Brian Campbell

Did we witness the death of the ‘untradeable contract’ this weekend?

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There are times when NHL general managers justify their existences by finding talent that no one else knows about or trusting players to grow when others lose patience. On the other hand, there are moments when you wonder how exactly they found their way into that position in the first place.

It’s bad enough when a player receives a laughably huge contract that towers above his true skill. You could also hear the guffaws from around the league when the New York Rangers signed Scott Gomez to a seven-year, $51.5 million contract and when the Chicago Blackhawks massively overpaid for Brian Campbell with an eight-year, $57.14 million deal.

To some extent, you could give GMs a half-pass for getting caught up in the frenzy of free agency, though. What is really surprising is that lightning can strike twice when another GM agrees to take on albatross deals via trades.

Dale Tallon makes the same Soupy mistake twice

The once-unthinkable notion of the Blackhawks somehow getting out of Campbell’s contract actually became a reality. It’s important to note that Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon was the genius who gave “Soupy” that contract in the first place and his team is far below the $48.3 million salary cap floor right now, though. That being said, Campbell’s hysterical $7.14 million annual salary cap won’t evaporate until after the 2015-16 season. (That sound you heard is the countless cackles of Chicago fans.)

Campbell’s deal wasn’t the only mammoth one to move since the day before the 2011 NHL Entry Draft; it was just the ugliest.

Two risky Flyers who could end up being bargains

Moving past the fact that it’s a mind-numbing risk to give players long-term deals in such a violent sport, both Jeff Carter (11-year, $58 million; expires in 21-22) and Mike Richards’ (12-year, $69 million; expires in 19-20) deals aren’t too awful from a salary cap standpoint. It might be true that Carter is a one-dimensional goal scorer, but it’s one heck of a dimension; it wouldn’t be crazy to think that the Columbus Blue Jackets basically traded for 250-300 goals over the remainder of that contract.

Richards could be an even better fit for the Kings, though. It’s stunning to realize how much people underrate the two-way center’s abilities. Perhaps it is because Richards’ regular season point production has been a bit underwhelming lately (60 points in 2009-10 and 66 last season), but he has an 80 and 75-point season under his belt. Richards also came through big-time in Philly’s run to the 2010 Stanley Cup finals by scoring 23 points in 23 games. Combine that scoring ability with his (sometimes over the line) physicality and heady defensive play and you realize the Kings added a player who could be just as good as their other star center Anze Kopitar for less money per year. (Richards’ cap hit is $5.75 million; Kopitar’s deal registers a $6.8 million annual hit.)

A surprising market for Ryan Smyth

Don’t get me wrong, Smyth seems like a likeable guy with a savvy offensive game. Much has been made about how he admirably fills the net without much discernible physical skill. Those positive qualities don’t overcome the fact that he’s simply not worth $6.2 million a year, though.

Much like the Panthers with Campbell, the salary cap floor context makes the Smyth addition a bit more sensible for the Oilers (especially since his contact expires after next season, a luxury Florida will wish they had with “Soupy”). The Calgary Flames’ reported interest in Smyth ends up being the most surprising element. You would hope that new GM Jay Feaster would like to curtail the team’s tradition of wildly overpaying good-but-not-great players but his rumored interest in Smyth, excessive contract extension to ex-bargain Alex Tanguay and surprising hastiness to move Robyn Regehr’s reasonable deal really makes you wonder.

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It also makes you wonder if there is such thing as an “untradeable contact” anymore. As crazy as it might sound to rational folks out there, it seems like there will always be a GM desperate enough to think that another team’s salary cap trash could be their on-ice treasure. Those moments must be big blows to savvy fans in that market, but if nothing else, they give us interesting off-season fodder and justify the fun practice of concocting theoretical trades during a long, hockey-free summer.

Avalanche’s new head coach Bednar is at least saying the right things

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via Colorado Avalanche
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Look, there are exceptions, but new head coach press conferences feature the same basic terms and buzzwords.

After witnessing the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins skate opponents ragged on their way to the 2016 Stanley Cup, any reasonable coach would throw “speed” into their phrasing.

Still, the Colorado Avalanche have been so deeply buried by even the most basic of modern measurements that you had to wonder: would they learn from Patrick Roy’s struggles? Can someone come in and at least attempt to keep up with the pack?

We won’t know for sure anytime soon, but hey, at least Jared Bednar seems to be saying the right things as he transitions from the AHL to the Avalanche’s head coaching gig.

When discussing his hire with NHL Network, Bednar seemed confident that his style in the AHL – “Up-tempo, aggressive style in all three zones of the rink” – will translate well in Colorado.

That interview hits the beats you’d expect from job interviews beyond hockey. There’s even a “detail-oriented” bit.

(If you space out, you might just assume there’s a mention of thinking outside the box, like every corporate interview in human history.)

Still, it’s OK to settle for baby steps, especially considering the tough situation Patrick Roy created in abruptly skipping town. For many, it might just be comforting to note that Bednar doesn’t outright dismissive “analytics” or “fancy stats.”

Mile High Hockey brings up a great point: if nothing else, the spotlight will shift from the Avalanche’s flamboyant head coach to the talented core of young players.

So, not only is Colorado bringing in a coach who is as savvy with spreadsheets as he is with the wipe-off board, but he’s going to allow the players to crawl out from under Roy and finally earn their own accomplishments. This is every bit as important as fixing the breakout play or eliminating the Collapse-O-Rama™ defensive system.

(Collapse-O-Rama, huh? Can we stash that term for future use regarding another coach or two?)

Bednar isn’t a retread, so we only know so much about what to expect.

There are positive early signs. Roll your eyes all you want, we have seen more than a few successful transitions from AHL glory (Bednar just won the Calder Cup) to the NHL.

He’s not necessarily anti-information and seems at least interested in implementing modern, attacking systems. Attacking systems that, theoretically, would best suit the talents of a gifted-but-flawed group.

It all feels a little vague, but then again, it’s not even September yet. So far, so good.

One way or another, Al Montoya will be important to Canadiens

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02:  Goalie Al Montoya #35 of the Florida Panthers looks on in the second period against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on February 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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This is part of Canadiens day at PHT …

Here’s an unsolicited opinion: a good backup goalie is often underrated.

Yes, getting a quality Plan B is easier said than done – goalies are an unpredictable lot – but it’s simple to see when it pays off.

(There are plenty of examples, but Matt Murray winning a Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the shiniest one.)

Even if injuries aren’t a big issue, a No. 2 goalie is a pretty safe bet to play 20 games for a given team. In that regard, Al Montoya could be a significant upgrade over Mike Condon, and that could be important.

Waning workhorses

In 2015-16, no goalie played 70 regular season games. Jonathan Quick was the workhorse of the NHL with 68, while only 10 played at least 60. So, more than two-thirds of last season’s teams needed at least 24 games from their lesser-paid goalies.

Even in Carey Price‘s dominant 2014-15 campaign, he played 66 games while Dustin Tokarski was in net for 17.

Let’s ponder the outlook for a variety of scenarios as Price hopes to rebound from injury:

If Price resumes Vezina-caliber form

As PHT notes, Price seems confident that he’s at 100 percent.

That’s great … but what else is he going to say? Knee injuries can beguile just about any athlete.

He does admit that he’s getting up there in age a bit – relative to the sport, mind you – at 29. Earlier this summer, the Hockey News went over Montreal’s plan to scale Price’s workload a bit, injured or not.

So, even in a dream scenario, Montoya and/or Condon will still see plenty of reps.

If Price falters

The Canadiens are expected to live or die by Price. Let’s not kid ourselves.

The leash might not be very long for Michel Therrien if Price really falls on his face, however. A Condon-led Habs team stumbled terribly, but what might we see from Montoya being thrust into the spotlight for performance reasons?

  • With a .909 career save percentage, Montoya’s experienced his stumbles in the NHL. Montreal has to hope he follows more of the path from strong showings in 2013-14 (13-8-3, .920 save percentage with Winnipeg) and 2015-16 (12-7-3, .919 save percentage with Florida).

Long story short, there were flashes of the brilliance you’d expect from a guy who went sixth overall in 2004.

  • The good news is that he’s accustomed to a fairly heavy backup duty. He set a career-high with 31 games played and 26 starts with the Islanders in 2011-12. Including that season, he’s enjoyed 20+ appearances in five of his last six seasons.
  • The bad news is that he hasn’t ever even carried half of a season’s workload so …

Yes, a Price re-injury would be disastrous

Montoya hasn’t been “the guy” before, certainly not in a pressure-cooker like Montreal. Condon’s opportunity didn’t go especially well.

One can understand ownership giving Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin something of a “Price pass” after 2015-16, but would there be the same level of acceptance if they couldn’t thrive without their star goalie again? You’d have to ask about lessons learned.

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Long story short, Montoya matters to Montreal. The Canadiens just have to hope that he doesn’t matter too much.

 

Ducks lock up 2016 first-rounder Max Jones

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Max Jones poses for a portrait after being selected 24th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
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The Anaheim Ducks handed their 2016 first-round draft pick Max Jones an entry-level contract on Friday.

Anaheim selected Jones 24th overall. It looks like he’s getting a pretty typical rookie deal, according to reporters including NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke.

In PHT’s “Get to Know a Draft Pick” series, THN’s Ryan Kennedy described Jones as “a power forward who can make you look silly with his offensive moves or simply plow you through the boards.”

Jones was one of three London Knights players who went in the first round in 2016, following Olli Juolevi (fifth overall) and Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall). He certainly seemed to enjoy the team’s Memorial Cup victory:

You never really know for certain, but one would imagine that Jones may take a season or two to make it to the NHL level with the Ducks. From the sound of things, he’s in the sort of power forward mold that the team’s had a lot of success with.

With Lehner injured, Enroth will be in Sweden’s goalie mix at World Cup

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 04: Jhonas Enroth #1 of the Buffalo Sabres and Robin Lehner #40 of the Ottawa Senators warm up to play at First Niagara Center on October 4, 2013 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) Sweden has selected Jhonas Enroth to replace injured goaltender Robin Lehner on its World Cup of Hockey roster.

Lehner was bothered by an ankle injury last season while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said Lehner had not recovered 100 percent.

Enroth, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden’s roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game.

Enroth started for Sweden at the 2015 world hockey championship.

The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.