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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.”

Michael McLeod will do ‘whatever I can’ to stick with Devils next season

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The New Jersey Devils aren’t known for having one of the most talented rosters in the NHL, but that could change over the next few years.

The last few drafts have been kind to the Devils, as they’ve loaded up on weapons like Pavel Zacha, Nico Hischier and Michael McLeod. All three players are capable of playing down the middle, which is a plus in today’s NHL.

Zacha has already played 71 games with New Jersey, so it appears as though he’ll be on the team next fall. Hischier, who was the top pick in this summer’s entry draft, also has a shot to crack the opening night roster. But what about McLeod?

The Devils selected him with the 12th overall pick in the 2016 draft. Although he didn’t play in the NHL at all last year, he still managed to put up 73 points in 57 regular season games with OHL Mississauga before adding 27 more points in 20 playoff contests.

Although the focus will likely be on Hischier during training camp, McLeod is hoping to leave a lasting impression of his own.

“Right now it’s my goal to be on that team,” stated McLeod, per NJ.com. “I’m going to do whatever I can, I’m going to do whatever coach tells me to do. I’m going to work hard every practice and shift. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll head back to Mississauga and try and win there next year.

“I’d play wing, left wing, right wing, wherever they put me to get in the lineup. It’s an honor to play in this league, it’s the best league in the world, and you do whatever you can just to get here.”

The 19-year-old will have to have a terrific camp to stick around for the 2017-18 season because the Devils have quite a few forwards that can play on their top three lines. Keeping McLeod just to play him a few minutes per game doesn’t really make sense. He’ll have to show he’s capable of contributing right away.

Top pick Nico Hischier signs entry-level contract with Devils

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Nico Hischier, the top pick in the 2017 NHL draft, has officially signed his first NHL contract.

The New Jersey Devils announced on Saturday afternoon that they have signed Hischier to the maximum three-year entry-level deal, carrying a $925,000 average annual salary along with several performance bonuses.

The Devils selected Hischier with the No. 1 overall pick, ahead of Nolan Patrick, after winning the draft lottery and moving up three spots.

Hischier is the first player born in Switzerland to be selected No. 1 overall.

He spent the 2016-17 season playing for the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL where he scored 38 goals and added 48 assists in 57 games.

He is one of two major additions to the Devils organization this summer, joining Marcus Johansson who was acquired in a trade from the Washington Capitals. Along with Taylor Hall that trio should at least give the Devils a chance to be a much improved offensive team after finishing the 2016-17 season 28th in the league in goals scored.

Report: Canadiens have made an offer to Mark Streit

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The number of free agents that have gone on to sign with their former teams has been remarkable (see Scott Hartnell, Justin Williams, Dominic Moore, Mike Cammalleri, Chad Johnson, and so on), but it sounds like there could be at least one more reunion on the horizon.

According to the Journal de Montreal’s Marc De Foy, the Montreal Canadiens have made a one-year, $1.5 million offer to Mark Streit.

Streit began his career in Montreal after being selected in the ninth round of the 2004 draft. He played for the Habs from 2005 to 2008, and he had his best NHL season in 2007-08 (he put up a career-high 62 points in 81 games).

De Foy also reports that GM Marc Bergevin tried to acquire Streit before the trade deadline, but he was unable to do so because of the salary cap. Instead, the 39-year-old was traded from Philadelphia to Tampa Bay before being dealt to Pittsburgh.

Streit was part of the Penguins team that won the Stanley Cup in the spring, but he only suited up in three games during their run to the final.

He finished last season with six goals and 27 points in 68 contests. He averaged 18:44 of ice time in 2016-17 (19:23 with Philadelphia, 17:06 with Pittsburgh).

Montreal’s interest in him would likely diminish if they found a way to get a contract finalized with free agent Andrei Markov.

Markov is reportedly seeking a two-year contract worth $6 million per year, while Montreal is only offering one year at a lower salary.

Oilers sign Yohann Auvitu to one-year deal

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The Edmonton Oilers added another defenseman on Monday by signing free agent Yohann Auvitu to a one-year contract.

Financial terms of the deal were not released by the team.

After spending eight years playing professionally in Europe, Auvitu signed with the New Jersey Devils before the 2016-17 season and spent the season split between the NHL and the Devils’ American Hockey League team in Albany. He appeared in 27 games with the Devils, logging close to 16 minutes of ice-time per game, and recording four points (two goals, two assists). He 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 29 games with Albany.

Among Devils defenders that appeared in at least 20 games a year ago Auvitu’s possession numbers (better than 50 percent Corsi) were the best on the team. Overall, the Devils’ defensive performance was better with him on the ice than it was without him, at least as it relates to the number of shots and goals the team allowed. The Devils allowed just 1.63 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time with Auvitu on the ice and only an average 51.1 total shot attempts. All were among the best numbers on the team (all numbers via HockeyAnalysis.com). Still, he never seemed to get much of an increased role.

He joins an Oilers defense that is a little crowded at the moment (they already had eight defensemen under contract for the 2017-18 season before Auvitu signed), but it is not an especially deep group.

If nothing else it is a nice low-cost roll of the dice for the Oilers to take on a player that seems to have something to contribute.