San Jose Sharks v Detroit Red Wings - Game Three

Great time to be an UFA defenseman: Red Wings sign Jonathan Ericsson to three-year, $9.75 million deal

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The silly season is officially upon us. Christian Ehrhoff signed a 10-year deal this afternoon. Steve Montador signed his own deal worth $11 million as well. In the most recent development, Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has agreed to a three-year deal with the Red Wings for a reported $3.25 million per season. And the hits just keep on comin’.

The new contract for the Detroit blueliner is a significant raise from the $1.25 million he made last season. More importantly to the Red Wings, the $3.25 cap hit will be tougher to work around than the former $900k cap hit that was on the books. Ken Holland had originally hoped to sign Ericsson to a contract in the $2 million range—but as more and more defensemen signed before July 1st, the player was able to increase his bargaining power. Not bad for a guy who only has 9 goals and 24 assists in 163 career games.

Never underestimate the power of supply and demand.

Last season, the 27-year-old former 9th round pick was a 3rd pairing defenseman in Detroit. But with Brian Rafalski’s somewhat surprising retirement, the Red Wings were left with a gaping hole in their top 4. Next year he’ll join Nicklas Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, and Niklas Kronwall as the guys depended upon to log the major minutes as the Wings try to make another run. Despite the new contract and apparent potential, Ericsson is a significant step down for a contender.

To put the contract in perspective, Ericsson’s cap hit is more than Kronwall’s and almost as much as Stuart’s. He’ll have every opportunity to prove that he’s worth the raise, but for the first time in years, the Red Wings are paying a player before they’ve proven their worth on the ice. If he thrives in his new role, then the deal will look reasonable in a few years. But as for today, Red Wings fans aren’t pleased.

Next on the agenda for the Red Wings will be to continue to work on deals with forwards Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller. Holland explained that negotiations have been going well with Eaves’ camp, but they have not made much progress with Drew Miller. If they lose him on July 1, it will just be another hole the Wings will need to fill.

But hey, at least they got the defenseman they wanted.

Latest way the Wild lost? Killed by penalty kill

Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk sits on the ice after giving up a goal to St. Louis Blues' Jori Lehtera, of Finland, during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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It’s said that variety is the spice of life, yet it seems to be the spite of the Minnesota Wild.

As head coach Mike Yeo said, this struggling team appears to find a new way to lose virtually every night. That couldn’t have happened once again on Saturday, when they fell 4-1 to the St. Louis Blues, could it?

Actually …

If you ask Jarret Stoll, the latest problem was the penalty kill.

Honestly, Stoll may have been too specific, likely trying to throw his own unit under the bus. Instead, it might be more accurate to say that Minnesota’s special teams let them down.

Indeed, the Wild struggled to limit the Blues’ power play, which went an unsettling 3-for-6. That said, Minnesota had a chance to trade blows with St. Louis. Instead, the Wild managed one power-play goal on seven opportunities.

The silver lining is that the Wild believe that they showed more fight than this fragile bunch had been generating before.

On the other hand, with Jonas Brodin on IR and Jared Spurgeon apparently hurt, that silver lining may not be so easy to see.

Statement in Blackhawks’ blowout of Stars? Coach Q says they’re even

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Worry (if you’re pulling for the Stars) or gloat (if you’re a Blackhawks fan) all you want, but the bottom line is that the Central Division’s No.1 spot is clearly in Chicago’s control after Saturday night.

The Blackhawks earned a decisive 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars, giving them a five-point standings lead over Dallas for the Central Division lead.

You may feel like that’s more of the same, but consider this: things would look a lot closer if Dallas won or gained points, as they hold three games in hand on the ‘Hawks.

At least one Blackhawks player admits this game means a little more than your average W.

Indeed, while Antti Niemi was pulled from the game and Kari Lehtonen faced his own struggles in Dallas’ net, Corey Crawford ranked as one of the big reasons why the score was so lopsided.

(Artem Anisimov had a big say in that, too.)

As a wise coach with 1,000+ games of experience would do, Joel Quenneville didn’t go overboard in assessing the victory.

Was this a statement game? Who knows, but a certain statement is that the Blackhawks now have a five-point standings lead.

Brad Marchand wins it … on a penalty shot … in overtime

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Looking at the standings, beating the Buffalo Sabres was pretty important for the Boston Bruins. The Atlantic Division’s run for spots appears particularly congested out East.

Of all the Bruins to get a chance to win it all, the team might have wanted Brad Marchand to have that opportunity. He’s on pace to destroy his previous career-highs for scoring, and Marchand’s been particularly hot lately.

Either way, Marchand came up big indeed, scoring the rare overtime game-winner on a penalty shot. Check out the drama below:

That can be a big extra point and ROW (regulation/overtime win) when the regular season is finished.

Note: Many believe that Marchand should not have received a penalty shot on the play.

Crosby kills the Cats: Penguins end Panthers’ winning streak

Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) collides with Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley (86) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
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For quite some time, it looked like the Florida Panthers would keep the Pittsburgh Penguins under wraps.

Florida nursed a 1-0 lead into a 2-0 margin almost halfway through the third period, looking to win its sixth consecutive game. That looked great … and then Sidney Crosby + Kris Letang happened.

Let’s put it this way: this GIF of Crosby being frustrated is amusing, yet it doesn’t exactly tell the story of Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win for the Penguins:

Instead, Crosby grabbed his 900th point assisting on a Letang goal, and finished the night with 902 by collecting the game-tying goal and grabbing a helper on Letang’s overtime game-winner.

Crosby crossing that barrier is indeed special, even if it prompts “What if?” questions about No. 87’s health.

The resurgence of Crosby and Letang already played a big role in the Penguins going from disjointed and frustrating to sneaky and scary, so it  shouldn’t be that surprising to see them play so well. Doing so in such brisk order is a little bewildering, however.