Dan Hamhuis, Martin Erat

Money poorly spent? Martin Erat will miss game against Blues

The Nashville Predators’ $6 million forward Martin Erat will miss tonight’s game against the St. Louis Blues with an “upper body injury,” according to Josh Cooper. Cooper and many others worry that the vaguely described problem is a recurrence of back issues that kept Erat out of 18 games last season.

Erat is in a tough spot going into 2011-12. The Predators are the NHL’s answer to the “Moneyball” Oakland A’s, which means that the team scrutinizes every dollar they spend. He tied Sergei Kostitsyn for the team lead with 50 points last season even with those back issues, but it’s natural for fans of the penny-pinching team to wonder if Erat is worth the money. (His cap hit is a more reasonable $4.5 million per year, but the Predators are a team that worries more about salary than cap space.)

With that substantial salary and the upcoming free agency of Pekka Rinne, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter in mind, Predators fans will shine a harsh spotlight on Erat. His numbers weren’t great in the Predators’ 3-2 win Friday, as he was on the ice for both Columbus Blue Jackets goals.

To temper the criticism a bit, someone needs to score for Nashville and Erat is one of their most capable forwards. However they feel about his paychecks, the Predators will want him back as soon as possible.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.

Canucks say Markstrom (hamstring) out another week — could it be longer?

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Bit of uncertainty out of Vancouver regarding the health of backup goalie Jacob Markstrom.

Markstrom, a late drop from the Canucks’ 5-1 opening-night win over Calgary, has suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for another week, the club announced on Thursday.

With Markstrom out, backup duties will stay with AHL call-up Richard Bachman, who served as Ryan Miller‘s No. 2 on Wednesday.

Now, the focus turns to how long Bachman keeps those duties.

Per a Sportsnet report, Markstrom could miss up to three weeks of action with his injury. If that’s the case, Bachman will almost certainly be called into action; the Canucks will play eight games in 17 nights starting with Saturday’s home-opener against the Flames, which includes back-to-backs in Los Angeles and Anaheim on Oct. 12 and 13.

It would be asking a lot of the No. 1, 35-year-old Ryan Miller, to shoulder that entire load.

Bachman does have some NHL experience, with nearly 50 games to his credit. That includes a 3-2-0 record with the Oilers last year, in which he posted a 2.84 GAA and .911 save percentage.