Keep an eye on these potential performance bonuses


hallandseguinhavingalaugh.jpgPerformance bonuses always have been a bit nebulous in the NHL. Rarely do teams release information on them and … for the most part, they haven’t had a big effect on anything.

Well, they didn’t have a big effect until this summer, when the cap-strapped Chicago Blackhawks were hit hard for about $4 million in bonuses for players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Taking those lumps was not unlike waking up in an unfamiliar bed with an unrecognizable person and a massive, throbbing hangover. (By this analogy, I guess trading Kris Versteeg and Dustin Byfuglien would qualify as the Walk of Shame.)

The Hockey News decided to count down the “top 10” performance bonuses for the 2010-11 season, starting with wayward Phoenix Coyotes prospect Kyle Turris’s potential $2.05 million reward. Let’s take a look at the top three spots from that list.

3. $2.6 million

Our first tie involves defensemen drafted second overall one season apart, Drew Doughty (’08) and Victor Hedman (’09). So far Doughty has proved more likely to collect his extra cash than Hedman, but both are sublime talents who will vie for Norris Trophies for years to come.

2. $2.65 million

The Bruin who could have been a Leaf, Tyler Seguin, sits alone in second place. Now, here’s a perfect example of a kid who may have to wait a year to play no matter how he performs in camp. Boston is over the cap by $3.1 million and Seguin will count for $3.5 million. So unless the B’s can make some moves or are willing to eat someone’s contract in the AHL, the No. 2 pick from this summer’s draft will be back in the OHL.

1. $2.85 million

Four players tie for first in possible bonus money. Three are – not surprisingly – the past three No. 1 picks, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares and Taylor Hall. The fourth is – quite surprisingly – Toronto’s Tyler Bozak. The 24-year-old free agent signing out of Denver University led all rookies in points-per-game average last season at 0.73, but played just 37 games with the Leafs after spending time with the AHL Marlies. No offense, but we get the feeling the three No. 1s will cash in before Bozak does.

(Perhaps performance bonuses – rather than salary cap concerns – explain why it took quite some time for the Boston Bruins to sign their No. 2 overall pick Tyler Seguin.)

This list, to me, is a subtle example of the Collective Bargaining Agreement’s greatest accomplishment: the rookie salary maximum. Instead of having to gamble with huge money usually reserved for proven veterans like NFL teams must do, NHL teams can take advantage of the three year entry-level deals that often result in huge savings. This is especially the case in contract years for quick developers such as Jonathan Toews, Drew Doughty or Nicklas Backstrom.

The question is: will your team be ready to deal with the salary cap fallout if those big bonuses are reached?

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.