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Sabres’ Rodrigues gets $2 million in arbitration

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The Buffalo Sabres announced on Thursday that forward Evan Rodrigues has been signed to a one-year, $2 million contract for the 2019-20 season.

The terms of the deal were awarded by an arbitrator and help bring the Sabres’ roster closer to completion for the upcoming season. He will still be a restricted free agent next summer once this contract expires. The only remaining unsigned players are defender Jake McCabe and backup goalie Linus Ullmark.

Rodrigues, 25, has spent parts of four seasons with the Sabres and is coming off of a 2018-19 season that saw him score nine goals and 20 assists. All of those marks were career highs, though that was mostly due to the fact he played in 78 games. His per-game production actually dropped pretty significantly from what he did during the 2017-18 season even though he played two additional minutes per game.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

It has been a busy offseason for the Sabres as they work to end an eight-year playoff drought.

This offseason has seen them acquire Marcus Johansson, Jimmy Vesey and Collin Miller, while also re-signing winger Jeff Skinner to a long-term contract.

Related: Sabres have made big strides this summer

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Binnington, Trouba, Heinen among 40 players to file for salary arbitration

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Friday was the deadline for arbitration eligible restricted free agents to file for salary arbitration.

There were 40 players that elected to go that route.

The most notable players to file were St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup winning goalie Jordan Binnington, recently acquired New York Rangers defender Jacob Trouba, and Boston Bruins forward Danton Heinen.

Binnington’s arbitration case would be by far the most interesting one if it reaches that point.

On one hand, he is still a bit of an unknown having played just 59 games (regular season and playoffs combined) in the NHL at the age of 25, so anything the Blues give him on a long-term contract would be a bit of a gamble. But he did help turn the Blues’ season around and backstopped the team to its ever first ever Stanley Cup so he has a pretty strong argument in his corner.

Hearing dates have yet to be set, but teams can continue to work on new contracts with each player in an effort to avoid arbitration.

Most of these players will end up being signed before they have to reach arbitration as neither side ever wants to go through the unpleasantness that those hearings can create.

[ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker]

Anaheim Ducks
Chase De Leo

Boston Bruins
Danton Heinen

Buffalo Sabres
Remi Elie
Jake McCabe
Evan Rodrigues
Linus Ullmark

Calgary Flames
Sam Bennett
Ryan Lomberg
David Rittich
Rinat Valiev

Carolina Hurricanes
Anton Forsberg
Brock McGinn

Colorado Avalanche
J.T. Compher
Sheldon Dries
Ryan Graves

Dallas Stars
Jason Dickinson

Florida Panthers
MacKenzie Weegar

Los Angeles Kings
Alex Iafallo

Montreal Canadiens
Joel Armia
Charles Hudon
Artturi Lehkonen

Nashville Predators
Rocco Grimaldi
Colton Sissons

New Jersey Devils
Will Butcher
Connor Carrick
Mirco Mueller

New York Rangers
Pavel Buchnevich
Jacob Trouba

Philadelphia Flyers
Scott Laughton

Pittsburgh Penguins
Zach Aston-Reese

St. Louis Blues
Jordan Binnington
Joel Edmundson
Zach Sanford
Oskar Sundqvist

Tampa Bay Lightning
Cedric Paquette (signed after filing)

Vegas Golden Knights
Malcolm Subban

Washington Capitals
Christian Djoos
Chandler Stephenson

Winnipeg Jets
Andrew Copp
Neal Pionk

UPDATE: The NHLPA has released the schedule for these hearings which run from July 20 to Aug. 4.

Rebooting World Cup of Hockey to be part of NHL labor talks

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — With labor talks having already begun on an informal basis, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Don Fehr are in favor of rebooting the World Cup of Hockey tournament and holding it every four years.

The stumbling block to laying out a long-term calendar of international competition, however, revolves around the hot-button topic of the NHL competing at the Winter Olympics after skipping out on South Korea last year.

”One of the things I hope we will have is an agreement to establish the long-term schedule for international events which would include World Cups of Hockey,” said Fehr, stressing the plural ”Cups” during an interview with The Associated Press at the league’s draft festivities in Vancouver, British Columbia, this past weekend. ”That’s a stand-alone event. It should not be seen as competing with or replacing the Olympics. It can be done.”

Bettman is on board when it comes to the World Cup.

”We think that’s a great event and it’s something we’ve been trying to work out for more than two years,” he said. ”We’re all in favor of setting an international calendar, and it takes two to tango, so to speak.”

There’s a caveat, of course, and the reason why the two sides aren’t tangoing just yet.

”We think the World Cup of Hockey can be a wonderful event, particularly if we don’t go to the Olympics,” Bettman said.

Though resolving a way to reduce the percentage of players’ salaries being held back annually in an escrow fund is the NHL Players’ Association’s most pressing concern with the collective bargaining agreement, international competition is also on the list.

And that’s where the World Cup – revived in 2016 – and Olympic Games participation will play a role once formal negotiations begin this summer leading up to September deadlines in which either side can choose to opt out and terminate the current CBA by the fall of 2020. The owners have until Sept. 1 and players on Sept. 15 to reach their decisions and set the clock ticking toward another potential work stoppage.

”There have been a series of discussions. I don’t think I would call them formal negotiations yet,” Fehr said. ”And if your next question’s going to be how it’s going to end up, I’m going to tell you, ask me in the middle of August because I don’t know yet.”

Players are unhappy with the league’s decision to skip the most recent Winter Games after having participated in the previous five. Shutting down the regular season for two weeks is an issue for owners, as was the time difference regarding South Korea, with games being played in the early morning for North American audiences.

The union sides with the league involving other issues regarding Olympic participation such as players’ medical insurance coverage and marketing rights.

None of those apply when it comes to the World Cup because it’s jointly controlled by the league and union, with both sides splitting the revenue.

The World Cup’s return was greeted with a tremendous amount of fanfare when Bettman and Fehr shared the podium at the 2015 all-star game festivities in Columbus, Ohio, to announce the eight-team event would be held in Toronto the following year.

There was even discussion – but no resolution – of having it held every four years. The World Cup was previously played in 1996 and 2004, and succeeded the Canada Cup, which was held five times from 1976-91.

Speaking only for himself and not the union, Fehr said he would prefer the NHL compete at the Olympics and then have the World Cup held every four years – with two years separating the events.

”If it was up to me, I’d do it all sooner rather than later, but we’ll see,” Fehr said. ”The question is, can we get the agreement on all the intervening pieces.”

Fehr noted the union and NHL can’t resolve the Olympic participation question alone in labor talks because outstanding issues must also be negotiated with the International Ice Hockey Federation and International Olympic Committee.

Bettman doesn’t see why the two sides can’t reach a deal on the World Cup, given they’re both in favor.

”Yes, so it should get done,” Bettman said. ”We’re going to ultimately come together and figure out something that everybody’s comfortable with.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

NHL salary cap ceiling set at $81.5 million for 2019-20 season

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The NHL and NHLPA announced the salary cap range for the 2019-20 season on Saturday evening, and the upper limit is a bit lower than it was previously expected to be throughout much of the past season.

The league will have an $81.5 million cap ceiling for this upcoming season and a $60.2 million floor.

That means the cap increased $2 million from the $79.5 million ceiling the league had for the 2018-19 season.

Earlier projections for the number had the number going up as high as the $83 million mark.

The lower number is obviously going to be problematic for teams that already pressed against the cap as every little bit of money counts for those teams. It is going to be an especially big problem for a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs that already had limited room to work with, needs to figure out a way to sign restricted free agent Mitch Marner (a potential target for an offer sheet), while also making improvements to a roster that has not finished higher than third place or won a playoff series in each of the past three seasons.

Other teams that are going to be feeling the crunch include the Vegas Golden Knights, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, Washington Capitals, and Dallas Stars, all of which have less than $10 million to work with at the current time.

There are currently six teams still sitting below the salary cap floor: Philadelphia Flyers, Winnipeg Jets, New Jersey Devils, Columbus Blue Jackets, Ottawa Senators, and Colorado Avalanche.

Teams like the Jets and Avalanche will easily get there, especially once they do new contracts for restricted free agents like Patrik Laine (Winnipeg), Kyle Connor (Winnipeg) and Mikko Rantanen (Colorado).

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL GMs still waiting for final 2019-20 salary cap numbers

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The wheeling and dealing has already begun ahead of the start of the 2019 NHL Draft this weekend. Between trades, buyouts, and extensions, general managers are getting to work on preparing for next season.

There is one problem, however, as Friday approaches and the draft begins. Due to the Stanley Cup Final going seven games, the calculations that determine the salary cap ceiling and floor have yet to be finalized. GMs were given a projection of an $83M ceiling back during their meetings in December, but official numbers may not be finalized until Saturday — and the upper limit may come in lower than expected.

The cap ceiling for the 2018-19 season was $79.5M, an increase from $75M from 2017-18.

Now, if you’re a general manager who likes to spend to the cap ceiling to maximize your efforts to win the Stanley Cup, well you’re in quite the holding pattern at the moment. The delay could also have a major impact on trade talks this weekend, possibly making for a quiet Friday night on the draft floor as general manager wait and see where the range ends up.

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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.