signs
The St. Louis Blues have signed forward Vladimir Tarasenko to an eight-year, $60 million contract.
With a cap hit of $7.5 million, the deal makes Tarasenko the highest-paid player on the Blues.
One of the league’s top young stars, the 23-year-old had 37 goals in 2014-15, fewer than only four others in the NHL. He added six more goals in six playoff games.
The Blues drafted Tarasenko 16th overall in 2010.
As far as recent comparables go, it’s not easy to come up with many, given Tarasenko was a restricted free agent coming off his entry-level deal. Brandon Saad just signed a six-year, $36 million deal with Columbus, but his production pales next to Tarasenko’s.
Elite scoring wingers-wise, Phil Kessel is on an eight-year deal with an $8 million cap hit (shared now by both the Leafs and Penguins), while Corey Perry is also on an eight-year deal, with an $8.625 million cap hit.
Kessel, 27, and Perry, 30, each have a longer track record, but Tarasenko is considerably younger. And, of course, Kessel and Perry signed those deals as pending unrestricted free agents, which gave them more leverage in negotiations.
Kings center Anze Kopitar is “in the early stages of negotiations for what will probably be a lengthy contract extension,” reports the Los Angeles Times.
Kopitar, along with Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, headline the top pending unrestricted free agents of next summer. Also in that group are Eric Staal, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Kesler, Jakub Voracek, Brent Seabrook and Milan Lucic.
For the Kings, if Kopitar re-signs, it’ll be another long-term contract on the books. Los Angeles currently has seven players locked up through at least 2019-20.
Kopitar, 27, will almost certainly become the Kings’ highest cap hit. At present, that belongs to Drew Doughty, at $7 million through 2018-19.
Related: Toews, Bergeron, Kopitar are the Selke Trophy finalists
Derek Stepan might lack a little in the way of negotiating power as a restricted free agent, but the New York Post’s Larry Brooks believes that he recently received a big boost in leverage.
In Brooks’ mind, the big seven-year, $52 million deal ($7.5 million cap hit) Ryan O’Reilly signed with the Buffalo Sabres will leave the New York Rangers in a “cap vise” thanks to its comparables regarding Stepan:
A number than starts with a “7” for Stepan is all but untenable for the Rangers as they are constructed. An award that’s closer to starting with an “8” than a “7” would place the ’15-16 Blueshirts’ roster in a cap vise. Beyond that, an arbitration award almost certainly starts the clock ticking on Stepan’s Broadway expiration date two years hence.
As Brooks notes, it’s plausible that Stepan, 25, may indeed file for salary arbitration by today’s deadline.
Even if this doomsday scenario gets downgraded to things being really tight, Brooks has a point about possible domino effects for the Rangers. General Fanager pegs the Rangers’ cap space at about $10.2 million, so anything in the $7 million range would start to make things uncomfortable, especially since New York still has other RFAs to consider in J.T. Miller, Emerson Etem and Jesper Fast.
Could that force the team’s hand in trading someone like Keith Yandle? Might the Rangers need to make more like the Chicago Blackhawks and move Stepan’s rights instead?
Yes, this speculation could turn out to be excessive worrying, especially if Stepan decided to take a slight “hometown discount” to stay on a contending team/help keep his team in contention.
Even so, if Stepan’s reps use O’Reilly’s extension as a measuring stick, the Rangers might indeed be sweating it.