Nashville Predators

Capitals still might add a third-line center

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With Eric Fehr an unrestricted free agent and Nicklas Backstrom’s availability for the start of the season “up in the air” after undergoing arthroscopic hip surgery, the Washington Capitals’ situation at center is far from certain.

Washington has stated that Evgeny Kuznetsov will serve as the number two center and when Backstrom is healthy, he is the clear number one, but that still leaves the third line role undetermined.

“I think we’re going to let it play out,” Capitals GM Brian MacLellan told the Washington Post. “We could address it internally, the third-line center spot, and also depending on how the contract situation plays itself out, there’s a couple options in the free agency market that we see, and we’ll explore the trade market up until training camp. There might be something in that venue.”

Andre Burakovsky, 20, is among their internal options, but they also have veteran alternatives like 29-year-old Jay Beagle.

If they do decide to sign a center to help fill the void, then their options include Stephen Weiss, Matt Cullen, Derek Roy and, of course, Fehr.

Washington does have some cap considerations though. They have a little more than $10 million in space, but still have to re-sign restricted free agents Marcus Johansson and Braden Holtby, per General Fanager.

Mike Ribeiro settles sexual assault civil lawsuit

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Mike Ribeiro and his wife settled their sexual assault civil lawsuit with their former nanny for an undisclosed amount on Wednesday, as the Nashville Post’s J.R. Lind reports.

The terms of the settlement (which was made out-of-court) were undisclosed, but Ribeiro’s attorney Brian Lauten released the following statement to the Nashville Post:

“This civil matter has been amicably resolved without incurring further time-consuming and potentially costly litigation,” Lauten said. “I am unable to discuss any of the elements of this confidential resolution. Mike looks forward to continuing to play hockey at a high level and looks forward to aggressively pursuing a Stanley Cup alongside his teammates. The Ribeiro family will not have any further comments on this matter.”

The Predators also are aware of the settlement, as the Nashville Post notes:

“The organization understands Mike Ribeiro has resolved his civil case. We are pleased that Mike and his family can focus on their future and we will have no further comment.”

The Predators organization decided to re-sign Ribeiro, 35, to a two-year, $7 million contract even as this lawsuit remained in civil court. When negotiations were taking place, GM David Poile described Ribeiro as “a good teammate and a productive player” along with someone who, alongside his wife, has been “excellent in the community.”

Re-signing Ribeiro rubs some fans (both of the Predators and hockey as a whole) the wrong way. Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski provided this advice to those who were angered by Nashville’s decision to bring Ribeiro back in June:

This story has gotten national attention, and there’s been national media pressure on Poile. That’s fine. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter unless Predators fans decide it matters.

All politics are local. If you’re a woman that loves the Preds but this re-signing turns your stomach, don’t be silent. If you’re a guy that loves the Preds but can’t support someone like Ribeiro, let your voice be heard. Because right now, the Predators clearly believe that the past doesn’t factor in the present, that Ribeiro is just another rehabbed player and that you think a No. 1 center trumps a player facing this type of civil case.

However you might feel about the situation, the bottom line is that the case is now settled – legally speaking – and Ribeiro is under contract with the Predators for the next two seasons.

With cap ‘flexibility,’ Bruins not ‘closing the books’ on adding players

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They had to trade Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic to get it, but the Boston Bruins finally have some breathing room under the salary cap.

The question now is if they can take advantage.

“If we have any opportunities come up, we now have the flexibility to act on them,” club president Cam Neely told CSN New England. “If something happens now all the way through training camp where we feel we can improve our club, we have a better chance of adding without saying, ‘Okay, now who do we have to subtract?'”

With the loss of Hamilton, which came less than a year after the loss of Johnny Boychuk, the Bruins’ defense is a major question mark heading into 2015-16.

While GM Don Sweeney has called it “a great opportunity” for some of the “kids” — and Neely doesn’t disagree — Neely insists that “by no means are we closing the books and saying this is what we’ve got.”

Unrestricted free agents on defense include Christian Ehrhoff and Cody Franson. The former is willing to sign a one-year deal, which may be attractive. But Franson, a right shot like Hamilton and Boychuk, may be a better fit.

The Bruins are believed to have made a bid for Mike Green, also a right shot, who signed with Detroit on July 1.

Related: Sweeney explains Hamilton trade: ‘We extended Dougie a very significant contract offer’

Cullen ‘excited’ about playing another year, says teams have expressed interest

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Sounds like one of the NHL’s oldest players will return for another kick at the can.

Matt Cullen — the league’s 11th-oldest skater last season — is “excited about the idea of playing again,” and has been contacted by a few teams to come back for an 18th season, per The Tennessean.

“The last little bit, it’s kind of picked up a little bit, and there’s a few teams now that have expressed some interest,” Cullen said. “We’re just going through where I would fit salary cap wise and things like that.

“It’s been good. I’ve been thrilled with the fact that there’s been a few teams looking to hopefully make a move here.”

Cullen, who turns 39 in November, just wrapped a two-year, $7 million deal with the Preds. His ’13-14 campaign was fairly productive — 10 goals and 39 points in 77 games — and while he struggled early last season, Cullen eventually found his niche as a “versatility guy,” flipping between the middle and wing, jumping up into the No. 2 center spot when Mike Fisher was injured during the playoffs.

In May, with free agency looming, Cullen said his goal was to play close to home — he’s a Minnesota native — but now says he and agent Pat Morris are fielding offers from Western and Eastern Conference teams.

Morris, in fact, is a driving force behind Cullen returning for another year.

“I know that he should [keep playing],” the veteran agent said, per The Tennessean. “He can still skate and still make plays, and he’s still a very good teammate.”

Etem, acquired in Hagelin trade, signs one-year, $850,500 deal with Rangers

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The New York Rangers have locked in the key piece acquired in the Carl Hagelin-to-Anaheim trade — on Tuesday, the club signed Emerson Etem to a one-year deal worth $850,500, per the New York Post.

Etem, 23, is a former first-round pick (29th overall, 2010) that never seemed to fit in Anaheim. Despite lightning-quick skating ability and a nice skill set, the California native never played more than 45 games in a single season for the Ducks, and never scored more than 11 points. He did show some flashes this postseason, however, scoring three goals in 12 games for Anaheim, including this beauty against Winnipeg in the opening round:

In New York, Etem will get a fresh start — something Ducks GM Bob Murray said the youngster might need at this stage of his career — and should get a decent shot at minutes on a Rangers team that’s been thinned out up front. Hagelin is gone, Martin St. Louis retired and UFA James Sheppard remains unsigned.

The Rangers did bring in speedy ex-Preds forward Viktor Stalberg, however, and that could cut into Etem’s opportunity.