Corey Crawford

The NHL’s best bargain contracts: Northwest Division

The hockey world tends to focus on the most regrettable contracts rather than the best ones because let’s face it: it’s more enjoyable to make fun of Brian Campbell‘s deal than to linger on Dustin Brown‘s bargain contract. That being said, clever GMs deserve credit for either finding the right timing to sign a player, judging their value better than most or simply fostering a climate in which a player will take a pay cut. This series of posts will take a look at every team to see which (if any) players deserve to be called bargains.

Notes: entry-level deals don’t count because they have built-in maximum levels. “Loophole” contracts will be considered, but they won’t receive as much consideration because of their inherent salary cap dishonesty. Bought out players will be considered for their current cap hits. I also think $6 million is a reasonable – if arbitrary – cutoff point for a true bargain player.

Calgary Flames – Jay Feaster has some work to do to clean up all the messes that Darryl Sutter left behind. So far … eh.

Scott Hannan ($1M) – It’s really convenient that the Flames signed Hannan yesterday, because he’s the only true bargain on the roster now that Alex Tanguay got paid. I’m not Hannan’s biggest fan, but that’s a nice price for a guy who can absorb tough minutes and dish out some punishment.

Honorable mention: Anton Babchuk – he generates a nice amount of points, but he’s not very strong in his own end.

source: Getty ImagesColorado Avalanche – After a Cinderella 2009-10 season, the Avs fell apart in an ugly manner in 2010-11. The Washington Capitals hope that happens again, so they can get a high-end draft pick from the much-criticized Semyon Varlamov trade.

David Jones ($2.5M) – The Avs don’t have a lot of steals that aren’t entry-level deals, but Jones scored 27 goals last season so he might qualify. He’ll need to prove that last season wasn’t a fluke to do so, though.

Erik Johnson ($2.6M) – He gains this rank mainly because of his pedigree (No. 1 pick of a 2006 draft that was strong at the top) and because he’s set to play a top role. It’s unclear if he will live up to either billing, though.

Edmonton Oilers – Are there any steals on a team whose greatest hopes probably lie in the development of their prospects?

Ales Hemsky ($4.1M) – Hemsky hasn’t been much of a bargain because he’s been injured too often to show off his considerable skills. If there’s ever been a time in which he might actually earn that title, it’s next season because he’s in a contract year. If he plays anywhere close to 82 games, he’s probably worth more than $4.1 million.

Eric Belanger ($1.75M) – A solid deal for a defensive-minded center who might help the Oilers clean up some of their spills. He’s not a miracle worker, though.

source: APMinnesota Wild – The Wild experienced some drastic changes during this off-season, so does their roster look a little better than it did during the last few bleak seasons?

Cal Clutterbuck ($1.4M) – Clutterbuck was worth the money for the mere comic relief of his last name and the fact that he’s basically a homing missile on skates. He’s become even more valuable offensively each year, though; in the last three seasons he went from 11 (2008-09) to 13 (09-10) to 19 goals. Only departed winger Martin Havlat had more goals (22) in 2010-11.

Kyle Brodziak ($1.1M) – He’s not a crazy value, but Brodziak crossed the 30+ point barrier in three of his last four seasons. That’s not bad at his price, although he might see fewer opportunities to score next season.

source: Getty ImagesVancouver Canucks – The team that fell one win short of the 2011 Stanley Cup hasn’t changed much, which means they will still enjoy some nice bargains.

Ryan Kesler ($5M) – The runaway Selke Trophy winner enjoyed a strong enough campaign that some thought he was the Canucks’ true MVP.

Alex Burrows ($2M) – With Zach Parise’s $3.1 million cap hit a thing of the past, Burrows is a serious contender for the NHL’s biggest bargain. He might not be the most popular guy on the ice, but his combination of grit and goal-scoring ability make him a major asset. Perhaps the most insane part is that his contract won’t expire until July 2013.

Alex Edler ($3.25M) – Edler scored at an outstanding .65 point per game rate last season, the only problem was that his 33 points came in just 51 games. If he could stay healthy in 11-12, he might not be underrated much longer.

Honorable mentions: One of the trends with many of the NHL’s best teams is that their best players are paid below market value. That’s true with the Sedin twins and Roberto Luongo (especially with the twins). Critique those three all you want, but most teams would gladly accept the trio for the approximate annual cap hit of $17.5 million.

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Feel free to point out any glaring omissions or faulty inclusions. Again, remember: players on their entry-level deals don’t count, so that’s why you won’t see the Taylor Halls of the world.

Click here for the Atlantic Division version.

Click here for the Central Division version.

Click here for the Northeast Division version.

Who can challenge Red Wings’ Larkin as NHL’s fastest skater?

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 25: Dylan Larkin #71 of the Detroit Red Wings skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on November 25, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. The Red Wings defeated the Devils 5-4 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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As their core players from recent years have started to age and move on, the Detroit Red Wings have undergone a transition period with several new faces taking over the roster.

One of the players that is going to be counted on to be a key piece moving forward in almost certainly going to be 20-year-old forward Dylan Larkin, a top-five finisher in the 2016 Calder Trophy voting and currently one of the fastest skaters in the NHL.

He will be the focus from the Red Wings’ side of their Star Sunday matchup with the New York Rangers on NBC Sunday afternoon.

Larkin made a name for himself a year ago when he became the first teenager to make the Red Wings’ opening night roster in more than 15 years, and then followed it up with an outstanding rookie campaign that saw him finish as the team’s leading goal scorer (23) and third leading leading point producer (45), trailing only long-time Red Wings legends Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. While his assist numbers have fallen off a bit this season, he is still on pace to top the 20-goal mark again. If he does he would be just the 13th player over the past 11 years to have two 20-goal seasons before their 21st birthday (joining Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Matt Duchene, Taylor Hall, Patrick Kane, Anze Kopitar, Nathan MacKinnon, Sean Monahan, Jeff Skinner, Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews and John Tavares).

His performance a year ago earned him a trip to the 2016 All-Star game in Nashville where he helped steal the show at the skills competition by breaking Mike Gartner’s 19-year-old record.

Larkin won’t have a chance to defend his crown at the 2017 NHL All-Star weekend in Los Angeles, but there are a handful of players that might be able to make a run at his record.

Some of the favorites to win this year’s competition should include:

  • Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid (who was not at the All-Star game a year ago due to injury) would seem to be the leading favorite to not only win the competition this season if he participates in, but to perhaps also break Larkin’s record. When he is on the ice he always seems to be playing the game at a different speed than everybody else and is already one of the most game-breaking players in the league.
  • Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, currently one of the few bright spots on the Avalanche roster, is also a worthy contender and has been one of the fastest skaters in the league from the minute he arrived as the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. His acceleration is similar to Olympic speed skaters.
  • Erik Karlsson is probably the one defenseman in the league that could have a shot at winning the competition given the way he can blow past even the fastest forwards in the league every night.

NHL on NBC: Red Wings look to take advantage of Rangers’ struggling defense

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 19: Brandon Pirri #73 of the New York Rangers goes up against Justin Abdelkader #8 and Tomas Tatar #21 of the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden on October 19, 2016 in New York City. The Red Wings defeated the Rangers 2-1.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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NBC’s coverage of the NHL continues on Sunday afternoon when the New York Rangers pay a visit to the Detroit Red Wings. You can watch all of the action on NBC starting at 12:30 p.m. ET or on our live stream here.

It is another Star Sunday in Detroit on Sunday afternoon when the Rangers visit the Red Wings, with the focus of the game falling on New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh and Detroit’s Dylan Larkin.

For the Red Wings, the time is now for them to start accumulating points if they are going to extend their playoff streak to a 26th season. They enter play on Sunday in 14th place in the Eastern Conference with 47 points in their first 46 games, a pace that has them on track for only 80 points. That would be the organization’s lowest point total (excluding lockout shortened seasons) since 1990-91, the year their current postseason streak started.

The good news is they have already started to pick up some points in recent games and are carrying a four-game point streak into Sunday’s game against the Rangers. Still sitting four points back of a wild card spot (while the team they are chasing still has two games in hand) and five points out of third place in the Atlantic Division they are still going to have plenty of work to do to make up that ground over the next couple of months.

The Rangers, meanwhile, still have a solid hold on a playoff spot and have continued to fill the net as one of the NHL’s best offensive teams.

The problem is they can’t seem to stop anybody from scoring right now, either.

Over their past 12 games dating back to Dec. 20 the Rangers have held teams to less than three goals just three times, and have allowed more than four goals seven times. That includes three games where they have allowed at least seven goals. Overall, they have allowed 50 goals during the past 12 games (that is more than 4.1 per game).

Defense was a huge question mark coming into this season for the Rangers, and there has been nothing during the season that has eliminated that concern. In recent years when the defense has been an issue (especially last season) Henrik Lundqvist has always been good enough to mask whatever problems existed. But at 34 years old there is going to come a point where his play starts to a dip a little bit and we might have started to reach that point this season. He carries a .902 save percentage into Sunday’s game which would be the worst mark (by far) of his career to this point.

Puck drop on Sunday afternoon is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET. Catch all of the action on NBC or on our live stream.

‘It’s embarrassing,’ says Gulutzan after lopsided loss to Oilers

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 21:  Head coach Glen Gulutzan of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on November 21, 2011 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The Battle of Alberta was a tad lopsided Saturday.

The Edmonton Oilers scored early. They scored often. And despite holding a distinct advantage in shots on goal and puck possession, the rival Calgary Flames couldn’t get much going until the third period and by then the damage had been done.

The Oilers, tied in points with the San Jose Sharks, are one point back of the Anaheim Ducks for the Pacific Division lead after their 7-3 win over the Flames. Laurent Brossoit also collected his first career NHL victory.

This game wasn’t even six minutes old when Jordan Eberle scored to give Edmonton a three-goal lead. Chad Johnson was promptly pulled from the Calgary net, making one save on four shots faced.

The Flames were bad from the start. They didn’t get any better in the second period, falling behind five goals after 40 minutes and watching as the likes of Eberle and Connor McDavid piled on for a regular-season series sweep of Calgary.

Flames coach Glen Gulutzan had some strong words to describe the play of his team, which still holds down a wild card spot in the West.

“It’s embarrassing,” he said, per the Calgary Sun. “Our resolve to stick to it wasn’t there.”

“That’s a bunch of games in a row now where we’ve fallen behind and haven’t been able to get any push-back. And in our rink, it’s unacceptable,” added Mark Giordano.

The coach was utterly perplexed by his team’s breakdown on Edmonton’s third goal, which started off as a rush in the neutral zone and finished with Eberle, wide open down the right wing with a clear path to the net, beating Johnson on the shot.

“I don’t know what we were doing,” said Gulutzan. “I actually have no explanation for what our ‘D’ were doing on the third goal. It was a complete mistake.”

That should be concerning for the Flames.

They hold a playoff spot, but just barely with the Vancouver Canucks one point back and with two games in hand.

Talk about a Wild comeback for Minnesota

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The Minnesota Wild took back sole possession of the lead in the Central Division, thanks to a thrilling comeback win over the Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Minnesota trailed 3-1 early in the second period. Jason Zucker closed the deficit in the middle period, before they took the lead for good thanks to a frenzy of three goals from Erik Haula, Ryan Suter and Zucker in 1:59 late in regulation for a 5-3 victory.

“When we came in in between the second and third, knowing we were only down a goal, and knowing our history, we didn’t think we were out of it,” said coach Bruce Boudreau, per the Pioneer Press.

And so the Wild remain one of the hottest teams in the league, leading Chicago by two points.

While it’s a comeback for them, the Ducks don’t quite see it the same way.

“It’s not what they did, to be honest. We self-imploded. Gave up too many opportunities, left our goalie out to dry,” said Cam Fowler.

Additional bad news for the Ducks, however, was that goalie John Gibson left the game in the second period with an upper-body injury, and didn’t return.