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Devils acquire Gusev from Golden Knights, ink him to two-year deal

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The New Jersey Devils continued to bulk up their roster by acquiring Nikita Gusev from the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday and signing him to a two-year, $9 million contract.

Vegas receives a 2020 third-round draft pick and a 2021 second-round pick.

The 27-year-old Gusev was originally a seventh-round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012. He never came over, so the Lightning dealt his rights to Vegas ahead of the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft for Jason Garrison. The forward stayed in the KHL with SKA Saint Petersburg and scored 39 goals and recording 144 points over the last two seasons. Finally, he signed a one-year, entry-level contract in April with the Golden Knights and was with the team during the Stanley Cup Playoffs but did not appear in a game.

The Golden Knights had tried to re-sign Gusev, who was a restricted free agent ineligible for an offer sheet and without arbitration rights, but the two sides were far apart — reportedly $2 million  in negotiations as he sought a multi-year deal. Vegas is so tight up against the cap ceiling that they would have had to move out a few contracts in order to fit his deal. That clearly couldn’t get done.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

“We did our best to accommodate Nikita and his salary request but were unable to do so. He is a good person, a good player and we wish him well in New Jersey,” said Golden Knights general manager George McPhee. “When you have a roster comprised of players who are deserving of a certain salary range you are not always able to make room for everyone. This is the reality of having a good team in the salary cap world. After this trade, we now own nine picks in the first three rounds of the next two drafts. These picks will help boost our organizational depth and add to our pool of prospects. Although we were not able to make this work I am really happy with where we are at with our roster.”

Gusev could have returned to the KHL this summer if he did not sign a contract with an NHL team.

Considering what Devils GM Ray Shero gave up here, this is a worthy gamble to take on a player who is coming off an MVP season and averaged 0.85 points per game in 391 career KHL games. Shero has used this offseason to capitalize on the team’s biggest weapon entering the summer: cap space. After this signing, he still has a little over $12 million, per Cap Friendly, in room to continuing strengthening his roster.

From adding up front with Jack Hughes as the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft to bolstering the backend by trading for P.K. Subban to counting on a bounce-back year from Wayne Simmonds after signing him in free agency, the Devils’ aggressive approach to the offseason is hoping to pay off in two ways: get them back in the playoffs in 2020 and entice Taylor Hall to sign a long-term extension.

The on-ice product has certainly been improved this summer and keeping Hall in the fold would only continue moving the franchise a positive direction.

MORE: Devils eager for offseason splashes to help deliver wins

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lamoureux twins start foundation to help disadvantaged kids

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BISMARCK, N.D. — Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando, stars of the United States’ gold medal-winning hockey team in South Korea, are hard at work training to make another Olympic team in 2022. But they’re also carving out time to do good off the ice, launching a foundation Monday that seeks to help underserved children and communities.

The Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux Foundation will work with groups that support disadvantaged children through education and extracurricular activities, primarily in their home state of North Dakota. It’s an extension of the sisters’ hockey camps for girls and their work with cable and internet provider Comcast, where the twins promote such things as gender equity and internet access for low-income families.

”Sometimes there’s a lack of awareness around the need that the kids need, and so we’re hoping that we’re able to inspire more people to give back,” Lamoureux-Davidson said.

”We want to be part of bringing a solution around issues,” Lamoureux-Morando said.

The 30-year-old Grand Forks natives and University of North Dakota standouts helped the U.S. win the gold medal in South Korea in 2018. Lamoureux-Morando scored the game-tying goal late in the third period of the gold-medal game against Canada, and her sister scored the game-winner in the shootout.

The twins are now training six days a week on the ice to try to earn a spot on a fourth Olympic team in Beijing in 2022. Each gave birth to a baby boy less than a year after the Olympics, and the women’s children will accompany them at a USA Hockey camp next month in Lake Placid, New York.

”It’s a total game-changer being a parent,” Lamoureux-Morando said.

The twins said their mother, Linda, was a champion of the underdog, and taught them a lesson they have come to realize goes beyond the rink. And it has become the heart of their foundation aimed at helping the disadvantaged.

”She would always just cheer for the one that’s behind,” Lamoureux-Davidson said of her mother. ”In hindsight, it was meant for sport, but it’s really has really turned into something so much more for us.”

USA hockey executive Jim Johannson died of heart disease

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) Heart disease caused a longtime USA Hockey executive’s death less than three weeks before the Pyeongchang Games.

An autopsy report released Tuesday by the El Paso County Coroner says that 53-year-old Jim Johannson’s death was natural and caused by heart disease.

According to USA Hockey, Johannson died in his sleep on Jan. 21 at his home in Colorado Springs.

Johannson worked for USA Hockey for decades and at the time of his death he was general manager of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team. USA Hockey officials have said Johannson relished the chance to put together the men’s team that competed in South Korea.

Eeli Tolvanen scores highlight-reel goal, continues to excite Predators fans (Video)

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One of these days Eeli Tolvanen will finally hit the ice with the Nashville Predators. The 2017 first-round pick is currently with Jokerit of the KHL, but since the team is in the middle of the Gagarin Cup playoffs, fans in Music City will have to wait a little longer before he arrives in North America.

Tolvanen gave hockey fans everywhere another taste of his talents on Friday with a beautiful solo effort — his second goal of the game — in overtime to close out Jokerit’s opening round series against Sochi:

The 18-year-old Finnish winger has said it is his intention to sign a contract with the Predators whenever Jokerit’s season is over. General manager David Poile echoed those sentiments recently, according to The Tennessean.

“If we ever get Tolvanen, and he’s good enough to play and it’s this year, that’ll be great,” Poile said. “But in the future, when I look at our depth chart, Tolvanen certainly is going to get every opportunity to play on our top two lines. That’s just another addition that should pan out really good for us.”

Should they advance to the Gagarin Cup Final, it’s possible that Tolvanen won’t arrive until mid-to-late April, which could potentially be late in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or early in second round. Given what the kid has produced so far at his age, his addition this season could serve as a positive injection into a Predators team that has eyes again on a deep playoff run.

Tolvanen scored 19 goals and recorded 36 points in 49 games for Jokerit this season, the best numbers for a player 19 and younger in KHL history, per Elite Prospects. Representing Finland in the PyeongChang Olympics last month, he finished tied for second in scoring with three goals and nine points as they reached the quarterfinals of the tournament before being knocked out by Canada.

He’s given fans plenty to get excited about, and Tolvanen is still developing and has big dreams.

“I’m too far away from them, they’re elite snipers. When I was young, I dreamt about shooting like Ovechkin,” he said in an interview with the KHL’s website in August. “Hope that one day I could be at his level.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

U.S. women’s hockey players enjoying homecoming after gold medal win

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Twenty years after a cereal box changed her life, Meghan Duggan is pictured on one.

When the United States won the gold medal in 1998 at the first Olympics with women’s hockey, an 11-year-old Duggan met Gretchen Ulion and got the forward to autograph her Wheaties box and still has it in her parents’ house and a copy of their photo together with sister Katelyn on her phone. After winning gold at the Pyeongchang Games, the 30-year-old captain is featured on her own cereal box as the attention flows for the latest U.S. women’s hockey champions.

”We’re just taking in the win,” Duggan said at the NHL Stadium Series game at Navy between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. ”We were out in L.A. on ‘Ellen’ and coming and being a part of all these big NHL games and things like that, we’ve got some stuff coming up in New York City next week, which will be really fun.”

Appearing on the ”Today” show and Ellen DeGeneres’ show and being feted at Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning games and then outdoors at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is an impressive victory tour. The next step is for Duggan, shootout hero Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and their teammates to extend the traditional 15 minutes of fame and sustain the kind of long-lasting stardom that soccer player Mia Hamm, basketball player Lisa Leslie and other previous U.S. Olympic gold medal and World Cup winners were able to generate.

A cereal box is a nice start, and Duggan and several teammates have endorsement deals with Dunkin’ Donuts with more opportunities on the horizon.

”Some of us that are out of college can capitalize on the opportunities,” Monique Lamoureux-Morando said. ”Hopefully exposure for one of us is exposure for all of us and it helps grow the game. If someone gets an amazing opportunity that a lot of people are a part of and get to see, then it benefits all of us.”

Agent Brant Feldman, who represents Duggan and the Lamoureux twins, is trying to get his clients mainstream attention beyond hockey. The U.S. gold medalists are very well-known around hockey, taking photos with Navy Midshipmen and youth players and drawing chants of ”U-S-A! U-S-A!” from tailgating fans in the parking lot Saturday before the NHL Stadium Series game.

U.S. players earned headlines in a non-Olympic year when they threatened to boycott the world championships on home ice and came to an agreement on a better contract with USA Hockey. The deal allows players to make up to $129,000 in Olympic years when combined with contributions from the U.S. Olympic Committee – the kind of living wage previous generations of players couldn’t earn.

”It’s a great step for our sport,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. ”That’s going to help support our team. … Sponsorships, if those come, that’s great and that’s supplemental income, but what we were able to create with USA Hockey is the biggest step.”

The next step for players could include speaking engagements along some more endorsement deals. But they hope for a bigger change: one professional women’s league in North America instead of the competing Canadian Women’s Hockey League and National Women’s Hockey League.

”They currently don’t work together,” Lamoureux-Morando said. ”It’s two completely different entities. So I think moving forward, there needs to be some sort of collaboration, whether they merge or start working together. There needs to move forward in that direction.”

It appears that’s a cause that players want to use their platform to promote. They’d also like to spur further growth of women’s hockey across the U.S. like Ulion and the 1998 team did.

”That team, those girls, lit the fire in my heart to want to compete for my country and to want to play on this team,” Duggan said. ”Fast-forward 20 years to have the opportunity to really inspire the next generation or to have little girls see that photo or see that Kellogg’s cereal box or see what our team did and want to dream big, it fills my heart. It’s why I am who I am and why I’m here today is because of those girls, and we definitely want to have that impact on the next generation.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/SWhyno