Keep an eye on these potential performance bonuses

2 Comments

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?

The Buzzer: Night of the goalies

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Players of the Night:

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning needed Vasilevskiy to play like the NHL All-Star that he is and that’s exactly what he gave them, stopping 40 shots to help the Lightning to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The win was important for Tampa, who regained the top spot in the NHL standings and ended a three-game slide in the process. Vasilevskiy’s league-leading seventh shutout of the season ties a franchise record.

Petr Mrazek, Detroit Red Wings: Mrazek fielded 37 shots from the New Jersey Devils on Monday night and handled each and every one of them for his second shutout in as many starts.

Nick Cousins, Arizona Coyotes: Cousins got the ball rolling for the Desert Dogs in the first period, giving them a 1-0 lead. After the Islanders tied the game in the third, Cousins put the final stamp on the game with a goal 2:21 into overtime to give Arizona their second straight win.

Comeback of the Night:

Jason Zucker, Minnesota Wild: Zucker got drilled in the head with a slap shot in the first period and had to be helped off the ice. Miraculously, Zucker returned a short time later and went on to score the game-winning goal at the 4:59 mark of the third period, breaking a 1-1 tie in the Wild’s 3-1 win against the Ottawa Senators.

Highlights of the Night:

Granlund and Dumba:

Mrazek made plenty of saves on Monday and perhaps none better than this one (Brian Boyle‘s reaction is priceless):

Ottawa Senators fans will like this, even if the end result wasn’t great:

Auston Matthews had the celebration of the night:

Factoids of the Night:

Scores:

Avalanche 4, Maple Leafs 2

Red Wings 3, Devils 0

Wild 3, Senators 1

Lightning 2, Blackhawks 0

Sabres 2, Flames 1 (OT)

Coyotes 3, Islanders 2 (OT)


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Lightning end three-game skid with 2-0 win over Blackhawks

Leave a comment

Jon Cooper called declared that his team was “out of sync” prior to Monday night’s game in Chicago.

It’s three words that haven’t been used at all this season to describe the Tampa Bay Lightning who, up until Sunday, was known as the best team in the NHL.

The Lightning came into Monday night nursing a three-game losing streak, another foreign concept for a team saw four of its players elected to the NHL’s All-Star Game this coming weekend.

But just as quickly as they dropped out of the top spot in the NHL — the Vegas Golden Knights assumed that throne for 24 hours after a win on Sunday night — the Lightning snatched it back in a 2-0 triumph over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Windy City on Monday.

For a team that perhaps forgot how to play with one another, they looked comfortable in each other’s company against the Blackhawks.

The game was tight for the most part, and it took the Blackhawks being caught napping shorthanded to break a 0-0 deadlock late in the second period as Chris Kunitz took advantage of a defensive mishap. 

Jake Dotchin’s wrister sailed wide, but Kunitz was allowed to waltz behind the net, pick up the loose puck and put it behind Jeff Glass, nearly untouched through the whole process.

The NHL’s top goalie once again lived up to the distinction as Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside all 40 shots that came his way.

The Blackhawks put up 10 or more shots in each of the game’s three periods, including 17 in the second frame. But the All-Star netminder played and exceptional game, including stopping 10 out of 10 on the power play to keep Chicago 0-for-6 on the power play.

Yanni Gourde sealed the game late in the third with a blast to make it 2-0.

It’s a win Tampa needed, especially after finding out they’ll miss forward Ondrej Palat indefinitely.

The struggles continued for the Blackhawks, meanwhile.

Chicago has now been shutout twice in their past three games and is on a three-game skid with a 4-5-1 record in their past 10.

The Lightning could afford their losing streak. They’ve earned an opportunity to slide a little bit.

For the Blackhawks, another loss means another chance missed trying to survive in a deeply competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are hanging by a thread and time is running out quickly.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Colorado Avalanche’s win streak hits double digits

Associated Press
2 Comments

The streak is now in double digits.

The Colorado Avalanche won their 10th straight game on Monday night, taking down the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-2.

Yes, that’s 10 wins by the team that ended last season with an NHL-worst 48 points.

Hockey is wonderful, isn’t it?

The Avalanche have been pretty darn good during that streak, outscoring opponents 41-16 during that span. Scoring four goals per game on average will win you more than it won’t.

And the Avs have had success on the back end. Jonathan Bernier has been completely lights out during the streak. He is on a streak of his own with nine straight wins, becoming the third netminder in franchise history to win nine in a row after Stephane Fiset (9) and Patrick Roy (11).

Colorado’s streak is also an NHL-best this season and it’s the second longest streak in Avs history (they won 12 straight during the 1998-99 season).

The Avs are sitting on 57 points, good for the second wildcard spot in the Western Conference.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Jason Zucker takes a puck to the head (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

How in the world did he get up?

Too many players have been getting drilled in the head lately by slap shots. It’s an ugly site to behold whenever it happens

Somehow, however, Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild was able to pop right back up and head directly to the dressing room. No passing GO on this one.

The puck hit him so squarely in the helmet that it ricocheted back toward the Thomas Chabot, who uncorked the shot in the first place.

Even more insane is that Zucker was able to return to the game.

Talk about hard-headed.