Rangers sign Stepan — six years, $39 million

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The New York Rangers have agreed to terms with forward Derek Stepan on a six-year, $39 million deal.

Today’s announcement came the morning the two sides were scheduled to go to arbitration.

Stepan had 16 goals and 39 assists in 68 games last season. The 25-year-old center now has the third-highest cap hit ($6.5 million) on the team, behind Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million) and Rick Nash ($7.8 million).

With Stepan signed long-term, the Rangers have two young centers, Stepan and 27-year-old Derick Brassard, under contract for at least the next four years.

Ah, arbitration: Holtby reportedly asking for $8 million, Caps countering at $5.1 million

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Braden Holtby is proposing an $8 million salary.

The Washington Capitals are suggesting $5.1 million.

That’s according to CBC Sports reporter Tim Wharnsby, as the the two sides are scheduled to go to arbitration on Thursday.

Now, obviously, Holtby doesn’t really expect to get $8 million, just the same as the Caps don’t expect to get the 25-year-old goalie for a bargain $5.1 million. That’s just how arbitration works. Each side makes the strongest case it can.

The NHL’s highest cap hit for a goalie belongs to Henrik Lundqvist, at $8.5 million. And hey, the Holtby camp could argue* that Holtby actually has the same career save percentage as Lundqvist (.921).

Of course, the Caps could point to Cory Schneider having a .925 career save percentage, and his cap hit is only $6 million.

According to the Washington Post’s Alex Prewitt, in regular negotiations, the Caps were offering around $5.5 million while Holtby was asking for $6.5 million.

*As noted in the comments, only comparables that cover RFA years can be used in arbitration. But the point stands: Holtby has very good career numbers. If not Lundqvist, he could argue he deserves what Sergei Bobrovsky, 26, will make in Columbus next season.

Rangers sign goalie Hellberg to two-year extension

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On Friday, the Rangers locked in some goaltending depth by signing Magnus Hellberg.

Hellberg, acquired from Nashville on the opening day of free agency, agreed to a two-year pact, according to his representation (A.M.A Sports Agency). No word yet on the financials.

The first goalie taken at the 2011 draft, one spot ahead of Anaheim’s John Gibson, Hellberg has only played in one NHL game — a 12-minute appearance in which he allowed one goal — and spent most of his time in North American shuttling between the ECHL and AHL.

Last year, Hellberg went 15-10-6 with AHL Milwaukee, posting a 2.33 GAA and .913 save percentage. He was dealt to the Rangers party because of the depth of Nashville’s goaltending group, which includes Marek Mazanec and Finnish national team member Juuse Saros.

With New York, Hellberg will enter the season battling for the No. 3 netminder position behind Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Raanta, acquired from Chicago at the draft. Mackenzie Skapski will also be in the running for that third-string spot, but not until he returns from hip surgery that’s expected to sideline him until November.

Sabres hire Allen to replace Irbe as goalie coach

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The Buffalo Sabres rounded out Dan Bylsma’s coaching staff on Friday, hiring former Chicago Blackhawks goalie development boss Andrew Allen as their new goalie coach.

Allen, 38, replaces the outgoing Arturs Irbe.

A former AHL and ECHL netminder, Allen was with Chicago for the last four seasons, spending the majority of his time tutoring netminders with the club’s AHL affiliate in Rockford. During Allen’s tenure, a number of solid backups rose through the ranks: Carter Hutton (now Pekka Rinne’s No. 2 in Nashville), Antti Raanta (now Henrik Lundqvist’s backup in New York) and Scott Darling (now Corey Crawford’s backup in Chicago).

In Buffalo, Allen will work with newly-acquired starter Robin Lenher and No. 2 Chad Johnson, acquired at last season’s trade deadline.

With this hire, Bylsma’s staff is now complete — Allen will join assistant coaches Terry Murray, Dave Barr and Dan Lambert on the Sabres’ bench.

‘Hawks sign No. 3 goalie Leighton to one-year extension

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Just days after trading away Antti Raanta, the Chicago Blackhawks have shored up their goaltending by re-signing veteran Michael Leighton.

Per ESPN, it’s a two-way deal that pays $575,000 at the NHL level.

Leighton, 34, enjoyed a solid campaign with AHL Rockford last season, going 22-13-4 with a 2.26 GAA and .920 save percentage. He finished with five shutouts, led the team to the playoffs and was named the IceHogs’ MVP.

A veteran of over 100 career NHL games — and a Stanley Cup Final with Philadelphia, which he lost to the ‘Hawks — Leighton is now firmly entrenched as Chicago’s No. 3 netminder, behind Scott Darling and Corey Crawford.

Raanta, who at times served as Crawford’s backup with the ‘Hawks, was traded to the Rangers at the draft to fill Cam Talbot’s backup gig behind Henrik Lundqvist. Talbot was flipped to Edmonton.