Toronto Maple Leafs

For Pens, Tuesday’s moves were all about depth and finances up front

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Following a busy day in which he flipped Brandon Sutter to Vancouver for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening, then signed ex-Capital Eric Fehr, Pens GM Jim Rutherford explained how those moves met two of his biggest objectives.

“The two deals went hand-in-hand so we can add more depth,” Rutherford said. “We have enough good players now that guys are going to have to compete for those spots [in training camp] and compete for them all year.”

He then addressed the money issue.

“When you look at the structure of our salaries and our cap, it’s important to get those bottom-six cap hits in better shape,” Rutherford explained. “That’s what we were able to do with these two deals.”

It’s not surprising that depth and finances were two of Pittsburgh’s biggest offseason priorities. Money allotment has been an issue — Sutter, a pending UFA potentially in line for a raise, was making $3.3 million while playing what amounted to a third-line center role.

Combined, Bonino and Fehr are a $3.9M cap hit.

(Lest we forget that, in the Phil Kessel trade earlier this month, Rutherford dealt away another relatively expensive third-liner in Nick Spaling, who makes $2.2M annually.)

Earlier, veteran depth guys Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Daniel Winnik and Craig Adams were allowed to walk in free agency, giving likes of Beau Bennett ($800K), KHLer Sergei Plotnikov ($925K), Swedish prospect Oskar Sundqvist ($700K) and Czech Leaguer Dominik Simon ($692K) a chance to get into the rotation.

So that’s the financial side.

In terms of depth up front, Pittsburgh seems far better suited to deal with injuries — something that, you may remember, was a recurring issue in ’14-15. Kessel gives the club a bonafide scoring winger to play alongside either Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while Fehr and Bonino, both natural centers, provide nice depth down the middle.

Fehr could even bounce outside if need be.

“Eric is definitely comfortable as a two-positional player,” Rutherford said. “He could possibly jump up into the top six, if that situation presented itself, but he’s coming off of a year where he played center.”

Pascal Dupuis is expected to return after playing just 16 games last year, and the club will get a full season of David Perron, acquired from Edmonton in January. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Rutherford is so pleased with Pittsburgh’s new-look forward group — it’s deeper, with a more sensible financial structure.

“If a guy falls off, there’s a guy waiting to jump right in there,” he explained. “I like the fact that we have enough guys that each guy can push each other.

“I like our depth at forward now.”

Wilson signs with Preds, leaving just four arbitration cases to go

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One more down, four to go.

Arbitration cases, we mean.

The Nashville Predators announced today that they’d signed restricted free agent Colin Wilson to a four-year, $15.75 million contract. Wilson had been scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow.

The Wilson signing, combined with today’s Derek Stepan signing, leaves four RFAs still scheduled to make their cases in front of an arbitrator:

— Washington’s Marcus Johansson, hearing scheduled for Wednesday
— Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman, Thursday
— Minnesota’s Erik Haula, Friday
— Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier, Friday

Wilson, 25, had 20 goals and 22 assists last season for the Preds.

Related: Preds sign ‘integral’ Smith to five-year, $21.25M extension

Wilson requests $4.25M in arbitration, Predators offer $3M

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Restricted free agent Colin Wilson is going to get a significant raise this summer and soon he’ll know exactly how big it is.

With his arbitration hearing set for Tuesday, Wilson has filed a request for a $4.25 million salary while the Nashville Predators have countered at $3 million, per Elliotte Friedman. He earned $2.5 million last season in the final campaign of a three-year, $6 million contract.

The 25-year-old forward set new career-highs with 20 goals and 42 points in 77 contests in 2014-15. He went on to score another five goals in Nashville’s six-game first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

He’s the last of the three Predators RFAs to file for salary arbitration to be dealt with. Nashville traded Taylor Beck to Toronto and inked Craig Smith to a five-year, $21.25 million contract.

Barring another trade or signing in addition to Wilson’s, Nashville will likely enter the season with more than $10 million in cap space, per General Fanager. It does have some significant players eligible to test the restricted free agent waters next summer though, including Filip Forsberg, Mattias Ekholm, and Seth Jones.

With Lamoriello hire, Leafs hammer home their culture change

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If it wasn’t abundantly clear before, it is now.

In introducing Lou Lamoriello as the 16th general manager of the Maple Leafs on Thursday, both team president Brendan Shanahan and Lamoriello himself said this is all about a major offseason theme:

Changing the culture in Toronto.

“We are trying to create [an environment] where the players are willing to give up their own identity for that logo on the front,” Lamoriello explained. “Never mixing what’s on the back of the jersey with what’s on the front — that has to be transmitted to each and every player, no matter what their abilities are.

“Success doesn’t come unless each and every one of these individuals are committed to each other.”

Those are telling words in the wake of Toronto’s disastrous campaign. From Phil Kessel’s ongoing feud with the media to Nazem Kadri’s suspension to Dion Phaneuf and Joffrey Lupul threatening to sue TSN to accusations the team quit playing for interim bench boss Peter Horachek, the Leafs were considered one of the league’s most toxic teams.

So, enter the hazmat team. Shanahan cleaned house in the front office. Kessel, the team’s leading scorer, was traded.

At the draft, new head coach Mike Babcock laid down the law for those that remained, saying “anything that’s been going on is going to get cleaned up.”

“The number-one characteristic of a Toronto Maple Leaf is a good human being. Period.” Babcock said. “So if you don’t fit that, you’re not going to be here. We’re going to be a fit, fit team. We’re going to be a team that comes to the media everyday, after a win, after a loss, after practice, and owns their own stuff. Period.”

So the culture change started with Shanahan, continued with Babcock and will now be cemented by Lamoriello.

Few GMs are more adept at establishing culture, and no team in NHL history was defined more by an individual than the Devils were with LouLam. He oversaw nearly every aspect of the organization, right down to the little things — some say petty things — like banning facial hair outside of the playoffs, and not issuing the No. 13.

Lamoriello explained his logic in a February Q&A with the Star-Ledger.

“The word is called tradition,” he said. “That’s the identity of the Devils organization. Those are part of the systemic points that have given us our identity, like our home and away jerseys. Whether you look at the Yankees or the old Montreal Canadiens and their identity, this is the identity of the Devils.

“I look at it as something the players, and hopefully the fans, take pride in.”

As for working with Shanahan and Babcock, well, Lamoriello doesn’t figure to have many problems. The head coach has already praised the hire — “a home run for all of us,” is how he described it to NHL.com — and Shanahan, whose personal relationship with Lamoriello dates back to 1987, sees the 72-year-old as the ideal architect.

“There should be an appreciation and showing of enthusiasm that you’re enjoying being a Toronto Maple Leaf,” he explained. “We want to have enthusiasm, we want to have good people.

“Lou is a great fit for that.”

He’s baaaaaack: Leafs pull a stunner, hire Lamoriello as GM (Updated)

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In a surprising move that few saw coming, the Toronto Maple Leafs filled their vacant general manager position by hiring longtime Devils GM Lou Lamoriello.

More, from the club:

Lamoriello has been named the 16th General Manager in the Club’s history. Lamoriello joins the Leafs after previously spending the last 28 years in the New Jersey Devils organization.

On May 4, 2015, Ray Shero was introduced as the Devils’ new General Manager while Lamoriello remained in his role as President of Hockey Operations. He finished as the longest serving General Manager of any one team in the history of the NHL at 28 years (1987-2015).

In conjunction with this announcement, the Devils announced that Lamoriello had stepped down as president, a role he retained after shifting GM duties to Shero.

UPDATE: Despite Lamoriello’s resignation, the Leafs will still be required to compensate New Jersey for the hire, per Sportsnet. According to NorthJersey.com, it’s a third-round pick.

Is it fair to say this hire came out of left field?

Yes. But it’s not hard to see the connection between Lamoriello and the Leafs organization.

Lamoriello was Toronto team president Brendan Shanahan’s first boss upon breaking into the NHL in 1987. In fact, Shanahan referenced Lamoriello this season while suspending Nazem Kadri for behavioral issues; Shanahan said he never forgot getting parked for three games during his rookie season with the Devils, and referenced it while discussing Kadri’s punishment.

A known disciplinarian, Lamoriello’s strict, no-nonsense approach fits with Toronto’s organizational overhaul. At the NHL draft in June, new head coach Mike Babcock explained exactly what that overhaul would look like.

“The number-one characteristic of a Toronto Maple Leaf is a good human being. Period.” Babcock said. “So if you don’t fit that, you’re not going to be here. Anything that’s been going on is going to get cleaned up.

“We’re going to be a fit, fit team. We’re going to be a team that comes to the media everyday, after a win, after a loss, after practice, and owns their own stuff. Period.”

As for the long term ramifications of this big hire — at 72, it’s fair to speculate that Lamoriello might not be long for the Toronto job. He could be in a similar “caretaker” position to the one ex-‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford took in Pittsburgh; Rutherford is mentoring assistant GMs Jason Botterill, Tom Fitzgerald and Bill Gueirn, and it’s likely that Lamoriello will do the same for Kyle Dubas and Mark Hunter.

The Leafs have scheduled a press conference with Shanahan and Lamoriello for 2 p.m. ET today. More to follow.