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.

Avalanche’s new head coach Bednar is at least saying the right things

jaredbednaravalanche
via Colorado Avalanche
Leave a comment

Look, there are exceptions, but new head coach press conferences feature the same basic terms and buzzwords.

After witnessing the high-octane Pittsburgh Penguins skate opponents ragged on their way to the 2016 Stanley Cup, any reasonable coach would throw “speed” into their phrasing.

Still, the Colorado Avalanche have been so deeply buried by even the most basic of modern measurements that you had to wonder: would they learn from Patrick Roy’s struggles? Can someone come in and at least attempt to keep up with the pack?

We won’t know for sure anytime soon, but hey, at least Jared Bednar seems to be saying the right things as he transitions from the AHL to the Avalanche’s head coaching gig.

When discussing his hire with NHL Network, Bednar seemed confident that his style in the AHL – “Up-tempo, aggressive style in all three zones of the rink” – will translate well in Colorado.

That interview hits the beats you’d expect from job interviews beyond hockey. There’s even a “detail-oriented” bit.

(If you space out, you might just assume there’s a mention of thinking outside the box, like every corporate interview in human history.)

Still, it’s OK to settle for baby steps, especially considering the tough situation Patrick Roy created in abruptly skipping town. For many, it might just be comforting to note that Bednar doesn’t outright dismissive “analytics” or “fancy stats.”

Mile High Hockey brings up a great point: if nothing else, the spotlight will shift from the Avalanche’s flamboyant head coach to the talented core of young players.

So, not only is Colorado bringing in a coach who is as savvy with spreadsheets as he is with the wipe-off board, but he’s going to allow the players to crawl out from under Roy and finally earn their own accomplishments. This is every bit as important as fixing the breakout play or eliminating the Collapse-O-Rama™ defensive system.

(Collapse-O-Rama, huh? Can we stash that term for future use regarding another coach or two?)

Bednar isn’t a retread, so we only know so much about what to expect.

There are positive early signs. Roll your eyes all you want, we have seen more than a few successful transitions from AHL glory (Bednar just won the Calder Cup) to the NHL.

He’s not necessarily anti-information and seems at least interested in implementing modern, attacking systems. Attacking systems that, theoretically, would best suit the talents of a gifted-but-flawed group.

It all feels a little vague, but then again, it’s not even September yet. So far, so good.

One way or another, Al Montoya will be important to Canadiens

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 02:  Goalie Al Montoya #35 of the Florida Panthers looks on in the second period against the Washington Capitals at Verizon Center on February 2, 2016 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Getty
2 Comments

This is part of Canadiens day at PHT …

Here’s an unsolicited opinion: a good backup goalie is often underrated.

Yes, getting a quality Plan B is easier said than done – goalies are an unpredictable lot – but it’s simple to see when it pays off.

(There are plenty of examples, but Matt Murray winning a Stanley Cup for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the shiniest one.)

Even if injuries aren’t a big issue, a No. 2 goalie is a pretty safe bet to play 20 games for a given team. In that regard, Al Montoya could be a significant upgrade over Mike Condon, and that could be important.

Waning workhorses

In 2015-16, no goalie played 70 regular season games. Jonathan Quick was the workhorse of the NHL with 68, while only 10 played at least 60. So, more than two-thirds of last season’s teams needed at least 24 games from their lesser-paid goalies.

Even in Carey Price‘s dominant 2014-15 campaign, he played 66 games while Dustin Tokarski was in net for 17.

Let’s ponder the outlook for a variety of scenarios as Price hopes to rebound from injury:

If Price resumes Vezina-caliber form

As PHT notes, Price seems confident that he’s at 100 percent.

That’s great … but what else is he going to say? Knee injuries can beguile just about any athlete.

He does admit that he’s getting up there in age a bit – relative to the sport, mind you – at 29. Earlier this summer, the Hockey News went over Montreal’s plan to scale Price’s workload a bit, injured or not.

So, even in a dream scenario, Montoya and/or Condon will still see plenty of reps.

If Price falters

The Canadiens are expected to live or die by Price. Let’s not kid ourselves.

The leash might not be very long for Michel Therrien if Price really falls on his face, however. A Condon-led Habs team stumbled terribly, but what might we see from Montoya being thrust into the spotlight for performance reasons?

  • With a .909 career save percentage, Montoya’s experienced his stumbles in the NHL. Montreal has to hope he follows more of the path from strong showings in 2013-14 (13-8-3, .920 save percentage with Winnipeg) and 2015-16 (12-7-3, .919 save percentage with Florida).

Long story short, there were flashes of the brilliance you’d expect from a guy who went sixth overall in 2004.

  • The good news is that he’s accustomed to a fairly heavy backup duty. He set a career-high with 31 games played and 26 starts with the Islanders in 2011-12. Including that season, he’s enjoyed 20+ appearances in five of his last six seasons.
  • The bad news is that he hasn’t ever even carried half of a season’s workload so …

Yes, a Price re-injury would be disastrous

Montoya hasn’t been “the guy” before, certainly not in a pressure-cooker like Montreal. Condon’s opportunity didn’t go especially well.

One can understand ownership giving Therrien and GM Marc Bergevin something of a “Price pass” after 2015-16, but would there be the same level of acceptance if they couldn’t thrive without their star goalie again? You’d have to ask about lessons learned.

***

Long story short, Montoya matters to Montreal. The Canadiens just have to hope that he doesn’t matter too much.

 

Ducks lock up 2016 first-rounder Max Jones

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24:  Max Jones poses for a portrait after being selected 24th overall by the Anaheim Ducks in round one during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

The Anaheim Ducks handed their 2016 first-round draft pick Max Jones an entry-level contract on Friday.

Anaheim selected Jones 24th overall. It looks like he’s getting a pretty typical rookie deal, according to reporters including NHL.com’s Curtis Zupke.

In PHT’s “Get to Know a Draft Pick” series, THN’s Ryan Kennedy described Jones as “a power forward who can make you look silly with his offensive moves or simply plow you through the boards.”

Jones was one of three London Knights players who went in the first round in 2016, following Olli Juolevi (fifth overall) and Matthew Tkachuk (sixth overall). He certainly seemed to enjoy the team’s Memorial Cup victory:

You never really know for certain, but one would imagine that Jones may take a season or two to make it to the NHL level with the Ducks. From the sound of things, he’s in the sort of power forward mold that the team’s had a lot of success with.

With Lehner injured, Enroth will be in Sweden’s goalie mix at World Cup

BUFFALO, NY - OCTOBER 04: Jhonas Enroth #1 of the Buffalo Sabres and Robin Lehner #40 of the Ottawa Senators warm up to play at First Niagara Center on October 4, 2013 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)
Getty
Leave a comment

NEW YORK (AP) Sweden has selected Jhonas Enroth to replace injured goaltender Robin Lehner on its World Cup of Hockey roster.

Lehner was bothered by an ankle injury last season while playing for the Buffalo Sabres. Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said Lehner had not recovered 100 percent.

Enroth, who signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs, joins Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers and Jacob Markstrom of the Vancouver Canucks as the goalies on Sweden’s roster.

The 28-year-old has a 2.80 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 147 career NHL games. Enroth was on the Swedish team that earned a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, though he never appeared in a game.

Enroth started for Sweden at the 2015 world hockey championship.

The World Cup begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.