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Preds avoid arbitration with Austin Watson

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Another narrowly avoided arbitration to pass along.

The Nashville Predators have signed forward Austin Watson to a three-year, $3.3 million contract that will pay him $1 million next season, $1.1 million in 2018-19 and $1.2 million in 2019-20.

Watson’s hearing was scheduled for today.

From the press release:

Watson, 25 (1/13/92), set career highs in goals (5), assists (7), points (12), penalty minutes (99) and games played (77) during the 2016-17 season as he established himself as an integral member of the Nashville roster. The 6-foot-4, 204-pound winger then added four goals and nine points in 22 postseason contests as the Predators advanced to the 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Watson also appeared in 57 games for the Predators during the 2015-16 season, recording three goals and 10 points.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also avoided an arbitration hearing today by signing defenseman Brian Dumoulin to a six-year contract.

Sens ink veteran defenseman Johnny Oduya to one-year deal

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The Ottawa Senators have added some depth to their blue line, as they’ve signed Johnny Oduya to a one-year deal that comes with a base salary of $1 million.

Interestingly enough, Oduya can earn another $1.25 million in performance bonuses (games played, time -on-ice, playoff bonuses), per the Sens’ Twitter account.

The 35-year-old started last season with the Dallas Stars, but he was traded back to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 28.

Oduya finished the 2016-17 season with two goals, seven assists and a minus-4 rating in 52 games. He also played in all four the Blackhawks’ playoff games (he had no points and a minus-3 rating in the postseason).

The Senators lost defenseman Marc Methot to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft, and they didn’t replace him with a free-agent signing until now.

As of right now, Ottawa has Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Ceci, Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Fredrik Claesson and Oduya on the back end (only Phaneuf and Karlsson are under contract beyond 2017-18). Top prospect Thomas Chabot could also make the team with a solid training camp.

Jets sign Connor Hellebuyck to one-year, $2.25 million deal

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The Winnipeg Jets took care of some important business on Monday morning, as they re-signed goalie Connor Hellebuyck to a one-year, $2.25 million contract.

The two sides were scheduled to have an arbitration hearing on Aug. 1, but as expected, they were able to hammer out  a deal before reaching that point.

After being selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, Hellebuyck quickly became one of the best prospects in the Jets’ system.

The 24-year-old made his NHL debut in 2015-16. He posted 13-11-1 record with a 2.34 goals-against-average and a .918 save percentage. In 2016-17, he appeared in 56 games and finished with a 26-19-4 record, a 2.89 goals-against-average and a .907 save percentage.

Even though Hellebuyck will be back next season, the Jets will have a different look between the pipes. On July 1st, they inked Steve Mason to a two-year contract worth $8.2 million.

As has been the case over the last couple of seasons, Winnipeg will continue to have a crowded crease. On top of having Mason and Hellbuyck under contract, Michael Hutchinson still has one year left on his deal at $1.15 million.

It’ll be interesting to see how head coach Paul Maurice divides starts between Hellebuyck and Mason (assuming both are completely healthy).

Mason played in 58 games with the Flyers last season and he’s making almost double what Hellebuyck is making for now.

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.”

Zibanejad looking for $5.35 million from Rangers in arbitration

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The New York Rangers and restricted free agent forward Mika Zibanejad are scheduled for an arbitration hearing on Tuesday if they can not come to an agreement on a new contract before them.

On Sunday, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported the numbers both sides are looking at heading into that hearing and they don’t seem to be too far apart. According to Friedman, Zibanejad is seeking a $5.35 million salary while the Rangers have countered with an offer of $4.1 million. If the two sides were able to meet in the middle that would be in the neighborhood of around $4.7 million per season, which probably seems about right given Zibanejad’s performance and some of the contracts that have recently been signed by the likes of Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat (both will make a little more than $5 million per season, while both have been more productive).

Zibanejad, 24, is coming off of his first season with the Rangers after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in the Derrick Brassard trade.

He was limited to just 56 games due to injury, scoring 14 goals to go with 23 assists. He scored at least 20 goals in each of the previous two seasons.

With Derek Stepan gone to Arizona Zibanejad figures to take on a bigger role this season for the Rangers.

The Rangers still have $8.4 million in salary cap space to work with, via CapFriendly.