Enforcer Justin Johnson signs AHL deal with Marlies

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The Toronto Marlies have added a little muscle to their roster for the upcoming season.

The affiliate of the Toronto Maple Leafs has signed tough guy Justin Johnson to an AHL deal, the club announced.

A career minor leaguer, Johnson has appeared in two career NHL games with the New York Islanders during the 2013-14 season.

For those unfamiliar with Johnson’s work, the 6-foot-1, 220-pounder dropped the gloves with 6-foot-8, 259-pound John Scott in just his second NHL game.

Johnson has had a string of 100-plus penalty minute seasons in the minors.

The Anchorage, Alaska native appeared in 45 games with the ECHL’s Alaska Aces last season scoring three goals and two assists to go along with 147 penalty minutes.

Report: Bernier and Leafs more than $2 million apart ahead of Friday’s arbitration hearing

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Jonathan Bernier wants $5.1 million. The Toronto Maple Leafs are thinking more like $2.89 million.

That’s how the two sides are going into Friday’s arbitration hearing, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Bernier isn’t coming off a great season. The 26-year-old went 21-28-7 with a .912 save percentage, as goaltending proved to be one of the many issues for the Leafs. But that followed a very good 2013-14 campaign, when he went 26-19-7 with a .923 save percentage.

The cap hit on his expired contract, a two-year deal, was $2.9 million. His salary last season was $3.4 million.

Oh, and there’s also this to consider:

For Pens, Tuesday’s moves were all about depth and finances up front

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Following a busy day in which he flipped Brandon Sutter to Vancouver for Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening, then signed ex-Capital Eric Fehr, Pens GM Jim Rutherford explained how those moves met two of his biggest objectives.

“The two deals went hand-in-hand so we can add more depth,” Rutherford said. “We have enough good players now that guys are going to have to compete for those spots [in training camp] and compete for them all year.”

He then addressed the money issue.

“When you look at the structure of our salaries and our cap, it’s important to get those bottom-six cap hits in better shape,” Rutherford explained. “That’s what we were able to do with these two deals.”

It’s not surprising that depth and finances were two of Pittsburgh’s biggest offseason priorities. Money allotment has been an issue — Sutter, a pending UFA potentially in line for a raise, was making $3.3 million while playing what amounted to a third-line center role.

Combined, Bonino and Fehr are a $3.9M cap hit.

(Lest we forget that, in the Phil Kessel trade earlier this month, Rutherford dealt away another relatively expensive third-liner in Nick Spaling, who makes $2.2M annually.)

Earlier, veteran depth guys Steve Downie, Blake Comeau, Daniel Winnik and Craig Adams were allowed to walk in free agency, giving likes of Beau Bennett ($800K), KHLer Sergei Plotnikov ($925K), Swedish prospect Oskar Sundqvist ($700K) and Czech Leaguer Dominik Simon ($692K) a chance to get into the rotation.

So that’s the financial side.

In terms of depth up front, Pittsburgh seems far better suited to deal with injuries — something that, you may remember, was a recurring issue in ’14-15. Kessel gives the club a bonafide scoring winger to play alongside either Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, while Fehr and Bonino, both natural centers, provide nice depth down the middle.

Fehr could even bounce outside if need be.

“Eric is definitely comfortable as a two-positional player,” Rutherford said. “He could possibly jump up into the top six, if that situation presented itself, but he’s coming off of a year where he played center.”

Pascal Dupuis is expected to return after playing just 16 games last year, and the club will get a full season of David Perron, acquired from Edmonton in January. Add it all up, and it’s easy to see why Rutherford is so pleased with Pittsburgh’s new-look forward group — it’s deeper, with a more sensible financial structure.

“If a guy falls off, there’s a guy waiting to jump right in there,” he explained. “I like the fact that we have enough guys that each guy can push each other.

“I like our depth at forward now.”

Wilson signs with Preds, leaving just four arbitration cases to go

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One more down, four to go.

Arbitration cases, we mean.

The Nashville Predators announced today that they’d signed restricted free agent Colin Wilson to a four-year, $15.75 million contract. Wilson had been scheduled to go to arbitration tomorrow.

The Wilson signing, combined with today’s Derek Stepan signing, leaves four RFAs still scheduled to make their cases in front of an arbitrator:

— Washington’s Marcus Johansson, hearing scheduled for Wednesday
— Ottawa’s Mike Hoffman, Thursday
— Minnesota’s Erik Haula, Friday
— Toronto’s Jonathan Bernier, Friday

Wilson, 25, had 20 goals and 22 assists last season for the Preds.

Related: Preds sign ‘integral’ Smith to five-year, $21.25M extension

Wilson requests $4.25M in arbitration, Predators offer $3M

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Restricted free agent Colin Wilson is going to get a significant raise this summer and soon he’ll know exactly how big it is.

With his arbitration hearing set for Tuesday, Wilson has filed a request for a $4.25 million salary while the Nashville Predators have countered at $3 million, per Elliotte Friedman. He earned $2.5 million last season in the final campaign of a three-year, $6 million contract.

The 25-year-old forward set new career-highs with 20 goals and 42 points in 77 contests in 2014-15. He went on to score another five goals in Nashville’s six-game first round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.

He’s the last of the three Predators RFAs to file for salary arbitration to be dealt with. Nashville traded Taylor Beck to Toronto and inked Craig Smith to a five-year, $21.25 million contract.

Barring another trade or signing in addition to Wilson’s, Nashville will likely enter the season with more than $10 million in cap space, per General Fanager. It does have some significant players eligible to test the restricted free agent waters next summer though, including Filip Forsberg, Mattias Ekholm, and Seth Jones.