Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf

The NHL’s best bargain contracts: Pacific 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.

Anaheim Ducks – Every dollar counts with this cost-conscious team.

Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf ($5.325 million each) – The two power forwards have been intrinsically linked ever since they came up through the Ducks system together. Getzlaf had the upper hand for quite some time – and it’s possible he still might be better in the long view – but Perry is the one with the Hart Trophy on his resume. Either way, they consist of 2/3 of the scariest line in the NHL.

Bobby Ryan ($5.1M) – Ryan completes that trio at a slightly lower price. The American born power forward’s career trajectory keeps pointing upward as he scored a career-high 71 points last season.

source: Getty ImagesDallas Stars – Speaking of cost-conscious teams, the Stars lost Brad Richards but that won’t end their money troubles. They better sell the team somewhat soon because their budding star Jamie Benn is in the final year of his entry-level deal.

Loui Eriksson ($4.1M) Can you be an All-Star and yet remain underrated? Probably not, but Eriksson is a close example. We’ll see if he can maintain his largely unheralded scoring ways without Richards feeding him perfect passes.

Stephane Robidas ($3.3M) – He might not be an ideal top defenseman, but the Stars expect him to act the part. Robidas’ can do a little of everything fairly well.

Alex Goligoski ($1.83M) – The former Penguins defenseman is a bit of an adventure in his own end, but he provides the offensive boost the Stars asked for when they traded James Neal to get him.

Honorable mentions – Kari Lehtonen nearly saved the Stars’ season last year, but he needs to prove that his injury-prone ways are a thing of the past. Sheldon Souray’s lack of foot speed could doom him, but his slapper could make him easier to forgive.

source: Getty ImagesLos Angeles Kings – Could the Kings be serious contenders next season? My gut reaction is to say “Yes.”

Simon Gagne ($3.5M) – If Gagne can stay reasonably healthy – a big if, especially since the Kings seem to carry an injury hex of their own – he could be a very nice bargain for Los Angeles.

Dustin Brown ($3.2M) – The Kings’ captain draws a ton of penalties, throws a lot of hits and scores plenty of goals. Amazingly, his bargain deal will continue until July 2014 – that’s three more seasons at a reduced rate.

Jonathan Quick ($1.8M) – A lot of people are rooting for fellow cheap young goalie Jonathan Bernier to usurp him, but Quick turned in a 35-win season and put up the kind of save percentage (.918) that will make it hard for anyone to steal his job. I thought he was just a workhorse goalie going into 2010-11, but now I’m sold.

Honorable mention: Mike Richards’ two-way play should make him worth $5.7 million, but it’s enough money that he might not be a steal (especially since his numbers might not be that great at times in Los Angeles’ tight system).

Phoenix Coyotes – Are the ‘Yotes in trouble after losing crucial goalie Ilya Bryzgalov? I’m sorry to say that it might be the case.

Keith Yandle ($5.25M) – I know that his contract isn’t cheap, but Yandle’s been a star for the Coyotes. Hopefully the loss of Breezy and the increase in pressure from a new deal won’t ruin his mojo.

Lauri Korpikoski ($1.8M) – The Korpedo had a career year in 2010-11, with 19 goals and 40 points. Hovering around the 20-goal mark would make his contract a nice value.

Honorable mentions: Mike Smith will be a steal if he pans out, but that’s a big if. Martin Hanzal is a big center who makes life difficult for some of the Pacific Division’s best scorers.

source: APSan Jose Sharks – The teal-clad bunch will sport a new, faster look next season.

Joe Pavelski ($4M) – The “Big Pavelski” is responsible defensively and increasingly dangerous on offense, scoring a career-high 66 points last season.

Brent Burns ($3.5M) – For one more season, the All-Star defenseman will be a bargain.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic ($3.1M) – The Pickle remains a nice asset, even if his offensive numbers might not rebound to his 2008-09 form.

Colin White ($1M) – Like Scott Hannan, his flaws are easier to accept at $1 million.

Honorable mention: Ryane Clowe seemed overpaid before last season only to put together one of hist best campaigns.

***

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 Logan Coutures of the world.

Click here for the Atlantic Division version.

Click here for the Central Division version.

Click here for the Northeast Division version.

Click here for the Northwest Division version.

NBC and NBCSN have you covered for Hockey Day in America

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With two games on NBC and then two more on NBCSN, your Sunday should be jam-packed with Hockey Day in America action. A look at the hockey hotbed of Warroad, Minnesota adds a delectable cherry on top, too.

If you need a guide to this party of pucks and patriotism, look no further than this post.

Washington Capitals at New York Rangers, 12:30 p.m. ET on NBC

John Carlson, T.J. Oshie and the dominant Capitals take on Ryan McDonagh and the Blueshirts. The Metropolitan Division represents some of the NHL’s upper crust, so don’t be fooled by the Rangers being the first wild card while the Caps are tops in the East; both of these teams can go. Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher will be there to call the action.

MORE: For Oshie, ties to Warroad run deep

Detroit Red Wings at Pittsburgh Penguins, 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk will be in the booth for this battle between teams that met in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final series in 2008 and 2009. Along with usual suspects like Sidney Crosby and Henrik Zetterberg, these teams feature American scorers such as Dylan Larkin and, of course, Phil Kessel.

Chicago Blackhawks at Buffalo Sabres, 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN

The action shifts to NBCSN as Patrick Kane and the Blackhawks hope to teach Jack Eichel and the upstart Sabres a lesson or two. The Blackhawks are in playoff position, as usual, while Buffalo is rallying to try to make a push of its own. Gord Miller and Joe Micheletti will be your guides.

MORE: Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s journey from Warroad to the NHL

Boston Bruins at San Jose Sharks, 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Hockey Day in America’s coverage closes off with this matchup between David Backes‘ Bruins and Joe Pavelski‘s Sharks. Randy Hahn, Andy Brickley and Bret Hedican will take you through this match between the Pacific Division’s top team and a Bruins team fighting to stick in the East playoff picture.

Barkov’s beautiful goal pushes Panthers into playoff position

SUNRISE, FL - NOVEMBER 26: Aleksander Barkov #16 of the Florida Panthers circles the net with the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at the BB&T Center on November 26, 2016 in Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers defeated the Blue Jackets 2-1 in a shoot out. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
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The Florida Panthers just won’t be denied as they end the night in the East’s top eight.

It’s fitting, then, that Aleksander Barkov wouldn’t be denied on his game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday.

Barkov bursts beyond multiple Kings, fights off what would have been an obstruction penalty and then beats Peter Budaj by the narrowest of margins to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead 15 seconds into the third period. They would never relinquish that edge to Los Angeles, winning their fourth game in a row.

In the process, the Panthers – a team that seemed to be fledgling when it fired Gerard Gallant – now find themselves in the East’s top eight. Heck, they’re actually above the wild card fray by a hair.

Before we get to that … just bask in the glow of this Barkov goal:

Again, it was such a small window to beat Budaj, too:

(If the Panthers’ place in the standings doesn’t sway you into taking them seriously, maybe note plays like that and the fact that Barkov has 20 points in his last 17 games.)

OK, so with this win, the Panthers did some serious leapfrogging. They now rank third in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a game in hand on Boston) and have more points than Toronto as far as wild card concerns go, anyway.

Atlantic Division rankings

1. Canadiens – 70 points in 59 games
2. Senators – 68 points in 56 games
3. Panthers – 64 points in 57 games

Bruins – 64 in 58
Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Sabres – 62 in 59
Lightning – 58 in 57
Red Wings – 56 in 58

From a wild card perspective

Third in Atlantic – Panthers – 64 points in 57 games
Second wild card – Bruins – 64 in 58

Maple Leafs – 63 in 47
Islanders – 62 in 57
Sabres – 62 in 59
Flyers – 61 in 58
Devils – 60 in 58
Lightning – 58 in 57
Hurricanes – 56 in 54
Red Wings – 56 in 58

Everything’s so close that the Panthers can’t pop champagne bottles, but they’re also very much in control over their hopes. While it never hurts to see your competitors stumble, the Panthers can take care of business. They “control their own destiny,” to use silly sports parlance.

And considering how they’ve been playing lately, they might be as tough to handle in the playoffs as Barkov was to stop on that outstanding 3-2 goal.

Stars made Dave Strader’s return to the booth special

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It was a special night as the Dallas Stars beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime, but the most memorable moment wasn’t the win or Antoine Roussel‘s hat trick.

Instead, it was how the team embraced Dave Strader’s return to the broadcasting booth as he continues to fight cancer.

Don’t be ashamed if his comments to the Dallas Morning News leave you emotional:

“This is the first time, to be honest with you, that for four hours I didn’t feel like I was sick at all,” Strader said after the game. “Maybe it was the adrenaline high, but I really, really feel great right now.”

Again, the team really did some great things to welcome him back, but the highlight was saluting him after the game. Incredible stuff.

“What a gesture by the boys … meant so much to me and my wife! Thank you.” Strader tweeted after the game.

As this post notes, Strader is expected to do play-by-play for four more Stars games.

Add allowing center-ice goal to Brian Elliott’s rough season

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So far, there’s just one goal in tonight’s Calgary Flames – Vancouver Canucks game. And it wasn’t a good one.

The Canucks couldn’t manage a shot on goal for more than half of the first period, maybe putting Brian Elliott to sleep … as Alexander Edler scored the 1-0 goal from center ice on Vancouver’s first shot that actually got on net. Ouch.

It’s already been a tough season for Brian Elliott, who came into Saturday with an .898 save percentage.

Elliott was perfect through the rest of the first two periods, so we’ll see if Calgary can overcome that gaffe.

Update: The Canucks ended up winning 2-1 in overtime. Ryan Miller was the better of the two goalies in this one.