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.

Flames sign free agent defenseman Josh Healey

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The Calgary Flames announced on Saturday that they have signed undrafted free agent defenseman Josh Healey to a two-year entry level contract. He will join the Stockton Heat of the AHL for the remainder of this season on an Amateur Tryout contract before his entry level deal begins next season.

Healey, 22, has spent the past four seasons playing for Ohio State and has developed a reputation for being one of the biggest hitters and most physical players at the NCAA level.

“Hits too hard for college,” is how one NHL scout described his play back in February.

That style of play has resulted in him getting himself into hot some water in the form of several ejections and suspensions over the past two seasons.

Along with his willingness to play a physical game, Healey’s offensive game took off a bit during his junior and senior seasons, including the 2016-17 season when he finished as the top scoring defenseman on the Buckeyes with 25 points (four goals, 21 assists) in 35 games.

In 133 games over four years at Ohio State he has accumulated 212 penalty minutes, leading the team by a pretty wide margin the past two years.

Panthers coach Tom Rowe wishes he didn’t play Aaron Ekblad this week

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A miserable season for the Florida Panthers got a little bit worse earlier this month when defenseman Aaron Ekblad was sidelined with another concussion on what coach and general manager Tom Rowe called “a real cheap shot from behind.”

After missing a few games, he was cleared to play by the team’s medical staff and returned to the lineup on Tuesday, 10 days after the injury, and played 18 minutes in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. Based on what happened in the aftermath of that game, it seems pretty obvious he may not have been completely ready to return to the ice.

Ekblad will not play in Saturday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks and will not accompany the team on its upcoming road trip after he complained of a sore neck following Tuesday’s game. He was also dealing with headaches on Friday that were attributed to a neck injury and not the concussion.

On Saturday, Rowe was asked if he regretted playing Ekblad earlier this week and he was quite honest in his assessment.

“I’m not going to lie, I wish we didn’t,” Said Rowe, via George Richards of the Miami Herald. “That’s on me. The doctors cleared him, our medical staff cleared him but I had some reservations and I wish I stayed with my gut. That’s no one’s fault but my own.

Ekblad wanted to play in Tuesday’s game but Rowe insisted he should have used his experience to hold his top defenseman out of the lineup.

“I’ve have a lot more experience in this business than he does,” said Rowe, again via the Herald. “I have had a ton of experience with those types of injuries. I usually give those guys two or three days of practice and I wish I had done that. It’s no one’s fault but my own.”

Ekblad has had some significant head and neck injuries over the past couple of years. This is the second time in the past two seasons he has missed time due to a concussion, and he was also sent home from the World Cup of Hockey earlier this year with what was said to be “whiplash.”

The 21-year-old Ekblad, the No. 1 overall pick in 2014, has 10 goals and 11 assists in 68 games for the Panthers this season. With only four games remaining following the team’s upcoming four-game road trip it is not out of the question to think that Ekblad’s season could be over.

The Panthers are only 4-10-1 in their past 15 games and have pretty  much fallen out of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Ryan O’Reilly comments on Sidney Crosby spearing incident: ‘It happens’

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Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has made some headlines this week for a couple of stick infractions that were overlooked by the on-ice officials during his games.

They were not overlooked by everybody else.

On Thursday, he caught Marc Methot with a slash to the hand that ended up busting the defenseman’s finger on a play that made Senators owner Eugene Melnyk go berserk on Ottawa radio the next day. On its own it would have been an incident that received a ton of attention, if for no other reason than the gruesome image of Methot’s finger dangling around. But what added to it was the fact that two days before that incident there was the spearing incident involving Buffalo Sabres forward Ryan O'Reilly that you see in the video above.

On Saturday, O’Reilly was asked for his thoughts on the play after everything that has happened with Crosby over the past couple of games.  He does not seem to have any hard feelings regarding the play, via TSN’s Mark Masters:

“It was a weird thing,” said O’Reilly. “You know, it happens. I didn’t expect it and he apologized after the play and it was understood. It just threw me off. I wasn’t expecting anything and then something happens, but he’s a good guy and he is just playing hard and he takes a beating every night too so it happens.”

He was then asked if he knew who initially hit him, and O’Reilly said he did not until Crosby apologized later in the game.

“No, I didn’t,” said O’Reilly. I was watching the puck and the next thing I know I had a stick right to the crotch and it threw me off for sure. I got up slowly and turned around to see who it was, and then off the won faceoff he comes up as we’re skating down the ice and says, ‘yeah, sorry about that, I was kind of going for your stick.’ I go, ‘meh, it happens, I guess. Would’ve been nice to have a penalty, but it happens.”

Crosby was not penalized for either play and received no supplemental discipline from the league. The latter part is not a surprise, and it is not because of some sort of preferential treatment from the league. Since the NHL’s department of player safety has been put into place it has never suspended a player for spearing (it has fined seven players) and suspended only two players for slashing (it has fined six).

Bruins will not have Tuukka Rask for massive game against Islanders tonight

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Massive game in Brooklyn on Saturday night when the New York Islanders will be hosting the Boston Bruins in a key game in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

The day is already off to a bad start for the Bruins, losers of four in a row, when coach Bruce Cassidy announced that starting goaltender Tuukka Rask did not make the trip with the team and will not be available for the game. Anthon Khudobin will get the start in his place, while Zane McIntyre has been recalled from the American Hockey League on an emergency basis.

Cassidy said that Rask is dealing with a lower body injury and is considered day-to-day.

Rask did not practice with the team on Friday.

It is a massive game as both teams enter the night tied in the standings with 82 points. But because the Islanders have played one fewer game, they currently occupy the second wild card spot. They are both just one point ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning in what is now pretty much a three-team race for that spot. It is the last meeting of the season between the two teams (Boston does play Tampa Bay once more).

Overall it has been another frustrating season for Rask, whose .910 save percentage is currently the worst of his career. He has really struggled during the Bruins’ current four-game losing streak, giving up 15 goals during that stretch.

Khudobin, meanwhile, has been on a bit of a roll for the Bruins in his recent starts following a terrible start to the season. He has won each of his past four starts, allowing just eight goals.

The Islanders are coming off of a 4-3 shootout win in Pittsburgh on Friday night against the Penguins with Jaroslav Halak making his return to the team and picking up the win.