Tukka Rask, Scottie Upshall

Desperate Panthers over-spend on Ed Jovanovski and Scottie Upshall’s four-year deals

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Look, I understand that Florida Panthers GM Dale Tallon needs to get his team to the salary cap floor of $48 million. With a team that has such a limited group of talent and is suffering from such a long playoff drought, it makes sense that the former Chicago Blackhawks general manager will need to overpay people to bring them to Sunrise, Florida.

That being said, couldn’t he have signed these bad contracts for one year rather than giving people stupid money for longer periods of time? Tomas Kopecky probably received $1 million too much per year to come to Florida with a four-year, $12 million deal, the team took on Brian Campbell’s ridiculous contract and now they gave Scottie Upshall a top-line forward deal of four years, $14 million.

Update: things have gotten even worse, apparently. Tallon brought Ed Jovanovski back to Florida with a ridiculous four-year, $16.5 million deal. There’s a neat nostalgic element to this signing because the Panthers made Jovanovski the first overall pick of the 1994 draft and he went on to help them make their one magical run to the 1996 Stanley Cup finals. That was a long time ago, though; Jovanovski has been an extremely injury-prone defenseman since he left Florida. He only played 50 games in 2010-11 and 66 in 09-10. While he showed some signs of health with Phoenix before that (82 games in 08-09 and 80 in 07-08) but six of his last eight seasons have been wrecked by injuries.

Upshall’s $3.5 million salary cap hit, Jose Theodore’s $1.5 million and Jovanovski’s $4.13 million will lift the Panthers’ number to about $47.4 million, leaving them less than one million short of that $48 million floor. All it cost them was a coherent roster and long-term plan to get there.

In case you wanted some re-emphasis, Upshall’s deal is not a very good deal at all, either. Both the term and the annual salary are out of whack for what can be reasonably expected of Upshall. He’s scored 22 goals once in his career (in 2010-11); other than that he’s been a guy whose speed hasn’t really produced much as far as results. (At least for $3.5 million per year.)

Again, we understand that the Panthers are in a bind, but these deals might put the team in a bad position once their prospects start to mature. In other words, this team could be in a similar (if less promising) situation as Tallon’s last team – the Chicago Blackhawks. That team saw simultaneous breakthroughs of prospects soon after he saddled the club with ugly contracts like those of Campbell and jettisoned goalie Cristobal Huet.

Upshall, Jovanovski and the rest of the Panthers might prove us wrong in the long run, but from the looks of things, they’re not spending their money very wisely.

The Ducks look pretty mighty right now after six consecutive wins

Anaheim Ducks v Los Angeles Kings
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In what should be a disturbing trend for every other team in the Pacific Division, the Anaheim Ducks have now won six consecutive games, and eight of their last 10.

After dominating the shot clock for pretty much all of Friday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes, the Ducks completely took over on the scoreboard in the third period. It seemed like only a matter of time before a breakthrough would occur.

Just 24 hours after beating the L.A. Kings, the Ducks earned a 5-2 victory over the Coyotes.

Ryan Kesler has eight points in his last six games. Corey Perry has seven points in his last six games. Patrick Maroon, who had only eight points all season prior to Friday, had a three-point night versus Arizona.

Again. Bad news for every other team in the Pacific.

The Ducks now have a three-point lead over the Coyotes for third place in the division. They’re one point back of second-place San Jose and eight back of division-leading L.A.

As for everyone else, more specifically the Canucks, Flames and Oilers, well it might be time to start focusing more on the upcoming trade deadline and, beyond that, the draft.

The Ducks had a terrible start to this season, one that started with so much hype about a team seen as an immediate Stanley Cup contender for 2015-16.

Count Corey Perry as one who believes those early season struggles could pay off at playoff time.

And remember all of that talk in October about Bruce Boudreau perhaps at the end of his days as coach of the Ducks?

At the end of October, GM Bob Murray vowed to be patient despite such a poor start just a few months after being one win away from the Stanley Cup Final last June.

There is still plenty of hockey remaining in the regular season. The Ducks have 32 games remaining on their schedule. But it appears that patience Murray showed in October is paying off.

Jets can’t complete the comeback after miserable start against Hurricanes

Colorado Avalanche v Winnipeg Jets
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WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) Phillip Di Giuseppe, Andrej Nestrasil, Jordan Staal and Justin Faulk scored in the first period, and the Carolina Hurricanes held on for a 5-3 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night.

The Hurricanes scored four times on their first nine shots, taking a 4-0 lead just 10:04 into the game. Nestrasil added another goal in the third period, and Cam Ward made 33 saves. Staal and Joakim Nordstrom each had a pair of assists.

Alexander Burmistrov, Andrew Ladd and Blake Wheeler scored for Winnipeg.

Jets rookie Connor Hellebuyck allowed three goals while facing only six shots before being replaced by Michael Hutchinson after Staal’s power-play goal just 4:33 in. Hutchinson, who hadn’t played since a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on Jan. 3, finished with 21 saves.

The loss wrapped up Winnipeg’s season-high six-game homestand, which included just one victory.

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Carolina’s first goal came after the Jets turned over the puck and Di Giuseppe scored on a sharp-angled shot at 1:43.

Hellebuyck then kicked out a bad rebound and Nestrasil tallied his 16th goal of the season in his 100th NHL game from almost the same angle at 3:05.

With Byfuglien in the penalty box for delay of game, Staal’s shot beat Hellebuyck, ending the young goalie’s night.

Faulk made it 4-0 when his team’s third shot at Hutchinson went between his pads at 10:04.

The Jets came out at a faster, more aggressive pace to start the second period and it paid off with 1:25 remaining.

Andrew Copp and Chris Thorburn were battling a pair of Hurricanes behind the net when Thorburn poked the puck out front as he was falling and Burmistrov got his sixth goal of the season.

Ladd, who hit the post late in the second period, banged home a rebound with Hurricanes winger Jeff Skinner off for hooking at 9:07 of the third.

Byfuglien one-timed a pass from Nikolaj Ehlers that Wheeler deflected to make it 4-3 with 6:12 remaining.

Nestrasil sealed the win with his second goal at 18:40.

NOTES: Ehlers’ assist extended his point streak to six games, with four goals and four assists. … Winnipeg heads out for a two-game road trip starting in Colorado on Saturday. Carolina visits Montreal on Sunday.

Video: Zatkoff robs Condra with sprawling paddle save

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All Erik Condra had to do was lift the puck off the ice.

He didn’t, and as a result, he was robbed by sprawled out Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff, who made a spectacular desperation save with the paddle of his stick on the Lightning forward.

The save occurred just past the midway point of the third period. That kept the Penguins in the game, down by a goal at the time.

However, the Penguins couldn’t get the equalizer. The result was a 6-3 loss for Pittsburgh, as Tampa Bay scored twice later in the period.

Defending Eastern Conference champion Bolts continue hot streak

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Remember those distractions the Tampa Bay Lightning had to endure?

— The future of captain Steven Stamkos, who is a pending unrestricted free agent and whose contract situation has been an ongoing discussion point for months now.

Jonathan Drouin‘s camp publicly requesting a trade, then having the 20-year-old forward sent to the minors and then suspended by Tampa Bay, etc.

Well, through it all, the defending Eastern Conference champions have emerged and are now one of the hottest teams in the National Hockey League . Since the start of January, the Bolts have lost twice. In 13 games.

They continued their hot streak Friday, defeating the Pittsburgh Penguins — another of those teams on an impressive streak — by a final score of 6-3, with Tyler Johnson leading the way with three points. He was one of six Tampa Bay players to record a multi-point night.

Penguins’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 14 shots.

Tampa Bay is now five points behind the Florida Panthers for first in the Atlantic Division.

For the Penguins, the loss keeps them on the outside of the playoff bubble for now. They remain one point back of New Jersey for the final Wild Card spot in the East.

Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to nine games. He also has goals in five straight and is one point shy of 900 for his career.