It’s anyone’s guess if the New York Rangers will stop Derek Stepan from reaching salary arbitration, but as of this moment, it doesn’t sound like much is happening yet.
The New York Post’s Larry Brooks reports that “the parties haven’t quite even reached the preliminary stages of negotiating” as a potential arbitration hearing looms on July 27. Going further, the Rangers haven’t even offered an opening proposal for a long-term deal, according to Brooks.
OK, Rangers fans, compose yourselves.
Yes, it seems a little dicey that the two sides reportedly haven’t done much, if anything. Stepan, 25, has a strong argument for a hearty deal – Brooks believes that a contract carrying a $6.5 million cap hit would merely get the ball rolling – but the Rangers hold some leverage in his RFA status.
General Fanager places the Rangers’ cap space at about $10.2 million at the moment, yet the Rangers have other situations to address with RFAs, as J.T. Miller, Emerson Etem and Jesper Fast all need new contracts. There are also some situations to consider for 2016-17, as Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider rank among the most noteworthy players currently on expiring deals.
Even with that tight squeeze, note that a lot can happen in two weeks, and deals often get hammered out within breathing distance of these hearings.
The outlook just doesn’t seem particularly rosy right now, at least if this report is accurate.
Related: Ryan O’Reilly’s big deal might not be helping matters.
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.
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.
Anthony Duclair’s making a solid impression on his new team.
Duclair, acquired by Arizona from the Rangers in the Keith Yandle trade, took part in the Coyotes’ prospect development camp this week and earned high praise from head coach Dave Tippett.
“Some of the plays he makes out there are outstanding,” Tippett said, per the Arizona Republic. “He’s a young player that he’ll still have to learn how to play without the puck, some coverage things, but his assets of skating and quickness and skill all are very high priority for us.”
Duclair, who turns 20 in August, figures to be on Arizona’s opening-night roster this season. He’s got NHL experience — seven points in 18 games with the Rangers last year — and is an integral part of the Coyotes’ youth movement.
What’s more, Duclair doesn’t have a ton of competition.
Though they made some moves at forward in free agency — bringing aboard (or, re-board) the likes of Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon, Steve Downie and Brad Richardson — the Coyotes are still pretty thin up front, especially on the wings. A left-handed shot that can play the right, Duclair’s in a battle with fellow youngsters Max Domi, Henrik Samuelsson, Jordan Szwarz, Lucas Lessio, Brendan Perlini and Christian Dvorak for minutes with the big club.
It’s a battle he’s ready to take on.
“They’re pushing younger, so what better scenario for me,” he said. “I’m pretty lucky to be here.”
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli continued to bolster his goaltending on Monday, acquiring Anders Nilsson from the Blackhawks in exchange for unsigned prospect Liam Coughlin.
Nilsson, 25, is an interesting entity. Picked 62nd overall by the Isles in 2009, he appeared in 23 games for New York over three seasons before signing with KHL team AK Bars Kazan last summer. A few months later, the Isles traded Nilsson’s rights — he was an RFA upon leaving for Russia — as part of the deal that saw Nick Leddy head to Long Island.
In Russia, Nilsson resurrected his stock by going 20-9-8 with a 1.71 GAA and .936 save percentage. He also played for Team Sweden at the 2015 Worlds, splitting time with Jhonas Enroth.
At 6-foot-5, Nilsson cuts an imposing figure in goal and it’ll be curious to see where he lands on the Edmonton depth chart. Chiarelli went out and acquired Cam Talbot from the Rangers at the draft, and already had Ben Scrivens in the fold. One has to think Scrivens could be in direct competition for the No. 2 gig with Nilsson, assuming Talbot enters the season as the Oilers’ starter.